Manchester United weathered an early Tottenham Hotspur storm to come from behind to win 2-1 and reach a 20th FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera cancelled out Dele Alli’s opener and ensured that Tottenham’s decade-long wait for a trophy continues.
“We want to win trophies, we have the staff that want to win. We can’t keep doing this,” said Alli. “We can’t throw it away. We have got to improve.”
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino played down the importance of winning his first silverware as a coach to back up four years of undoubted progress at Tottenham beforehand, claiming it “wouldn’t change their lives”.
However, Spurs started like the side determined to make a statement.
Just 11 minutes in Davinson Sanchez’s long ball picked out Christian Eriksen perfectly as Paul Pogba failed to track the Danish midfielder’s run down the right.
And his cross was inch-perfect for Alli to apply the finishing touch for his 13th goal of the season.
“We were dominant from the first minute and it only looked to be going one way,” added Alli. “We let ourselves down, it’s very disappointing.”
In contrast to Spurs’ long wait for silverware, United are into a third final in less than two years under Jose Mourinho having won the League Cup and Europa League last season.
And Herrera hailed the winning mentality instilled by the Portuguese coach.
“We are in another final and we’re getting used to being in finals,” said Herrera as United look ahead to a final against either Chelsea or Southampton. “This club is all about titles and finals.”
Spurs failed to make the most of their early dominance as after going in front Eriksen scuffed wide from Harry Kane’s layoff before the England striker just couldn’t reach Son’s viscous in-swinging cross at the back post.
Pogba has been a figure of frustration all season for Mourinho, who has often left the $125 million Frenchman on the sidelines.
Mourinho said Pogba had shown what he is capable of in Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Bournemouth after being substituted just four days earlier in a shock 1-0 home defeat to West Bromwich Albion that handed Manchester City the Premier League title.
And having showed the side of his game that Mourinho detests for Spurs’ opener, Pogba demonstrated his combination of physical power and technical ability as he outmuscled Mousa Dembele before delivering a pin-point cross for Sanchez to head home just his third United goal.
Both sides were unfortunate to not take the lead in the dying moments of a captivating first 45 minutes as firstly Michel Vorm got fingertips to a deflected long-range strike from Pogba.
At the other end, Eric Dier then drove against the base of the post with David de Gea unmoved.
Kane had the first chance of the second period, but saw his shot blocked behind by Chris Smalling as Spurs again started on the front foot.
But, once more, they were hit by a sucker punch when Sanchez’s ball across the face of the area fell perfectly for Herrera arriving late from midfield and, despite going in the middle of the goal, his low effort beat Vorm, who was slow to react down to his right.
Spurs will likely seal their place in the Champions League for a third successive season in the coming weeks as Pochettino’s proof that progress is being made.
However, with their only three defeats of 2018 all coming at Wembley against the toughest of opposition in Juventus, Manchester City and now Manchester United, questions remain over Pochettino’s ability to turn Tottenham into trophy winners.