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Transfer Rater: Bale to Man United

Transfers
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 By Andy Mitten

Man United's Premier League campaign continues its limp to a close

There were 30 minutes until kickoff when a desperate Tottenham fan saw a glimpse of a spare ticket.

"Is that for sale, mate?" he asked a Manchester United supporter standing outside the entrance to White Hart Lane's away end. "I'll pay you £400."

The United fan thought about what he was being offered for the £30 ticket, which would cover the cost of his trip to Stockholm for the Europa League final.

"I'm sorry, mate; it's for a Manchester United fan." he said, finally, before handing the ticket to a fellow supporter, who had been unaware of the offer, in exchange for £30. While tempted to make a profit, the fan with the extra ticket also knew that United followers help each other out for face value, a culture which has long been established.

Few of those who packed into the Park Lane section of the ground expected a win on Sunday. Indeed, few even talked of the game, either outside or inside the ground. Instead, the topic was Stockholm: How they were getting to the 2017 Europa League final and their own ticket issues. It's the only game that matters right now to fans, Jose Mourinho and, probably, players whose salaries have a 25 percent loading toward playing in the Champions League.

Commemorative flags, been placed upon 2,700 seats in the away end, were ignored. They were for home supporters and made an impressive sight when held up in the North London sun and rain. Spurs' songs also sounded impressive -- as they always do -- especially the gradually uplifting solemnity of "When the Spurs go marching in."

Too many United fans sing too fast, but the away support have got a better handle on things and a chant of "You nearly won the league" was aired to wind up the happy home fans. As was "Oh, Teddy, Teddy, he came to Man United and he won the lot" in honour of the Tottenham and United striker Sheringham, one of many ex-players who was present.

While fun in the stands was constant, entertainment on the field -- from United at least -- was not. Established starters were rested again, which gave an opportunity for 19-year-old Axel Tuanzebe to man mark Christian Eriksen. The changes were understandable and made with Stockholm in mind, but the price has been a loss of momentum: United have won just one of their last six games.

Having gone unbeaten for their previous 25 Premier League games, Manchester United have lost their last two games.

Spurs dominated from the start and were ahead after only six minutes when Victor Wanyama, a Kenyan-born Man United fan, who cost only £9 million from Southampton and whose wages are a third of United's biggest earners, headed his side ahead.

Half-time brought an on-pitch interview with Chas 'n' Dave, the Spurs-supporting cockney musicians, who wrote the club's famous 1981 FA Cup final song, before the second half began and Harry Kane made it 2-0. At that point, with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling struggling in central defence, United looked in danger of falling apart.

However, a late spark saw Wayne Rooney score the final goal at White Hart Lane and, quite possibly, his final goal in a United shirt. It would be a major surprise if he's still at Old Trafford next season and the end for him is as ignominious as United's league season is becoming.

But it was Tottenham's day as they finished the season unbeaten at home in the league. After providing the final opposition at West Ham's Upton Park a year ago, United were fall guys once again on the last day for a famous London stadium.

Spurs fans waved their flags; they sang "Nice One, Cyril" about their former manager Cyril Knowles and also vocally supported former player Aaron Lennon, who is suffering from mental health issues. The atmosphere was carnival, emotional.

Though United beat Mauricio Pochettino's side 1-0 in a December league game, a result that began a winning run which gave genuine belief that Mourinho's men were gathering strength, Spurs have been far superior this season; a 15-point league gap between the second-placed Londoners and United, stranded in sixth, illustrates that.

Mourinho believes Spurs and other leading clubs have an advantage because they're at least three years into a managerial project, while he's less than 12 months into his. Fans have been underwhelmed, but it's not wholly fair to judge a manager after his first season. If his team are fifth or sixth at this time next year, though, then it will become a big problem for even the most patient fans.

When United won league titles, the end of the season could be an exciting time for fans. The current campaign, though, ends with a visit to Southampton on Wednesday, followed by what could very well be an 11th and final home draw of the season against Crystal Palace four days later. It's a while since two league games have been so inconsequential.

Twenty-six years ago today, United beat Barcelona to win the European Cup Winners' Cup in Rotterdam. Then, in another insignificant league match, Crystal Palace happened to be the final opponents of the league season before United, a fine cup team in 1991, went to Europe to lift a trophy that gave confidence to kick on and make serious title challenges.

The best fans can hope for this season is a repeat, with success in Sweden against Ajax on May 24.

Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.

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