Only second place was at stake, but the Spurs fans were not going to allow Chelsea to spoil their party. Less than 48 hours after Tottenham’s slim chances of winning the title finally died, the supporters sang almost without a pausing for breath for more than 90 minutes.
It was Tottenham’s last home game of the season and its last on a patch of ground where it has played since 1899.
The fans were rewarded. Tottenham dominated Manchester United, who also closed Upton Park last season. Victor Wanyama settled the nerves with a header after six minutes. Harry Kane, the favorite home boy, clipped in another at the start of the second half.
Although Wayne Rooney added a frisson of fear as United showed some pride in the final 20 minutes, it was not enough to spoil the party. The 2-1 final score did not reflect Tottenham’s domination. The victory was enough to give the home fans something more to celebrate than memories.
With two away games left, Tottenham is assured of second place for the first time since 1963. It finished the season unbeaten at White Hart Lane (it did lose a Champions League game at Wembley) for the first time since 1965.
That was a season that almost defined Spursy: Tottenham won 18 and drew three of its 21 league games at the Lane but won only one, and lost 16, of its 21 games away. Tottenham ended this season with 17 straight home victories in league and cup. It has been the club’s best season for decades, yet it again finishes without a trophy.
Mauricio Pochettino wrestled with that contradiction after the game. “Disappointed,” the Tottenham manager told Sky Sports. “But the second position is fantastic for us.”
One of the paradoxes of White Hart Lane is that while every part of the stadium the great soccer architect Archibald Leitch laid out in the first decades of the last century has been replaced over the last four decades, the atmosphere has remained.
Long gone are the huge standing areas — the terracing behind both goals, the Shelf along the entire East Stand and the Enclosure, at field level, under the West Stand — that once allowed the Lane to hold more than 75,000. Yet even though the capacity was reduced to just over 36,000, before a corner of the ground was levelled this season, the playing surface remained unusually small and the fans unusually close.
Gary Neville, the former Manchester United defender, called the stadium “perfectly proportioned” during his commentary for Sky on Sunday.