On his first night since effectively conceding the title at Arsenal, Sir Alex Ferguson paid a rare visit to the City of Manchester Stadium in preparation for the forthcoming Manchester derby. By the time he made for the exit, however, his main concern will have been with the latest threat to emerge from north London.
Tottenham maintained their impressive and stylish rise under Martin Jol last night with a comfortable defeat of Manchester City to consolidate fourth place in the Premiership, reduce the gap between themselves and Ferguson's men to five points and crucially, as far as capital bragging rights are concerned, extend their lead over Arsenal to six.
They did so with a performance that will strengthen boasts from White Hart Lane that the balance of power is shifting from their capital rivals and, although it would require a few title victories to support that particular argument, their claims for Champions' League qualification this season cannot be denied.
Not that it prevented their manager from trying. Despite watching Mido and Robbie Keane extend his team's run to six wins in eight league games Jol insisted: "I really think that the top four sides in England will finish in the top four places, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool. That is what I believe, but if we continue like this you never know. We are not 100 per cent yet, we don't kill teams off as we should and, like Manchester City tonight, we can easily have big problems with injuries."
Unlike his coaching and astute transfers, Jol's verdict does Tottenham a disservice. With the impressive Aaron Lennon toying with the City defence, Michael Carrick orchestrating a fluent passing performance and Keane industrious and clinical, the visitors seized upon a slow, uncertain start by Stuart Pearce's team.
City were booed off at the end and the same reaction befell two of Pearce's substitutions, although the manager did not shirk his responsibilities afterwards. "I'm sure the booing was as much for me as it was the team," he confessed. "Fifteen games ago I was being touted as the next England manager so I've got to take it. I have never been a shrinking violet and I am not going to hide."
The repercussions from this game could get worse for City and Pearce if the Premier League decide to punish David Sommeil for a challenge on Young-Pyo Lee that left the South Korean on a stretcher, a foul that was missed by referee Alan Wiley who was dealing with a foul by Michael Brown on Joey Barton. "Lee said in the dressing room that it was the worst tackle ever and I wouldn't argue with that," said Jol. "It was horrific. He has a badly bruised knee and could be out for a few weeks."
Tottenham took the lead thanks to a gift from City captain Sylvain Distin in the 31st minute when he attempted to shepherd Paul Stalteri's pass out of play. Instead, the City centre-half completely lost his bearings, stumbled out of Lennon's way and allowed the Tottenham winger to cut the ball back from David James's grasp on the by-line and present Mido with an easy finish into the vacant goal. To compound the error Distin attempted to blame his goalkeeper but, for once, there was only sympathy for the England international.
After such a composed display it was with some irony that Tottenham secured the points seven minutes from time with a goal straight from the Wimbledon coaching manual. Paul Robinson's clearance was flicked on by Mido and, following one touch to take the ball through the City defence, Keane despatched a clinical finish beyond James.
Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Onuoha (Sommeil, 54), Dunne, Distin, Thatcher; Sinclair, Jihai, Barton, Ireland (Croft, 70); Cole, Vassell (Wright-Phillips, 70). Substitutes not used: Fowler, Jordan.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Stalteri, Dawson, Gardner, Lee (Pamarot, 74); Lennon (Defoe, 85), Jenas, Carrick, Brown; Keane, Mido (Rasiak, 89). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Mendes.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).Reuse content