It was a weekend for sporting shocks. Europe’s golfers pulled off the ‘Medinha Miracle’ in the Ryder Cup, England actually managed to win a match at the World T20 in Sri Lanka and Liverpool finally won a Premier League game.
And there was Tottenham’s 3-2 defeat of Manchester United at Old Trafford, which eclipsed the lot. Spurs simply don’t win at the Theatre of Dreams.
Except on Saturday they did. Having gone 2-0 up, the script demanded another heroic defeat but Andre Villas-Boas’ boys were not playing ball and Tottenham pulled off the club’s most significant result for a decade.
Spurs of course have had ‘big’ wins before. Beating Chelsea 2-1 at Wembley in the League Cup final in 2008, edging Manchester City 1-0 at Eastlands in 2010 to qualify for the Champions League for the first time. The memorable 2011 first leg 1-0 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro in 2011.
They all pale into insignificance however compared to toppling United in their own back yard.
Tottenham’s recent revival after the worst part of 20 years in the wilderness has seen the Lilywhites shake off the crippling psychological hold that London neighbours Chelsea and Arsenal both gleefully wielded over them. Faded Liverpool no longer bully and belittle the north Londoners as they once did while the nouveau riche of Manchester City are yet to assume the tag of bogey team.
Only United remained a stubborn stumbling block, a symbol of Spurs’ inability to break through to the rarefied ranks of the Premier League’s true elite. The Red Devils cast a long shadow over White Hart Lane and until the spell was broken, Tottenham despaired.
It doesn’t of course follow that victory at Old Trafford will see Spurs crowned champions in May but without Saturday’s result, there was no hope.
Tottenham’s Achilles Heel in recent seasons has been results on the road in the big matches. Their 3-2 injury-time reverse at the Etihad in January when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory was the catalyst for the slump which saw Harry Redknapp’s side surrender third place to Arsenal and ultimately Champions League football.
The fact Villas-Boas has now achieved something Redknapp and Martin Jol before him could not is huge. The question mark about Spurs has always temperament rather than talent and coming away from Old Trafford with all three points is a point of no return as Tottenham strive to become only the sixth team to win the Premier League.
The result also silences Villas-Boas’ critics, giving him the breathing space he was never afforded at Stamford Bridge. The pressure on the Portuguese has evaporated and he now has the luxury of time as he remodels the team in his own image. Make no mistake, the manner in which Tottenham dismantled United in the first-half, as much as the way they refused to buckle after the break, will have sent shockwaves through the upper echelons of the Premier League. Everyone knew they could turn it on at the Lane but outside the cosy confines of N17, Spurs are supposed to be easier prey.
In the last three seasons, Tottenham have lost just seven league games at home. If they can repeat their Old Trafford performance at the Emirates, Anfield, Etihad and Stamford Bridge this term, the 51-year wait for the title could soon be over.
Listen to Iain on this weeks brilliant Red White and Blue Football Podcast HERE