Vertonghen is ‘extremely excited’ about Tottenham’s future but says it is ‘vital’ Pochettino stays
Jan Vertonghen is “extremely excited” about the future at Tottenham but admits it is “vital” Mauricio Pochettino stays to continue his impressive work at White Hart Lane.
Vertonghen returned to the starting line-up after an 11-week injury lay-off and played his part in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) 3-0 victory over Manchester United.
It was Spurs’ first home win over the Red Devils for 15 years, further emphasising their improvement under Pochettino – and Vertonghen is predicting a bright era for the Lilywhites, provided their head coach stays at White Hart Lane.
“I am extremely excited,” said the Belgian centre-back. “If you feel the buzz in the club, in the dressing room with the guys, it is something I have never experienced before and we have to keep this together - not just the players, the squad, but the crowd as well and then nice things can happen.
“How important is it that the manager stays? For me it is vital. To keep this thing going here, he has to stay. I think everyone wants him to stay and he feels that - that we want to fight for him and that this team is the best thing for him, so I hope he stays.
“[He gives us] the belief that we’re the best team in the league at the moment. If you see the way we play, how dominant we are… We have the best attack, we have got the best defence, we run the most. We have got everything to be up there and I think the gaffer gives us that belief.
“But I think if I say we are the best team in the league then I am disrespectful towards Leicester, and I don’t want to be because normally the best team at this stage in the league is up there [at the top], and all compliments to Leicester - but I think we are a very good team.”
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Vertonghen made his first start for two and a half months on Sunday and slotted seamlessly back into the defence alongside his compatriot Toby Alderweireld, with the Belgian duo helping to shut United out and secure a clean sheet.
The 28-year-old admits he has found it difficult to watch the title race from the sofa, but he is pleased to be able to play his part in the run-in and is adamant Spurs will keep trying to eat into Leicester’s seven-point lead in the final five matches.
“I’m very pleased to be back. I felt very good, very confident,” he said. “It’s a great team to play in, they make it easier for me to come back.
“It’s quite hard to be injured, especially when they are doing so well - but when they’re not doing well you want to help them as well, of course, so it’s great to see them do well like this.
“We have to believe and I think we showed belief on the pitch. Compliments to Leicester but we have to try and chase them.
“For us, personally, it’s important to win these games, to show the rest of the Premier League that we don’t give up - that we’re there and we’re ready for next season as well. We will try to compete on every level and I think this team is capable of doing that.”
Vertonghen has the experience of winning two Eredivisie league titles with Ajax in 2011 and 2012, before joining Spurs, and he recalled: “I think both times we came back from behind - and I think in the first year we came back from 11 or 12 points.
“That was in December, though, not like this now. I think in both years we came back from behind, but this is a bit different.
“To win titles you have to win games. I can bring experience but I think this team wants to win every game - every training game, whatever.
“‘Experience’ is a strange word to me. If you see how hungry these guys are on the pitch, there’s not much more I can add. I try to be very grown up but these guys are good by themselves.”
While Tottenham are still looking up the table and chasing Leicester, Sunday’s victory took them 12 points clear of fifth-placed United, and a top-four finish now looks virtually assured.
“We are very close,” said Vertonghen. “Obviously West Ham didn’t win [on Saturday] and we needed this win to keep Man U at a certain distance. It was a very important win if you think about the Champions League.”
United boss Louis van Gaal defiantly stated after the weekend’s encounter that “Manchester United is a bigger club” than Tottenham, and Vertonghen said:
“Man United will always be Man United, in my opinion. We can try to come very close and hopefully we can get at their level.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs