The value of some performances transcends the goals, the points or the league table. Spurs victory at Old Trafford yesterday evening was infused with meaning that runs deep and will resonate long after the celebrations die down, although I suspect those who were fortunate enough to be there floated home rather than requiring any form of transport.
Not just the years since we last won there. I can’t remember how long it is even though the commentator appeared to be contractually obliged to repeat it every 5 minutes. Perhaps the fear and nausea in the pit of my stomach as the ball pinged around our box in the second half dulled my other senses.
Not even the manner of the win, magnificent though that was. Delightful flowing football in the first half as we took the game to United and were by far the better side, followed by desperate dogged defence in the second as we were remorselessly pushed deeper and deeper by United at their best.
Not even showing a skeptical footballing public and a rabid media that we can play. This was the moment when the new Tottenham Hotspur believed it could play. As the self-confidence spreads, the fall-out from this game could be picked up in years to come, like faint radio static from the far reaches of the cosmos.
This is that rare sort of win, one that creates an unshakable resilience that Spurs are doing the right thing, and if the players keep on doing it, they will succeed in the end, whatever the odds. Faith in your own ability, that of your team-mates and your manager, to overcome and prevail. Something we’ve seen in others but has always been beyond our grasp in modern times, almost real but eluding our grasp like a vivid dream fading as we wake and open our eyes.
More about yesterday in a moment, but if we are looking for the signs in the runes, the portents have been excellent all week. It’s not all about 3-2 in Manchester. A goal down and stinking the place out like a parcel of rotting fish nailed under the floorboards, at half-time just 7 days ago the world was a different, bleaker place. Then AVB looked his players in the eye and said, “I’ve made a mistake but together we will put it right.” Superman goes left, Bale pushed forward, 2 goals and 3 points.
A tricky midweek tie in the far flooded north, Carlisle were summarily dispatched. The young men came in without, as I understand it, there being much of a problem, because they play the Tottenham way. In the past, this game could have posed a threat to the well-being of the team. These are ties that expose weakness, as in the hapless away game at Stevenage as recently as last season. Yet this was a comfortable win.
Back to yesterday, and we took the game to United in the first half, boosted by Jan the Man’s second goal in a week, a great run into the heart of the defence and huge deflection. Bale set up this one then scored our second himself with the type of run that makes him unique in the Premier League. Over 6 foot and filled out from boy to man over the summer, there is simply nothing like this fearsome combination of power and pace, physical presence and touch on the ball.
We fully deserved the 2 goal lead at half-time. Sandro was a powerhouse throughout, Dembele dominant in front of him. How I’ve quickly grown to relish his arthritic shuffle on the ball, stiff, head bowed and so effective. A real gem.
One of the issues I’ve identified this season is that Spurs must find the right set-up to get the best from Dempsey, a goalscorer who is not a classic striker. Last week he was wasted stuck out on the left. Now AVB moved him to a more central starting position. He should be able to get on the ball more here. All this stems from the influence exerted by the mighty Sandro, who is playing so well that we can manage with only one defensive midfielder not two, thus freeing options further forward.
He popped up with the third, pouncing on a loose ball to restore our two goal advantage That was swiftly reduced to one, then it was backs to wall for a sickeningly tense last 30 minutes.
We dropped ever more deep as wave after wave of United attacks swept down on our goal. Partly this was due to an inability to hold onto the ball on the precious few occasions we got hold of it, partly due to the debilitating effects of illness – a couple had suffered a bug during the week. Mainly it was down to the excellence of our opponents, who played the ball into the channels between our back four on endless occasions. It’s hard to believe England never built their team around Paul Scholes.
We defended well but like any team that beats them, we relied on United missing their chances, which obligingly they did. Ultimately those same cosmic forces tend to balance themselves out. The ball banged against post and bar, skimmed just wide or sunk into Friedel’s all-enveloping grasp. And Chris Foy, always said he knew what he was about when it comes to penalty decisions. After yesterday I like to think that the universe is a more stable place as equilibrium is restored.
Walker’s poor positioning led to problems and sometimes both full-backs were exposed by a lack of cover. However, the grim determination of Vertonghen, Caulker and the steely eyed Gallas epitomised the spirit in the squad. You have to hand to Willy – after a long career and dodgy ankles, he is a winner and you can see why AVB has persisted with him. Caulker will learn so much from him, but did his bit by winning a series of headers.
A word of praise for Defoe, who has not always shown the selfless running and intelligence that helped make a couple of goals yesterday. This is the best form of his career. I’m not this biggest fan but all credit to him.
The unity between team and manager has paid rich dividends on the field this week. The Mirror and Sun are hell-bent on ruining him and our achievements, but the lies of their weaselly snout in the camp were disproved for all to see.
A single win does not mean everything is done and dusted. There will be good times and bad, struggles and wasted energy, but AVB’s Spurs is a team with a future and whatever happens I’m glad I’m coming along for the ride.