London (AFP) – Mauricio Pochettino described Tottenham Hotspur’s final day at White Hart Lane as “perfect”, but said moving into their new stadium would take the club to the next level.
Local hero Harry Kane scored the decisive goal as Tottenham beat Manchester United 2-1 on Sunday in their last game at the Lane, which is due to be demolished and rebuilt in time for the 2018-19 season.
The game was followed by a pitch invasion and then a ceremony involving Spurs greats from yesteryear, a rainbow breaking through the clouds with perfect timing as a shower of white tickertape brought the festivities to a close.
“I think for me the most special day will always be the last day at White Hart Lane,” Spurs manager Pochettino said.
“For me it was a very exciting day because I think it was perfect. The preparation of the game, the game, we played well and we got the three points.
“And at the end the ceremony was fantastic to share with all the legends, the people, the staff, the fans, the family.”
Pochettino’s side will play at Wembley next season before returning to their new 61,559-seater stadium, which is already taking shape beside the Lane.
Spurs have twice come close to the Premier League title in the last two seasons, losing out to Leicester City last season and Chelsea this.
But despite admitting to feeling “sad and disappointed” about Spurs’ latest brush with glory, Pochettino believes even brighter days lie ahead.
“We were talking a lot. We believe that when the new stadium opens the door, it will help the club to reach the last level,” said the Argentine.
“That is our expectation. That is our idea. The facilities, the training ground, the new facilities with the new stadium will put the team and the club in the last level in Europe.”
It was Spurs’ 14th successive home league win — equalling the club record, set over two seasons in 1987 — and confirmed they will end the season in second place, their highest placing since a runners-up finish in 1963.
– ‘Trophies over top four’ –
United, meanwhile, are now assured of finishing outside the top four, meaning they must beat Ajax in the Europa League final in Stockholm on May 24 to secure a place in the Champions League.
With manager Jose Mourinho prioritising the Europa League campaign, he has fielded weakened teams in United’s last two league games — the defeat at Spurs and a 2-0 loss at Arsenal.
But with injuries biting at Old Trafford, he said the quest for glory in Europe had left him with no alternatives.
“Because of my respect for them (Tottenham), I didn’t rest more people,” said Mourinho, whose side visit Southampton on Wednesday.
“You cannot play against Arsenal, you can’t play against Man City or Southampton and play four or five kids. It’s not possible.
“These last five matches of the season, four very difficult matches away from home and we managed with this situation at least to keep some balance, to fight for results and to give a positive image of dignity.
“I cannot lose 5-0 or 6-0. So it’s difficult, difficult, but we know what we are doing.”
He added: “I don’t know other clubs. I don’t know the way they think. I don’t know what is important for them.
“For Manchester United it’s more important to win titles than to finish top four.
“Other clubs finishing in the top four, probably they would like to be in our position, to try to fight for a title.”
With the diggers due to arrive at White Hart Lane on Monday, the 118-year-old stadium will not remain standing for much longer, but Pochettino said he had not managed to get his hands on any souvenirs.
“I steal nothing because there was no time,” he said. “We’ll see what’s still there, because the players started to take everything!”