The Lilywhites had the chance to close the gap on leaders Arsenal to one point at the Theatre of Dreams, but they were outclassed and outfought by Man United in a toothless performance.
Hugo Lloris made a string of fine saves to keep Man United at bay in the first half, whereas Tottenham – setting up in a 3-5-2 – offered little to nothing going forward.
Spurs’ resistance was eventually broken in the 47th minute when Fred‘s effort deflected off of Ben Davies into the bottom corner, and Bruno Fernandes‘s sumptuous curling effort 22 minutes later got the job done for the Red Devils.
Should Arsenal now win their game in hand, they will open up a seven-point gap to their North London rivals, and Conte is not buying into the talk that Tottenham can go all the way to Premier League glory.
“We have to be honest; United deserved to win and deserved to get three points. They started the game very well and created chances to score,” football.london quotes Conte as saying after the game.
“In our side, we didn’t start the game, and it was really difficult also because we made a lot of mistakes, simple. For sure not a good game for us, but I have to be honest, and first of all, especially with my players, this was not the first time for us.
“Despite the table being good but every time we played a high-level game, we struggled. We struggled against Chelsea because we drew after 92 minutes, but Chelsea dominated the game, and with Arsenal, we lost, and today against United, we lost.
“This means we have to continue to work to try to improve, to work on the pitch and to work outside the pitch, and I think for sure because sometimes I listen that we are title contenders and I think we need time, in only 10 or 11 months, you cannot pass from ninth place to become the title contenders a year after, especially when you finish 20 points less than the monsters in England.”
Man United ended the 90 minutes with a whopping 28 shots compared to just nine for Tottenham, who enjoyed 48% of the ball but lacked a creative edge with Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski absent.
Conte added that his side were not ready to engage in a “sporting war” with Erik ten Hag‘s team, saying: “You need to arrive with a war inside of you, a sporting war.
“You need to arrive in this way with the war inside of you, ready to fight a war, and you have to know that at the end of the game, you die or your opponent dies,” the 53-year-old said.
Conte waited until the 82nd minute before making a change at Old Trafford, with Lucas Moura only enjoying eight minutes of action and fellow attacker Bryan Gil being left on the bench entirely.
Explaining his late substitutions, the Italian pointed to Lucas’s recent tendon injury as a major factor in his decision, saying: “The substitutions today with Richarlison and Kulusevski out with injuries were really difficult to try to change the game also because Lucas Moura, you know very well, is recovering from an injury with his tendon.
“We are trying to keep him in balance, and for this reason, we are also going during the training sessions to bring him in the best physical condition but not to push him a lot because he took risks like two weeks ago to stop himself again.
“The other solution to the bench today was we played with three midfielders because we had only the two strikers, and then you know this type of game, we have many young players that this game is difficult for all players and for the young players much more difficult.”
Tottenham remain third in the Premier League table following Wednesday’s defeat, but Chelsea are now just three points behind with a game in hand, and the Lilywhites will endeavour to bounce back against Newcastle United on Sunday.