Sunday 20 January 2019

Kane: United win must be template for Spurs' season

Tottenham's Harry Kane. Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images
Tottenham's Harry Kane. Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Jonathan Liew

You might prefer the Real Madrid game, or the 4-1 drubbing against Liverpool earlier this season.

Then there were the twin demolitions of Manchester City at White Hart Lane in 2015 and 2016. Or the thrilling 2-0 win over Antonio Conte's Chelsea last season. Or the underrated North London derby win in February 2015 that truly announced Harry Kane as a big-match player.

But one thing is for certain: any conversation about Tottenham's best ever performances under Mauricio Pochettino must include their 2-0 win against Manchester United at Wembley on Wednesday night.

From the moment they took the lead after 11 seconds through Christian Eriksen, they never looked like relinquishing it.

The only downside, as Kane put it afterwards, was that they did not complete the thrashing their dominance merited.

Kane had his own views on where this performance rated in the Pochettino era.

"I'd say top five, probably," he said afterwards. "We've had some good performances, especially at home against the big teams, but this one is definitely up there. Throughout the game, they never really looked like threatening us."

One notable feature of the game was how Manchester United were physically dominated in a way you rarely see happening to Jose Mourinho teams.

Though he did not score, Kane was a big part of that, holding his own against Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the aerial battles, and helping set up Eriksen's 11th-second opener from a raking long ball straight from kick-off that may as well have been a set-piece.

Are these things planned? "Now and then," Kane said. "Sometimes we say before the game, 'Let's go for this today', and it worked out well. It set us off for getting runners in behind, trusting that we're going to win the first ball and then the second ball.

"That's how we played throughout the whole pitch. From the start, winning first and second balls, and when we got it down, we kept it. We played some great football, created a lot of chances.

"The defence was great - Jan (Vertonghen) and Davinson (Sanchez) - and the whole team just played well. We had to, because we've got tough games coming up."

A trip to Anfield beckons on Sunday. Almost exactly one year ago, this was the fixture that probably put the death kiss on Tottenham's title ambitions, leaving them nine points behind Chelsea.

What is striking, however, is how Manchester City's dominance has warped the perceptions of the teams below them.

Tottenham have only two fewer points now than they did at the same stage last season. And yet, courtesy of sitting fifth in the table, their Premier League campaign has generally been seen as a mild disappointment.

"Because City have done so well, people automatically think everyone else has done badly," Kane said. "We're probably at a similar point to where we were last season. We're through in the Champions League.

"We're changing grounds. So it's been a good season. We'd have liked to be up there with City, like every other team, but we've got to fight for what's left. We're still in the FA Cup, too."

Ledger What Wednesday's performance does demonstrate is that, on their day, Tottenham's top level is good enough for anybody.

When the final ledger of their 2017-'18 season is drawn up, they will doubtless lament those points dropped at home - West Brom, Swansea, Burnley - more than their performances against the rest of the top six.

As Kane admitted, the level they showed against United must be their template.

"That has to be our focus for the rest of the season: to try to match that," he said.

"Liverpool are a very strong team, especially at home. They've got some fast players and last year we didn't cope with that very well."

Lucas Moura, the winger signed from Paris Saint-Germain on deadline day, will be available for his debut and, although Kane said he had seen little of the Brazilian, he would provide welcome competition for places.

"We just met him in the changing room," he said. "It's great to have him here. It's more competition for places, keeping everyone on their toes.

"Lucas has done amazing stuff for PSG, so we're excited to get to know him." (© Independent News Service)

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