Manchester United are currently finding out, first hand, what Jose Mourinho’s third season syndrome truly means. After failing to be backed by Ed Woodward during the window, then stumbling across the line in the season opener against Leicester, Mourinho’s United were embarrassed by Chris Hughton’s Brighton, losing 3-2 to the Tottenham legends side.
Yet, following the turmoil that United look to be heading into, the majority of Tottenham fans are now convinced that they will lose when they travel up to Manchester on Monday night. This is why, despite it still being August, Monday night is crucial to being able to measure how far Spurs have come.
Mauricio Pochettino has yet to take a point from Old Trafford during his tenure as Tottenham manager and has mustered just two wins from 20 away games against the top six since his arrival in 2014.
However, last season we began to see Spurs’ luck changing when they travelled for a big away game. In the Champions League, Tottenham took the lead in Madrid before taking a point from the Bernabeu, they went to Dortmund and won 2-1 before coming from 2-0 down to heroically draw 2-2 in Turin against Juventus. In the Premier League we also saw a change in fortune following the start of 2018; they drew level twice against Liverpool at Anfield to dramatically take a point back to North London before finally ending the Stamford Bridge hoodoo, coming from 1-0 behind to dominate Chelsea in the 3-1 win.
This is a positive sign for Tottenham as, if they are ever to challenge for any type of silverware they need to be able to go into rival territory and win consistently. Under Poch, home form against the top six has not been a concern at all as we have witnessed the 4-1 dismantlings of City and more recently, Liverpool, whilst we have become accustomed to Spurs regularly taking all 3 points against Arsenal at home.
Tottenham’s dismal away record against the top six is not the only reason for concern. They have a lack of ability to kick a rival while they are down and whimpering. Anyone who hasn’t managed to erase from their mind, the memory of the 2013/14 season that Spurs endured will unfortunately remember the regular batterings they took from their top six rivals. Manchester City took the title that season under the stewardship of now West Ham manager, Manuel Pellegrini.
To win the Premier League, something Tottenham fans dream about, you need to have a killer instinct amongst the ranks.
When Tottenham travelled to Manchester to face City in November 2013, they were humiliated 6-0. City hosted Tottenham having watched them lose 1-0 to Newcastle at the Lane the week before, limp to a 2-1 win against Sheriff and draw 0-0 to Everton despite the £110 million having been spent on the, ‘Magnificent Seven,’ 3 months prior. City knew that AVB was in serious trouble as Spurs boss and took full advantage as true champions do.
Yet Tottenham have never been capable of that. In October of last year on the other side of Manchester, newly promoted Huddersfield had just shocked the nation and beaten United 2-1, who were then to host Spurs in the next game. Having been title challengers in the last two seasons, if Spurs were to kick on and show their mettle, they would have to go to Old Trafford and dispatch United, especially after the confidence they would have been given after pummelling Liverpool at Wembley the previous week, 4-1. Instead, an 81st minute Anthony Martial strike ensured Tottenham would once again travel back to North London without a win against a top six side.
Monday’s opponents are in a similar situation having been beaten by Brighton. Tottenham have a real chance to show the exact same killer instinct Manchester City had in 2013-14 and that they have now. They have the chance to show that Spurs are City’s challengers rather than Liverpool. Poch’s team have the chance to make Spurs fans forget about the continued disappointment they have been receiving from the transfer window and now the stadium and rather fill them with optimism that they might well have the capabilities of finally mounting a true challenge for the English Premier League title.
If they travel the 198 miles to Old Trafford and travel 198 miles back still on 6 points, then the failure to sign a single player will become a massive talking point once again, while the term Spursy will likely make a return to Twitter’s trending page. More importantly, it will show the squad has not matured in the way Harry Kane has recently said they have and that they are still in the same position as when they let Leicester City win a Premier League title.
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