Jose Mourinho has received a massive boost ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Tottenham Hostpur after Mauricio Pochettino expressed doubts over the fitness of his top-scorer Harry Kane.
The 24-year-old, who claimed the Premier League Golden Boot for the second time in a row last season, has netted 15 goals in his last 11 games for club and country.
He came off in the 88th minute of Spurs’ 4-1 win over Liverpool last weekend and wasn’t named in the squad for their 3-2 defeat to West Ham United in the League Cup.
And Pochettino, speaking after the game, admitted that he would have to wait until to the last minute to see if his star-man would be fit for the decisive clash at Old Trafford.
“We’ll see, we’ll see,” he said. “We need to assess the team because we were forced to rotate [against West Ham] for different reasons and we’ll see what happens in the next few days.”
When Pep Guardiola asserted that Spurs were the ‘Harry Kane team’, he was both right and wrong.
Of course, the outcry that followed this comment was justified: Pochettino has put together a superb side packed with indefatigable warriors all over the pitch capable of blowing teams away with the sheer speed and efficiency of their attacking movements. No Premier League side, you sense, possesses a higher level of fitness than them.
And yet, at the same time, Wednesday’s defeat to West Ham at home shed light on what can be seen as not necessarily an over-reliance on Kane, but a notable lack of bite without him. He is, in many ways, the natural conclusion to Spurs’ forthright, cut-throat style: always there to provide the perfect finishing touch.
Without him, Pochettino’s game-plan is incomplete, but he is only an important constituent part – as opposed to the sole reason behind their success.
In other words, Spurs will be diminished by Kane’s absence on Saturday but, at the same time, far from out of the game.