At the final whistle, Ange Postecoglou walked into the centre-circle, paused and looked around. He has been a football coach for 26 years and sometimes, he explained, it’s worth taking stock and remembering why the job is worth doing.
“You want to feel that moment,” he said. “I love what football does to people – particularly in these moments. You take a moment to think about the 60,000 here and whatever watching at home and they’re going to be smiling for the week. That moment’s about thinking for me that I’m pretty blessed.”
Postecoglou is honest enough to know that, although Tottenham ended up beating Manchester United relatively comfortably, it could easily have gone the other way. “In the first half we looked a bit nervous for half an hour or so,” he said, “and were probably fortunate to be in the game. We were giving the ball away cheaply, allowing them to come at us – it’s not surprising with the really young team we’re putting out there, but there were really encouraging signs towards the end of the first half. At half-time we settled it down and I thought the boys were brilliant. They took the game to United and got the goal.”
Erik ten Hag agreed the first goal had been crucial. “We dominated the game in and out of possession, but you have to score a goal,” he said. “The meaning of the first goal is so important and we didn’t get it. At half-time we said to keep proactive, keep on the front foot, and that’s just what we didn’t do.”
When they then conceded the pressure suddenly was on United. “We have to deal with it,” he said. “It’s about keeping the belief and I think always you find arguments to give an explanation for a performance. The team stuck together and they didn’t collapse, they kept fighting and created chances.”
But it was Postecoglou who was by far the happier with the second-half performance, with Pape Sarr’s effort and a Lisandro Martínez own goal securing the points. “It wasn’t a victory on back of a backs to the wall, desperate performance. We showed elements of what we’re looking for.”
His starting lineup showed two changes from the side that drew at Brentford last Sunday, with Pedro Porro replacing Emerson Royal and Sarr coming in for Oliver Skipp. “I want to explore the squad and individuals within it,” Postecoglou explained. “It would be silly to stick with some sort of formula because unless I expose some of these guys to this level I’m never going to learn about these guys.
“You can’t expect six weeks into my tenure that we’re going to be putting in complete performances but what you want to see is sprouts and we saw that. That leaves a fairly decent benchmark we’ve got to match.”