LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur beat Manchester United 3-0 at White Hart Lane on Sunday, as Spurs kept their title hopes alive (just).
[ MORE: Van Gaal to go? ]
Tottenham had the better chances but a stubborn United outfit — who turned up late, delaying the kick off by half hour after their team bus was struck in London traffic — held firm until Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela all struck inside a mad five-minute spell in the second half to put the result beyond doubt.
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The title race is still on. For at least another week, as Spurs sealed their first home win against United in almost 15 years.
Here’s three things we learned from the Lane.
SPURS STILL BELIEVE
It took almost 30 minutes for Spurs to wake up on Sunday, as Leicester’s win earlier in the day clearly had an impact on not only the fans but the players. Spurs knew they were 10 points behind the Foxes and only a win would cut the lead to seven and keep the Premier League title race interesting for at least another week.
Mauricio Pochettino‘s men went close twice in quick succession in the first half as the unmarked Lamela somehow headed wide with the entire goal gaping after Christian Eriksen‘s delicious chipped pass. Then Kyle Walker powered past Marcos Rojo but couldn’t get his shot away at David De Gea‘s near post.
Those moments lifted the crowd who were, understandably, subdued following Leicester grinding out yet another win to leave them three wins short of clinching the title. Spurs haven’t given up on their title aspirations, not yet.
An incredible five minute spell in the second half saw goals fly in as first Alli timed his run to perfection to slot home Eriksen’s pass. That goal acted as a release valve for the home crowd who roared their team on and Spurs dismantled United after Timothy Fosu-Mensah came off and Matteo Darmian looked lost at right back. Alderweireld glanced in a tremendous header and Lamela added another from Danny Rose‘s cross from the left. Game over.
They know it’s still a long shot to overcome Leicester’s seven-point lead in the final five games of the season but when there’s hope there’s life. Spurs have both.
LVG’S TIME RUNNING OUT
It’s hard to see Louis Van Gaal surviving this summer. Now four points behind Manchester City in the race for fourth with six games to go, United’s hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League seem all but over.
After this crushing defeat at Tottenham on Sunday, the United boss will have plenty of tough questions to answer. In he first half his team looked relatively comfortable but at half time he hooked off Marcus Rashford (who was starved of service) and put a winger in Ashley Young up front. The Dutchman’s penchant for playing players out of position continues.
It may cost him his job as no matter which United players were injured or fit, Sunday’s defeat reinforced that United is a team creaking along and LVG’s patchwork can’t hide the obvious deficiencies.
In the opening game of the 2015-16 season I was at Old Trafford to see these two teams clash. There’s was nothing between them as a bizarre own goal from Walker was the difference and Spurs deserved at least a point. On Sunday Spurs deserved to win and they’ve improved throughout the campaign. They were head and shoulders above United and LVG’s boys are heading in the opposite direction. If they don’t finish fourth then he has to go.
At the start of the season the ambitions of these two teams were flipped. United aimed to be title challengers and finish in the top two, at least, while Spurs where aiming for a top four finish. Now, the opposite is true. United is now four points off fourth and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward must be pondering LVG’s future. There’s been talk of Pochettino leaving Spurs to take charge at United. On this showing, why would he do that?
Surely Jose Mourinho is the only answer to turn United back into a force…
UNITED NEVER REALLY TURNED UP
Jokes such as “United have parked the bus before they got here” and “the reason United are late is because Van Gaal is driving the bus sideways and backwards” were emanating from fans as kick off was delayed.
The London traffic and an accident in front of the team bus on the way to the game caused the Red Devils to arrive extremely late. They finally arrived at the stadium but in truth, United should have stayed on the bus. They never turned up.
Apart from one shot from Anthony Martial in the second half where he cut inside and beat three Spurs defenders before Hugo Lloris saved his shot, United had nothing in attack. They hung in there with Spurs but couldn’t get a head of steam going. They never truly threatened and Sunday’s defeat was a damning indictment on not only the squad of players Van Gaal has assembled but also their spirit and determination.