Will you feel a certain amount of pride if you confirm a second-place finish, above certain other teams with bigger budgets?
Mauricio Pochettino: “Maybe it’s a moment now to be focused on trying to finish the season in the best way. (There are) three games to play. Still we feel a little bit disappointed for last week – it’s too difficult to take off that feeling but (be) sure that the season so far was good and it’s true that when you don’t win – and it will be difficult because it’s up to Chelsea today to win the Premier League and we are then not capable of winning any trophies – you feel disappointed because that is our ambition. When we play, when we start the season, to be honest we don’t analyse the budget or the investment from different clubs but when you finish the season you must analyse and put all in the same place to analyse and then say (if) it was good or you feel disappointed for the season. I think we are more than right.”
What has the mood been like among the players this week?
Mauricio: “To be honest it was difficult. We started training on Monday and until Wednesday it was difficult to be happy and to start to be only focused on Manchester United because we missed a big, big opportunity to put pressure on Chelsea, not only an opportunity to win the league. We missed the opportunity to put pressure on them and to fight nearly until the end and now it’s in their hands to win the Premier League. To be honest it’s so difficult for us now to win in the end but before the West Ham game all believed that it was possible. After that game it was a big, big disappointment and of course it was difficult to lift everyone to start to be ready again for Manchester United. Now we are okay, we are good, we are focused and looking forward to playing, looking forward to the last game at White Hart Lane. There are many, many, many reasons to be focused and happy to play on Sunday.”
Do you think the title race will finish tonight when Chelsea play West Brom and will you be watching?
Mauricio: “Yes I will watch because I love football. No other reason. It’s my passion, football. There is nothing more important than football tonight. Of course it’s up to them, we’ll see what happens and then it’s (about) trying to be focused on ourselves, trying to be ready to compete on Sunday and trying to win the three points.”
Every season since you’ve been here the team has improved. Do you think you can take that next step and win the title going forward?
Mauricio: “Yes, of course. We have been thinking in the last few months (about) how we can improve, how we can learn from the last three seasons. We are so ambitious and we want to always improve. To improve you need to learn and I think the project is very clear in Tottenham now, you know it very well. We are building step-by-step for our future and in the same way we are preparing every week for the games, we are preparing for next season and (looking at) all the areas that we need to improve or we believe we can improve (so we can) be stronger than this season.”
It’s the last game at White Hart Lane on Sunday – what sort of occasion do you think it will be?
Mauricio: “I think it will be special. Special for our fans first of all, for all the staff, the players and the people that love Tottenham but at the same time I think it will be exciting because we are all excited that the new stadium will come. The most important (thing is) that the soul of White Hart Lane and the smell will keep there. It’s true that with the new era and the new stadium, different expectations arrive but it’s most important that always in our memory will be White Hart Lane in behind and the soil and the smell. It will be sad on Sunday but it will be exciting to welcome the new era of Tottenham – the new stadium, of course.”
What is it about White Hart Lane that makes it so special?
Mauricio: “I was so lucky because I played the last game at Sarrià Stadium, the stadium of Espanyol. After eight years it was demolished and there are stadiums that are so special because you can feel the history, you can smell the history – it’s so difficult to describe your feelings when you are there. I am sure that will happen with you too when you sit at White Hart Lane. At this type of stadium it’s so difficult to describe the feeling and the emotion. Of course we are sad but the most important thing is to know that always the heart of White Hart Lane and the smell will keep here in behind. You are very comfortable in your mind and for our supporters it’s special. When you knock down the stadium, you must move in another area, always it’s so difficult because your habit is always to take the same route, (visit) the same shops, (do) the same things but now you change nothing because the new stadium will be in the same area that White Hart Lane was. It will be fantastic for our fans.”
Will you take anything away from White Hart Lane with you on Sunday?
Mauricio: “I don’t know. We’ll see. I am a person that never decides many things before – I act with my emotions. We’ll see. I was thinking a little bit because I heard from the last game in the Champions League at the Vicente Calderón, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, many fans took their seat and brought it home. But it’s still two games to play in the Calderón – it’s so difficult. If I feel that I need to take something special and keep it in my house, I will do.”
The manager’s seat?
Mauricio: “No – it’s so big! I will have a big problem with my wife!”
What is your best memory of White Hart Lane from your three seasons at the club?
Mauricio: “Many, many, many performances, many days were special. Every single moment that we spent there was special for different reasons – when you win, lose. Football for us is special and every time that we are ready to compete is a moment that is unique. I feel that maybe Sunday will be the most special day at White Hart Lane after three seasons.”
Jose Mourinho has hinted that the Europa League is a priority for Manchester United at this stage. Do you think they’ll be taking the game as seriously as you are?
Mauricio: “Yes, of course. When you play in the Premier League, you always take it seriously and show that you came here to compete. It will be tough for us, it will be tough for them. I think it’s a game that we want to win and they surely want to win. You play for your pride, it will be tough. It’s a recent (idea) that it will be easy because Manchester United now are maybe focused on winning the Europa League but it will be very tough and we need to be ready to fight.”
What do you think about the way they’ve been playing this season?
Mauricio: “It’s not my business what happens at Manchester United. Only I can express my opinion and my opinion is that they have a very good squad, very good players, a great manager. I think it will be tough to play against them but I am not the right person to analyse and to give my opinions about the season of Manchester United or another club.”
Do you think there is a danger that the team might play the occasion rather than the game on Sunday?
Mauricio: “No, I don’t believe so. The players are focused on trying to get the three points. It will be important for everyone to finish in the best way. Today we will see the game between West Brom and Chelsea, that is the reality but for us, Sunday is an important game, to try to get the three points, finish in a very good way at White Hart Lane – the last game at White Hart Lane – and try to finish the season with a good feeling.”
If you avoid defeat you’ll have been unbeaten at the Lane all season. How satisfying is that?
Mauricio: “I think it will be fantastic for the club and our supporters to keep very good memories about the old White Hart Lane. I think it will be fantastic.”
Are you conscious that Jose Mourinho will always have a plan when you face his teams?
Mauricio: “Of course. I know Jose very well, he is a great tactician and a great coach but I cannot compare (him) with another because I don’t know everyone. Today all the managers that we meet at that level are all prepared to compete with one another. Always it’s a good challenge to play the best managers in the world and Jose is one of the best, of course.”
Is he the best manager in the world?
Mauricio: “I think he is one of the best, of course. It’s so difficult to say it’s only one that’s the best. There are maybe 10 or 20 best managers in the world where you can pick one or another but it’s so difficult to say it’s only one manager that is the best. Of course he is one of the best.”
Do you think it’s a good time to be playing United at the moment?
Mauricio: “You never know. Of course they are focused on trying to win the Europa League but the players that will play on Sunday, be sure that they will give their best to win. On our side, the same. It will be a tough game, of course, both teams will play to win and then we’ll see what happens. I don’t believe that it’s the right moment or not to play (them) because they have a big squad with different players that can keep the level. If you play Rashford or Martial or Fellaini or Pogba or Lingard or Mkhitaryan, what changes? They are in the same level. Of course they have a few players injured but they have a big squad and all the players have big qualities and good qualities.”
You had a similar experience of leaving your home ground at Sarrià Stadium in 1997. Was it difficult?
Mauricio: “It was tough because it was for a different reason that we left the stadium. Espanyol was in a very big financial problem and needed to sell the stadium and try to cancel all their debuts. It was about surviving for the club and it was sad because it was for different reasons that Tottenham have today.”
Can something like that bring the squad together even more?
Mauricio: “It’s true that we spent 12 years in Montjuïc in the Olympic Stadium and we were capable of winning two Copa del Reys, in 2000 and in 2006, and it was fantastic. Why not maybe next season, to win some titles and trophies at Wembley?”
Does it increase the sense of team spirit?
Mauricio: “Yes, because, it’s a moment that the club needs you – needs your support, needs your effort, needs your best. In that moment for us, as a player, I remember always it was to try to give 200 per cent, not only 100 per cent because in that moment you feel that the club needs you. I agree, we created a very special feeling in between each other, we felt like a unit and we were very, very strong.”
You mentioned that staying in the same place will be easier for the fans – do you think it will help the players as well?
Mauricio: “Yes it will be easier because of the fact that you don’t change your habits, you only improve your situation. When you change the area it’s always completely different for your family, for yourself and the fans to create the habits again. Today, fans that follow Tottenham and have supported Tottenham for 50 or 60 years, they don’t have to change anything, only improve their position and enjoy the new facilities. I think that is fantastic for all our fans.”
Do you think this stadium move will put Tottenham on the same level as some of the bigger clubs in Europe?
Mauricio: “Yes, I think that is our expectation with the new facilities and the new stadium, to move to the last level. It will help Tottenham to reach that level. I am sure that we will try but it will be very helpful for the club to reach the last level.”
Josh Onomah, Kyle Walker-Peters and Cameron Carter-Vickers have gone off to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup. How much will this help their development?
Mauricio: “It’s important because it will be a great experience. I told Josh and Kyle to be careful in their first game because it’s against Argentina and it will be tough! I think it will be a great experience for them. When you are young and you have the chance to play at the Under-20 World Cup, it’s always fantastic to meet and to play. Always that type of international competition will help them to develop their skills and improve. They will benefit from that.”
Do you expect to be able to develop them so they can play more of a part in the first team next season?
Mauricio: “Of course they are players that we are thinking of (for the) future. We expect that they will be involved next season more than they were this season.”