The showdown between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United
101 days, that is how long it will have been since Tottenham Hotspur last played an official match, if we forget about their whimper out of the Champions League in that 3-0 loss to RB Leipzig, it has been 104 days since they last had a game in the Premier League.
That is a long time without a game, but instead of vacations to the beach and parties around the world, most of the Spurs have been home just like you and I. This strange, virus imposed, socially distanced layoff is just one of the reasons that Tottenham’s comeback in front of essentially no-one at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is so important.
Hello Football, My Old Friend
More from Hotspur HQ
It has been quite a journey since we last got to cheer on our favorites in action at the Lane. Regardless of fandom, we as humans continue to battle one enemy, we just met in Covid-19 and another enemy that has been around for centuries in racism.
The lockdowns of people for safety led to a shut down of many businesses and we have watched as the economy has slammed to halt. All of this without the joyous distraction of football, a distraction that can help recharge us in a time of need.
The idea of working from home did not seem that bad three months ago, however, the reality of working from home and no football, or basketball, or baseball for that matter, that is a different story.
Just as much as the players have wanted to get out on the pitch and get to work, we the fans have wanted to see it happen. More importantly, we need it to happen.
I still love my wife and kids and I am pretty sure they still love me, but we all know I need something else to love and Tottenham Hotspur are coming back to be that something. The emotional need alone makes this game quite compelling but set aside the unprecedented state of affairs and you have a match just as a critical from the business end of the league table.
Tottenham and the Top Four
Let’s face it, Tottenham kind of needed the break that just occurred. Spurs were like a boxer who had gotten up off the canvas but still did not have their wits about them, just staggering waiting to be knocked out. Manchester United, our next opponent, and their high-priced Portuguese sparkplug Bruno Fernandes were coming primed to do that. While yes, I will concede Paul Pogba might now be back for this match too, Tottenham Hotspur really needed the time to recover.
If the match had proceeded as planned none of the quartet of Harry Kane, Son Heung Min, Steven Bergwijn, not Moussa Sissoko would have been available. In fact, at the time all but Bergwijn were presumed done for the season. Instead, all four – including Kane – are healthy and ready to go, which is good news because Tottenham is in a tough spot.
Seven points back of 4th place Chelsea, 4 points back of Manchester United and two other teams – Wolves and Sheffield – between Spurs and the top 5. A loss means Spurs are at BEST 8 points out of 5th and likely even looking up to Arsenal. Yes, with the return of the four mentioned, a loss is not the end of the world, however, it would mean for a nearly impossible task to get back to European competition. Victory on the other hand leaves Spurs right on United’s heels ready to pounce as the teams position themselves for the best finish possible behind Liverpool.
The Magic of Jose Mourinho
It pains me to say it, but it really was time for Mauricio Pochettino to go, just like the team, he hadn’t shown any signs of recovering from the Champions League defeat and it was clear Pochettino v1.0 at Spurs needed to end. When Mourinho first came in, everyone said the right things, Dele’s brother left, and Dele returned, and the team got its act together.
Then injuries to a team that really is not that deep with top, top talent set in, that new car smell of Jose Mourinho began to wear off and the Spurs began to regress to the mean. The logic was simple, Mourinho could only do so much, given the injuries and the lack of time to coach the squad. Give him a preseason and Jose will make it happen. Well, Jose, you got your preseason.
No, it was not really a preseason, but it was a break from games. And while the instruction was not always in large groups, there has been ample time for instruction. I know my team at work is closer to having weekly zoom meetings together. I can only imagine what kind of cohesion, chemistry, and collective plan could have formed during this time off, but together. They say Jose is a master of people, he sure had his chance. This is not to say a loss here or even not finishing in Europe means Jose should not get a real pre-season, it just means maybe he is not as special as he used to be.
If you take our individual need for this game, the importance in the table, and the opportunity for Jose to begin putting his stamp on Spurs and sending a message to the rest of the league make this about as big of a game as Tottenham Hotspur have played in some time. If not the most important since the Champions League Final, certainly the most important in over 100 days.