When referee Jon Moss blew the final whistle, there was an outpouring of emotion throughout the stadium as supporters swarmed onto the pitch, mobbing their players in a joyful demonstration of the love they have for this club and its famous old ground.
League titles have been won here, two European trophies were lifted at White Hart Lane, and some of the greatest players in the history of football have called it home. Danny Blanchflower, Jimmy Greaves, and Pat Jennings represent the old guard, Glenn Hoddle, Ricky Villa, and Ossie Ardiles were stars of the 1980s, and more recently Paul Gascoigne, David Ginola and Robbie Keane strutted their stuff for Spurs.
Many of them, and more, were paraded at the end as the club put on a show to say goodbye to the ground, with demolition scheduled to start this week as the new 61,000 seater stadium takes shape.
And the current players did their bit, putting on another show of supremacy at what has become a fortress for them this season. Tottenham have won their past 14 Premier League games at the ground, are unbeaten there this season and have won 17 of their 19 home matches.
This latest victory was rarely in doubt once Harry Kane scored early in the second half to add to Victor Wanyama’s first-half strike, and although Wayne Rooney pulled a late goal back with United’s only shot on target, in the 70th minute, it was the perfect send off for Spurs.
Kane was delighted to get the winner, his 28th of another prolific season: “What a way to finish. We wanted a win so badly in our last game here. I said before I’d love to score the winning goal and for it to happen is brilliant.”
Mauricio Pochettino was as effusive. “It was a perfect performance and a fantastic victory which the fans deserved. We had control of the game.”
Indeed, Tottenham would have embarrassed United with a bigger winning margin but for an outstanding display from David De Gea and the goalkeeper’s woodwork, which denied Kane and Christian Eriksen. Hugo Lloris, by contrast, barely had a shot to save as United showed why they have failed again to make the top four and are now relying on beating Ajax in the Europa League final to qualify for the Champions League.
They were second best from the start, chasing shadows as they struggled to keep up with Tottenham’s slick passing football, roared on by an emotional and noisy crowd. It was no surprise that Spurs opened the scoring when Wanyama sent a thumping header past De Gea from a Ben Davies cross in the sixth minute.
The Spanish keeper was United’s lifesaver for most of the game, keeping out wave after wave of Tottenham attacks. De Gea saved well from Heung Min Son, Dele Alli twice, and Kane.
But there was no denying Kane in the 49th when he stuck out a leg to flick Eriksen’s free kick past De Gea to make it 2-0.
Rooney, who struggled to keep up with the breathtaking pace of Tottenham’s play, was booked for hacking down Eriksen and lucky to escape a second yellow card for a couple of rash fouls, but got some consolation when he turned past Lloris from close range after good work by Anthony Martial, one of United’s few bright spots.
Jose Mourinho praised the young Frenchman, but said he is having to juggle his squad for the final two league games before the Europa League final. “With people playing not in their best positions, just trying to field the needs of the team to protect people. It’s very difficult to organise a team, it’s very difficult for the boys to play this way.”
But the final word should go to Pochettino, who was asked for his favourite memory of White Hart Lane.
“I think now it will be for always the last day. It was a very exciting day and I think it was perfect. The preparation of the game, the game we played well, and we got three points, and at the end, all the ceremony was fantastic, to share with all the legends, the people, the staff, the fans, with the family, I think it will be always for me the most special day, the last day at White Hart Lane.”
4-4-2 Lloris 7; Trippier 7, Alderweireld 7, Vertonghen 8, Davies 7; Dier 7, Wanyama 8; Eriksen 8, Alli 8, Son 7; Kane 8
Dembele for Son 72, Walker for Trippier 82, N’Koudou for Erikssen 89.
Janssen, Vorm, Sissoko, Wimmer. Booked: Wanyama. Goals: Wanyama
4-2-3-1 De Gea 8, Bailly 6, Smalling 6, Jones 6, Blind 7; Carrick 7; Lingard 6, Tuanzebe 6 Mata 6, Martial 7; Rooney 6
Herrera for Lingard 60, Mkhitaryan for Tuanzebe 60, Rashford for Mata 79
Romero, Mitchell, Darmian, McTominay.