Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is adamant that his side’s second-half blitz against Manchester United has sent an unequivocal message to champions-elect Leicester that Spurs are ready to pounce on any slip-ups.
Spurs had to wait until deep into the second half for their breakthrough but three goals in six minutes from Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela saw the north London club emphatically demolish their wilting visitors. Victory trimmed Leicester’s lead at the Premier League summit to seven points – it had temporarily been hiked to 10 after the Foxes’ 2-0 win at Sunderland earlier in the day – although only five matches of the season remain.
“It’s true we show a message that we are there, waiting and fighting, if they fail. We need to stay there, it’s important,” said Pochettino, who confirmed he has no long-term worries over striker Harry Kane after he was withdrawn late on with a dead leg.
“It’s true that seven points is a difficult gap to reduce but we need to believe. A performance like today and a result like today shows that this team believes. We will see what will happen at the end but it’s important to keep this mentality.
“After Leicester’s game it was important for us to show character, personality and maturity. It was another experience for this young squad to play with pressure and try to reduce the gap. I am very happy.”
Tottenham slowly creaked into gear midway through the first half and an unmarked Lamela planted a header wide of David de Gea’s post from point-blank range after being picked out by Christian Eriksen.
United, who had not lost in 14 visits to White Hart Lane, failed to engineer an opening until the 62nd minute when Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris repelled an Anthony Martial effort following a mazy run.
Spurs reignited their title charge in the 70th minute when Eriksen hared onto a loose ball and crossed low for Alli to side-foot past De Gea – Tottenham’s first goal against United under Pochettino.
The points were all but made safe four minutes later when a lofted Lamela free-kick, awarded for a foul by substitute Matteo Darmian on Kane, was glanced home by Alderweireld.
A rampant Tottenham added further gloss moments later with a quick-fire third as rampaging full-back Danny Rose’s low centre was swept past a bewildered De Gea by Lamela.
Despite trailing Tottenham by 19 points and defeat hitting their Champions League aspirations, Red Devils boss Louis van Gaal insists he has no regrets over turning down Spurs in favour of “bigger club” United in 2014.
“The challenge is always bigger at a bigger club and the challenge, for me, was bigger at Manchester United and shall always be,” said Van Gaal. “I’m sorry for Tottenham, but Manchester United is a bigger club.”