Manchester United slipped up in North London for the second successive weekend as Tottenham Hotspur claimed second place in the Premier League and said farewell to their White Hart Lane stadium with a slender 2-1 victory.
A headed goal from Spurs midfielder Victor Wanyama early in the first half was followed by a flicked effort from striker Harry Kane at the start of the second period. Wayne Rooney replied with just under 20 minutes left when he converted a pull-back from the lively Anthony Martial, but it wasn’t enough as the Reds lost a second league game in a row after the previous reverse at Arsenal, Tottenham’s local rivals.
Fresh from the euphoria of reaching the UEFA Europa League final on Thursday night, boss Jose Mourinho shuffled his pack with the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial all coming into his line-up. Axel Tuanzebe also started, for the second time in the Premier League, following his impressive showing against the Gunners seven days earlier.
With the likes of Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker, ‘Gazza’ and more recently Gareth Bale all having graced the White Hart Lane turf over the years, there was an emotional atmosphere before kick-off as Spurs marked the closing of their 118-year home, declaring this fixture to be ‘The Finale’.
After beating West Ham in the final game at Upton Park last season, United arrived in North London knowing what to expect from another historic game for the hosts. But Spurs took the lead with their first attempt at goal after just six minutes as a short corner found Ben Davies who crossed for Wanyama to send a free header past De Gea from five yards.
Mata had a chance to respond a minute later, but he headed over, before Rooney did the same following a Daley Blind corner. The Reds captain then held off Eric Dier in the centre of the field, before curling a ball with the outside of his foot for Martial to chase. The Frenchman shrugged off Toby Alderweireld, but his curling effort drifted narrowly wide.
At the other end Heung-Min Son evaded three United defenders and should have beaten De Gea when he burst through one-on-one, but the Spaniard came to the Reds’ aid, palming away.
Harry Kane then beat De Gea to a Christian Eriksen cross, but headed against the bar, before a second ball in from Eriksen took a wicked deflection which the United goalkeeper did well to push out.
Dele Alli latched onto a ball from Kane and fired a wicked effort towards goal from 25 yards, which sent De Gea sprawling to his left to tip expertly over for a corner.
De Gea was then called into action again a minute before the break to deny Kane with his legs, before Eric Bailly found himself in the opposition’s penalty box, but opted to pass instead of shooting. That all added up to United trailing at half-time with De Gea having done wonders to keep the deficit down to just one goal.
Possession: Spurs 67% United 33%
Shots at goal: Spurs 7 United 4
Shots on target: Spurs 4 United 1
Corners: Spurs 5 United 1
The second period started like the first as Tottenham scored with their first effort on goal. Eriksen’s whipped free-kick from the left was this time met by Kane who flicked the ball past De Gea with the outside of his foot to double the hosts’ advantage.
Kane went close to doubling his own tally moments later, but fired inches wide from 25 yards before Martial, on the break, so nearly grabbed United a foothold back in the game with a curling effort which drifted inches wide of Lloris’ far post.
Martial did not have to wait too much longer to play a pivotal part in the game as he got to the Spurs’ by-line and pulled the ball across for Rooney to tap home from two yards out. Game on.
Eight minutes from the end, Alli collected a Kane flick and struck an effort at goal from the left, which Jones did well to clear off the line with his head. United’s third substitute Marcus Rashford then had a glorious chance to grab the Reds a late point in stoppage time, but he fired high and wide under pressure from three defenders.
When the final whistle blew, Tottenham supporters predictably piled onto the pitch to tearfully celebrate the end of an era for their club while the United players filed away and headed for the exit empty-handed.
Possession: Spurs 60% United 40%
Shots at goal: Spurs 14 United 8
Shots on target: Spurs 7 United 2
Corners: Spurs 8 United 3
Tottenham: Lloris, Trippier (Walker 82), Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Wanyama, Eriksen (Nkoudou 90+1), Son (Dembele 72), Dele, Kane.
Subs not used: Vorm, Wimmer, Sissoko, Janssen.
United: De Gea, Tuanzebe (Herrera 61), Bailly, Jones, Smalling, Blind, Carrick, Rooney, Mata (Rashford 79), Lingard (Mkhitaryan 61), Martial.
Subs not used: Romero, Darmian, McTominay, Mitchell.
Booked: Rooney, Bailly.