Tottenham 2 - 1 Manchester United: Farewell to White Hart Lane

Players and fans celebrate the win, second place in the table and wave goodbye toWhite Hart Lane. Picture: PA.
Players and fans celebrate the win, second place in the table and wave goodbye toWhite Hart Lane. Picture: PA.
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And so the curtain falls on 118 years of football at White Hart Lane. The day was understandably draped in nostalgia, with the heroes from Tottenham’s past at the heart of the pageant.

With due respect to them, the stars of today made sure the afternoon was about them, helped by an accommodating Manchester United, who paid their own tribute by playing, well, like a Manchester United tribute act, a pale approximation of the blood-red shirt.

Victor Wanyama, pictured, had the box to himself to power his header past David de Gea. Harry Kane threaded a heel through the melee to flick the second. So goals at the start of each half gave Spurs the send-off for which they had hoped.

It could and should have been more emphatic, De Gea once again keeping the goals against column respectable if never acceptable. Wayne Rooney’s late consolation ended up being the last goal scored at the Lane. Some irony given the poverty of much of United’s play.

Beyond that the threat to Tottenham amounted to a headed chance to Juan Mata, which was comically poor, two curled efforts by Anthony Martial, who really must learn to hit the target if he is to have a future under Mourinho, and a Marcus Rashford cameo.

Nothing then to disturb the reverie of middle-aged men in their Pierre Cardin clobber recalling the best of Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne, Jurgen Klinsmann, David Ginola et al, the latter receiving special thanks for alleviating the suffocating torpor of the Martin Jol period.

The players filled the preamble with recollections of their own. Some are clearly still out there kicking balls. The saddest contribution arguably came from Paul Gascoigne.

Gazza was not among the parade of former players attending the post-match ceremonials. Given his melancholic testimony you fancy it would all have been too much for him. “The thing is, sometimes I wish I hated it because then I wouldn’t miss it so much,” Gascoigne said.

“My time at Spurs was one of the best ever. The worst thing is when I watch them I think about my time there, and that’s a time I can never get back.” There is no doubt Spurs saw the best of him, his career never quite what it might have been after that FA Cup final tackle on Gary Charles that left his knee in pieces.

Tottenham go back further of course but not so readily in the memories of the majority present here. And with this bunch the future is brighter than at any time since the double-winning joys of 1961.

Victory here confirmed Spurs, unbeaten in their last season at the Lane, the first time that’s happened in more than 50 years, as runners-up to Chelsea, an advance on last year when they managed to finish third in a two-horse race.

The challenge for them is to keep the key elements of a talented squad together and to augment with the right calibre of individual, particularly at the sharp end in support of Harry Kane.

While Spurs migrate temporarily around the North Circular Road to Wembley, the new stadium will consume what it requires of the old manor. And an impressive edifice it looks, presenting an imposing profile on Tottenham High Road.

Spurs are to be commended for their regeneration of a neighbourhood long in need of this kind of investment. While they congratulate themselves on a fine season, as well as a deep history, United throw all their chips on the Europa League on Wednesday week.

And they will have to be better than this to prosper in Stockholm against a vibrant young Ajax team. Mourinho rolled out the same excuses, important players being rested, lesser gods getting 90 minutes, but he is kidding himself if he believes this United might have contended here under different circumstances.

With United being somewhat toothless up front, Spurs would have won here with Chas and Dave at the heart of defence.