Tottenham 3 Manchester United 0: Louis Van Gaal claimed Tottenham will never be as a big a club as Manchester United as he branded a reporter “pathetic” for suggesting he might regret rejecting the chance to become manager of the north London club before taking charge at Old Trafford.
Tottenham now look more like a club on the up, with their supporters taunting United with chants of “you’re not famous any more” and “Champions League, you’re having a laugh”, as they missed the chance to close the gap on Manchester City in fourth spot.
Van Gaal insisted he was the man in the top job and not Argentine rival Mauricio Pochettino despite this comprehensive defeat, United’s first at Tottenham in 15 years.
Asked if he regretted joining a club that had fallen behind Tottenham, he retorted: “I think on balance we are still ahead and you take one match as something.
“The challenge is bigger, it is always bigger at a bigger club. I would have liked to sign for Tottenham and Daniel Levy knows that, but the challenge for me was bigger at Manchester United. They will always be bigger than Tottenham. I am sorry for that, but Manchester United is a bigger club and I think it is a little pathetic you asked that, because they have won 3-0, but you enjoy yourself, I think.”
Van Gaal was understandably cranky towards the end of a torrid season during which he has had several run-ins with journalists.
There was certainly nothing pathetic about this latest Tottenham victory, their first home win over United in 15 years. Their manager Mauricio Pochettino has to say his side can still win the title, but they now look more likely to be pushing for that honour next season.
It is 55 years since the White Hart Lane club were last crowned champions and, as impressive as this season has been, this rare victory over a disjointed United side was probably too little too late. They are now seven points behind leaders Leicester with only five games to go.
For now, Pochettino is only thinking about this season though Leicester’s win earlier in the day means they are now likely to have to wait at least another year before winning their first title since 1961.
He said afterwards: “It is true that seven points is a big gap, but we had to send a message to Leicester that we will be there if they fail and will still be fighting, because we still believe.
“Congratulations to Leicester for their performance and achievements, but we had to respond, which I am doubly happy for. We have waited a long time to beat Manchester United at home, so I am pleased for the supporters too.”
Van Gaal was certainly right when he said the game was finely poised between two even-looking teams before Dele Alli fired Tottenham ahead with 20 minutes to go, but then it all fell apart for his side, who are now four points behind Manchester City.
One boost for United could be the return of Wayne Rooney, who will play 60 minutes of an under-21 match today after two months out through injury.
United’s troubles, though, should not detract from a battling Tottenham victory which coincidentally secured Leicester’s top-four place next season. This latest clash between the two proud old clubs seemed to be drifting towards a hard-fought goalless draw before Alli struck. Six minutes later and it was game over as Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela also scored.
The combination of Leicester’s win and a kick-off delayed by 30 minutes, due to United’s late arrival following heavy traffic, made for a subdued start on and off the pitch.
With United making so little impression on the Tottenham defence, Van Gaal responded by sending on Ashley Young to lead his attack in place of Marcus Rashford for the second half. Freshening up his attack was not the strangest of decisions, but using Young as spearhead seemed plain perverse, with Anthony Martial the more conventional option.
The breakthrough went Tottenham’s way with Alli netting on the counter attack after the ball was pulled back with precision from the left by Eriksen.
United, playing without attacking focus, seemed to allow their heads to drop as the Tottenham fans celebrated as if they had just won the title. They took it up a notch when Alderweireld added a second just four minutes later. The opportunity arose after a rash challenge on Harry Kane from hapless United substitute Matteo Darmian. Lamela crossed the free-kick from the left and the former Southampton defender beat Marcos Rojo to the ball to head in off a post. The third came when Lamela capped an excellent performance to finish with a well-hit low shot from a Danny Rose pass.
Lloris 7, Walker 6, Alderweireld 7, Vertonghen 7, Rose 7; Dier 6, Dembele 6; Lamela 7 (Chadli 87, 6) Eriksen 8, Alli 7 (Mason 90, 6); Kane 6 (Son 90, 6).
Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Carroll.
De Gea 7; Fosu-Mensah 6 (Darmian 67, 5), Smalling 6, Blind 7, Rojo 5, Schneiderlin 5, Carrick 6, Mata 5 (Depay 76, 6), Lingard 5, Martial 6, Rashford 5 (Young 46, 5).
Romero, Herrera, Valencia, Fellaini.
Mike Dean 7
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