JOSE MOURINHO has had a knack of pulling a result out of the bag when the chips are down — and he certainly needs it this afternoon.
Tottenham vs Manchester United has always been a massive game and I know some are even calling this one the biggest of Jose’s time at Spurs.
I don’t know about that but it’s certainly hugely important because I don’t think anything less than the Champions League will keep Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy happy.
Spurs have got to finish in the top four and there can be no excuses if they don’t when you look at that squad. Miss out and it would put real pressure on Jose, for sure.
The bottom line is that this is a game they MUST win and United don’t necessarily have to, which is why I think the advantage is with Tottenham.
They may be the ones under the most pressure to get a result but little things like that can have a huge bearing.
If you’re United, you can be thinking, ‘We’re not going to win the league but we’re not going to miss out on the top four either’.
It’s almost a situation of, do we stick or do we twist? Do we go hell for leather or play it safe?
For Tottenham, it’s like being 1-0 down from the home leg in a European game and you go to their place and know you have to win. And they have to.
I know they’re in the Carabao Cup final but, even if they won, I don’t think that alone would be enough.
Half the teams come in late, the games are basically reserve sides even in the quarter-finals and, while it’s nice to lift a trophy, finishing in the top four is what really counts.
For all their slip-ups, Spurs still have a great chance — but they can’t afford too many more mistakes.
We know Manchester City are different class and at the start of the season there only looked to be two places up for grabs because Liverpool were nailed-on for one of them.
But no one saw them having the season they’ve had — they might not even make the Champions League next season.
And when you look at the players Jose has for every position — pretty much two inter- nationals for each one — there’s no way they should miss out.
I actually thought this would be the year they could even win the title, so the fact they’re in a battle to even make the top four is pretty amazing really.
But West Ham aren’t going away, Leicester are still right in there and although Chelsea opened it up a bit by losing to West Brom, you still fancy them to be in the four.
So Spurs really can’t afford not to beat United — and games between these two are always ones to look forward to.
I didn’t have the best record against United when I was Tottenham manager but I don’t go along with the idea of there being some sort of mental block against them.
Sir Alex Ferguson had some fantastic teams there, some of the best players we’ve had in the Premier League, and they had a great record against most sides over the years.
I do remember going to Old Trafford in my first season at Spurs, when we were two up at half-time.
Then they got a diabolical penalty — ref Howard Webb eventually admitted to me he got it wrong — which turned the whole game and they came back to beat us.
That was a game we should have won, although I did have some good results against them with other clubs.
I beat them with West Ham in the FA Cup and of course Portsmouth the year we went on to win it.
Probably the biggest game, though, was the one when we drew with United at Upton Park on the day Blackburn won the league at Anfield.
Everyone thought we’d get rolled over. Liverpool wouldn’t try because they didn’t want United to win it and Kenny Dalglish was Rovers manager.
But then Liverpool beat them and even though we got absolutely battered, we hung on for a point and Blackburn were champions anyway.
I think that was one of the great days for English football. Nothing to do with who won the title but just because the whole world could see how straight our game was.
Let’s just say I’m far from convinced that would have happened in a lot of other countries.
Not that Fergie thought like that at the time — although I’d hope he has forgiven me by now!
CZECH OUT WEST HAM
I’D love to see West Ham finish in the top four, for obvious reasons — but as much for David Moyes and his coaching team as anything else.
Of course the two Czech lads, Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal, have been outstanding all season.
But getting Craig Dawson and Jesse Lingard were inspired moves — and I’m convinced no foreign managers would have done the same.
They were both signings of a man who really knows English football, knows this league and knew what they could give.
Moyesie deserves a medal for the work he’s done… but just as he’s built a great team on the pitch, the coaching one ain’t bad either.
And as much as the manager is being praised, let’s not forget the roles Stuart Pearce, Alan Irvine, Paul Nevin and Kevin Nolan have played too.
NOT GREALLY THAT GOOD
I WATCHED Aston Villa against Fulham last week and Scott Parker must have been tearing his hair out wondering how his Cottagers lost 3-1.
But if it proved one thing to me it was this… as much as they may argue the point, without Jack Grealish Villa are a pretty average side.
And no one will convince me otherwise.
⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds