Spurs 2 Manchester United 1
15th May 2017
Yesterday was glorious.
I seem to have written that before! Two weeks ago, Spurs swatted Arsenal aside in the North London Derby. And yesterday, in the last ever match at the old Lane, Spurs defeated their most glamorous domestic rival of all; Manchester United.
For older fans, Spurs v United was always ‘the big one’. Two behemoths full of the best players of the era; Charlton, Best, Law, Jennings, Mackay, Greaves. It was unquestionably the First Division’s highest profile match-up in the Sixties and early Seventies. Spurs won the Double in 1961 and the FA Cup in 1962 and 1967. United won the FA Cup in 1963 and the League title in 1965 and 1967. Spurs were the first British side to win a European trophy in 1963. Five years later, United became the first English team to win the European Cup.
Whether in terms of stats or swagger, Spurs and United were not only rivals, they were soulmates. Both teams set out to win. And to entertain. The first time I ever went up to Old Trafford was in 1967 to see United and Spurs draw 3-3 in what was arguably the best ever Charity Shield game (now Community Shield). Bobby Charlton scored twice in a matter of minutes, Denis Law got their third. Jimmy Robertson and Frank Saul scored two of Spurs goals, but it was our second, by ‘big Pat’ Jennings that made it an “I was there moment”. Although I was only 10 years old and this happened 50 years ago, I can vividly remember the moment it became apparent to all of us in the crowd that the ball was going to bounce over Stepney’s head and into the United net.
As the years went by, Liverpool temporarily became more successful than Spurs and United, Arsenal were always our bitter local rivals, Milan and Madrid visited us for European Glory Nights, and latterly Chelsea and Man City bought their way into the elite … but it was always matches against the Red Devils that have evoked nostalgic memories of style and swagger like no other opponent. 4-1 (1996), 3-5 (2001), give and take. You have to say, the 2017 PL fixture computer got this one right.
It was tense towards the end. Wanyama and Kane had put Spurs 2-0 up thanks to glorious crosses from Davies and Eriksen respectively. But in truth, during that first hour, Spurs should have registered their standard 4 goals at the Lane. United seemed bamboozled like an old Liston flummoxed by a dancing Ali. Then Mourinho opted for the ‘punchers chance’ of trying to catch Spurs defence out with long balls aimed at Martial and Rashford’s pace. Rooney made it 2-1 from close range. Rashford had a chance to equalise but lobbed just wide. The final whistle blew. Spurs had won their last match at the Lane.
The pressure weighed on our players, particularly in those last fifteen minutes. Memories of losing 1-2 to Southampton in the final home game of last season were raw. Parading in front of fans when you’ve lost is an awful feeling. To have drawn yesterday would have felt like a huge anti-climax. Kane admitted in an interview how much everybody wanted to win. In the end, a 17-2-0 home record was achieved and second place was secured. And the lady of the Lane was laid to rest in the best possible fashion.
I’m a realist and an optimist. Perhaps a lifetime supporting Spurs makes that combination essential. Yes, trophies soon would be nice. Glorious. But I adore Pochettino’s young Spurs regardless. I’m sad about the Lane but, realistically, her time had come. And I’m optimistic about the new stadium. I love that she’s being built on the same footprint, in the same N17 neighbourhood, providing local jobs and opportunities. Soon enough, we can all return to our own particular rituals and routes, combining the old and the new.
I’m also superstitious. This Blog is titled ‘The end Of The Tunnel’ for a reason. For over a decade Spurs stumbled about in the darkness. Then, for another ten years, we staggered towards a prick of light but never quite emerged into the sunshine. And we’re still not quite there; Carling Cup tick, 4th Place tick, Champions League quarter-final tick, title challenge tick, 3rd place tick, another title challenge tick, 2nd place tick. But still major silver glimmers just out of reach.
The heavens poured throughout yesterday’s Farewell Ceremony. As David Ginola tweeted, “even the heavens are shedding a tear”. But Spurs fans sang throughout, for Gascoigne and Lennon, as it rained on our parade. And then, just as the music swelled, a sign for the future.
A stunning rainbow emerged.
It was beautiful.