As I sit here catching my breath in the wake of the Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur match which can only be described as the single greatest 90 minutes of football I have ever had the privilege of watching let alone report on, all I can think of is that this is what football is about.
Spurs travelled to Manchester on the back of a 1-0 victory at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in what was a great result, but hardly a spectacle to bear witness to other than the stadium in which the tie took place.
Manchester City still bore the favourites tag given their prolific goal scoring form, particularly at the Etihad. Spurs would be without Harry Kane and a captain who’s confidence was shot in Hugo Lloris. Nevertheless it was an eagerly awaited clash which then delivered a match we won’t see the likes of for a long time to come.
Four goals in 11 minutes is almost unheard of yet as the 12th minute struck in the city of Manchester, the scoreboard read 2-2 as I frantically typed away trying to keep up with the incredible opening period which saw Heun-Min Son bag a brace whilst Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling also found themselves on the scoresheet.
Sterling then netted midway through the half which meant the game was in the balance at the halfway stage.
Lloris stood tall early in the second half to produce a world class save to deny Kevin de Bruyne which served as a stark reminder of the French captain’s ability amidst so much criticism.
The save was almost in vein as Sergio Aguero produced a rocket of a shot that passed Lloris at his near post to bring the Etihad to its feet as the comeback seemed complete. City were, for the first time, ahead in the tie.
With Spurs now needing a goal, Fernando Llorente, who had earlier replaced Moussa Sissoko, rose and the ball came off the strikers waist and into the back of the net as the Spurs players erupted before the celebrations were brought to a standstill as the referee signalled for VAR.
After a brief pause, the goal stood and suddenly Spurs were just 15 minutes away from history.
Maurizio Pochettino threw on every defensive player at his disposal while City piled on the pressure and in the 93rd minute, Sterling put the ball into the back of the net.
The Etihad erupted into celebrations reminiscent only to the ones following the Aguero league winner in 2012 before a stunned silence swept over the crowd…
The goal had been disallowed, Aguero had strayed offside in the build up and once again it was Spurs with the advantage.
Eventually, the final whistle brought a close to an exquisite encounter that was full of emotion, heartbreak, and raw passion.
Take a bow Pochettino
If there is one person who I am the most happy about with this result then it has to be none other than Maurizio Pochettino.
The Argentine has endured endless amounts of criticism, mockery and doubt all because of his failure to produce a piece of silverware, a feat not achieved by Jurgen Klopp either although the latter was hailed as the messiah after finishing as runners up in the Champions League a year ago.
Pochettino arrived at Tottenham in 2014 at a time where the majority of the Spurs squad who had made the 2011/12 Champions League quarter-finals had left and at a time where the club had since played two successive seasons of Europa League. Some of the departures had included Gareth Bale and Luca Modric.
Since then he has made household names out of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Heung-min Son, Christian Eriksen to name but a few players.
He has made top four for three seasons in a row and in the last year had a title challenge up until January and now qualified for the Champions league semi-finals. He did this all whilst having not made a single signing over the last two transfer windows due to the complexities of the building of their new stadium which serves as a visual representation of Spurs are trying to do in London.
The testament to his influence lies in one simple stat. The most expensive player that started the game for Tottenham Hotspur was Sissoko who cost £30m. City on the other hand had 12 players in their 18 man squad that cost them over £30m.
So take a bow Maurizio. You have proven those that doubt you wrong over and over again and whilst the criticism towards you stems from a fallacy that only trophies can define a manager, which seems to only apply to certain individuals, you continue to pave the way for the underdog.
If anyone wonders why we follow football and why we love this game, then the above text as a backstory to the below video serves as a timely reminder that football is not always about who’s the best in the world or fan rivalry, it is about those who no one believes in going on to do what others didn’t think they could.
He’s magic you know, Mauricio Pochettino. pic.twitter.com/eZZblgWS05
— Pochitivity (@Pochitivity) April 17, 2019
As a United fan all I can say is that I have an endless amount of admiration for Tottenham Hotspur and the project they have built under Pochettino. United can undoubtedly take a few leaves out of the Spurs book as they look to rebuild from the ground up amidst a season of turmoil.
My biggest regret of this season was United’s failure to acquire the services of Pochettino, but now that all is set in stone, I believe nothing would benefit football more than seeing Pochettino and his squad lift the Champions League trophy in Madrid on 1 June 2019.