Mauricio Pochettino hailed Tottenham’s victory against Manchester United as the perfect send-off to the old White Hart Lane as they confirmed their highest league finish since 1963.
Goals from Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane paved the way for a 17th successive victory at the famous old ground, which was due to welcome in the bulldozers within hours of the final whistle as former players and managers took to the pitch for an emotional farewell ceremony. Despite the honour of scoring the final goal at the stadium – which first hosted top-flight football in 1909 against the same opponents – falling to Wayne Rooney as United almost rescued a point with a late salvo, Pochettino paid tribute to the club’s supporters for providing the impetus for their memorable final season at the Lane. “It was a very emotional game and ceremony. It’s difficult to describe,” said Pochettino.
“I’m a very lucky guy to share the history of such a club in such a special moment. I want to say thanks to all my players and staff. We are sad and disappointed that Chelsea won the league but there is nothing to regret. All we can say is that next season we will give our best and try to win the league.”
Tottenham will play at Wembley next season as work continues on their new 62,000-seat stadium next to the old ground. Pochettino believes that could be the catalyst for them to add some silverware after coming so close with no reward in the last two seasons. “We’ve been thinking about it a lot and when the new stadium opens it will help us a lot to reach the next level,” he said. “It will put the club in the last level in Europe.”
Kane, who has now scored against every club in this season’s Premier League, added: “What a way to finish. We wanted a win so badly in our last game here. I said before I’d love to score the winning goal and for it to happen is brilliant. To see it go in was special. When you look at our points tally compared to last season, obviously we’re disappointed losing out on the title but we are growing. We so badly wanted to win this game.”
Defeat confirmed that United now cannot finish in the top four and must instead hope for victory against Ajax in the Europa League final next week if they are to secure a Champions League berth for next season. “I’m not upset. We had to make that decision,” said José Mourinho.
“When people say ‘we gambled’, we didn’t gamble, we didn’t choose Europa League. We had to do it because, if I have Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Ibrahimovic, Tim Fosu-Mensah, if I have these guys, I can rotate, I can go for every match. When I have 14, 15 players I can’t do it. It’s as simple as that.
“We know what we are doing,” he added. “I don’t know other clubs and what is important for them. For us it’s more important to win titles than to finish top four. If we can win a third title [of the season] it will be magnificent for us. We know that if we lose the final we will not play in the Champions League. But we fight for titles and probably other clubs finishing in the top four, probably they would like to be in our position, to try to fight for a title.”