Gareth Bale hat-trick leaves Tottenham wondering what might have been had Jose Mourinho trusted him more

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Dan Kilpatrick
·4-min read
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Gareth Bale’s superb hat-trick downed sorry Sheffield United to leave Tottenham torn between future optimism and thoughts of what might have been.

Bale made it eight League goals in as many appearances and nine in just eight top-flight starts this season, as Spurs beat the Blades 4-0 to move back within five points of fourth-place Chelsea.

The Welshman and Dele Alli were restored to Ryan Mason’s starting XI following last weekend’s insipid defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup Final, which prompted stinging criticism from Jamie Carragher and Harry Kane to say they should have been “braver” on the ball.

Man City and Sheffield United are worlds apart, of course, but Bale added a ruthlessness and vibrancy to Tottenham’s forward play that was missing last weekend – and for the vast majority of the Jose Mourinho era.

He opened the scoring with a trademark finish, flicking past the onrushing Aaron Ramsdale after a lovely scoop from Serge Aurier.

His second goal, after the interval, was made by Son who set Bale clean through against Ramsdale from almost inside his own half before the loanee finished confidently into the top corner. He made it look easy.

Bale made the win safe with a low finish after more good work from Aurier before Son’s curled home an inch-perfect effort off the far post.

Son added a brilliant fourth, having earlier had a goal ruled out by the VAR for a fractional offside.

The hope for Spurs fans – and perhaps chairman Daniel Levy – is that Bale will finish the season strongly and return next season under a new manager who is willing to play him.

It is, however, impossible not to look backwards and wonder where Spurs might be now if Mourinho had trusted the 31-year-old loanee. And indeed what might have been if Mason had been braver at Wembley last weekend.

Spurs boost top-four hopes

If Ryan Mason could have hand-picked two League games to begin his spell at interim head-coach, he might well have opted for Southampton and Sheffield United, statistically the two worst sides in the Premier League since the turn of the year.

The Blades arrived in north London already relegated, with their season long-since stripped of any real meaning.

Nonetheless, there was plenty to admire in the way Spurs dismantled the visitors after half-time in an attacking display with more movement and urgency than at any point in the death-throes of Jose Mourinho’s reign.

A significant reason for Mourinho’s downfall was his side’s inability to maintain a lead, with Spurs constantly shipping second-half goals when leading at half-time.

The Portuguese blamed his players, insisted this failing was in spite of his tactics, not because of them, so Spurs’ second-half display here felt significant.

Leading 1-0 at the interval, they continued to push for more goals and were even trying for a late fifth, with Sergio Reguilon firing wide from Kane’s pass.

Even if Mason could not have hoped for better opposition, he still deserves credit for taking six points from two League games to leave Spurs with an outside chance of nicking fourth place.

If Manchester City beat Chelsea next weekend and Spurs beat Leeds, the gap will be down to just two points.

Dele looks sharp on return

Dele Alli’s third League start of the season meant this was only the second sighting of Tottenham’s ‘BASK’ front four, also including Kane and Son.

A Dele renaissance under Mourinho was frequently threatened but never felt truly likely.

With Mason at the helm, things feel different for Dele and his display against the Blades offered hope that he could finish the season strongly – and begin to rediscover himself before next season.

Sporting a new haircut of dreadlocks, Dele initially looked a little rusty and not quite on the same wavelength as his team-mates.

But he soon grew into the game and was full of intelligent runs and smart touches. Spurs have missed his intricacy on the ball and his movement in the final third, which created space for his teammates.

Ultimately, the only way this front four is going to click is by playing together regularly and Mason is unlikely to want a change his system after such an impressive win.

If nothing else, the prospect of the ‘BASK’ front four in the remaining four games of the season is something to keep Spurs fans engaged and optimistic, even if they fail to catch the current top four.

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