No joy for Spurs after draw at Liverpool
Sunday's clash with Red Devils will be decisive for London side
(Philippe Coutinho 51)
(Harry Kane 63)
The heat is now well and truly on as Tottenham Hotspur battle to end 55 years of hurt.
On the back of a 1-1 draw with Liverpool yesterday morning (Singapore time), the cautious optimism and previously banished talk of capturing the English Premier League title once preached by Mauricio Pochettino has given way to public declarations of self-belief.
But, unlike previous title challenges, Spurs' bid will not be determined by the outcome of their springtime visit to Anfield, historically an unhappy hunting ground.
At worst, this was merely a bump in the road; little more than a minor detour in their bid to unseat Leicester City's runaway train at the summit in the remaining six games.
Reducing the deficit at the top with a win, even if it were temporary, would have been the desired outcome.
Especially after Leicester extended their lead to seven points after their 1-0 win over Southampton yesterday.
Pochettino remains under no illusion of the task that lies ahead - Tottenham must either fight on or go down fighting.
The Argentinian threw down the gauntlet to the league leaders to maintain their current momentum as his energetic side continue to snap at their heels.
He knows they have daunting fixtures ahead.
Simply banking on the Foxes to come unstuck is a futile endeavour, though.
It didn't worked for Newcastle United or Liverpool, to name just two who have previously thrown away their chances of lifting English football's ultimate prize.
Title-chasers must deliver when the going gets tough.
When Manchester United pitch up at White Hart Lane this Sunday, Spurs will either march on in their hunt of the Foxes or be sent down another cul-de-sac.
They also have to contend with the renewed matter of civic pride weighing on them.
Craning their necks seems like the least of their problems, but all of a sudden Arsenal have reinstalled Spurs' fear of having to look over their shoulders.
Should Arsene Wenger's side win their game in hand, the gulf between Tottenham in second and Arsenal in third could potentially be cut to a solitary point.
The prospect of "St Totteringham's Day" - celebrated by Gunners fans at the point of the season when their arch rivals are condemned to finish beneath them - ticking over for a 21st successive campaign is also unnerving.
United is where the real battle will be won or lost by Spurs.
The hard work began yesterday morning; with Pochettino publicly imploring his squad to maintain their faith on the back of a 1-1 draw, which had much to do with a largely impenetrable Hugo Lloris in goal and Harry Kane in attack.
But that is only half the task.
At Anfield, several of Pochettino's players were clearly feeling the effects of a gruelling international "break".
Dele Alli headed a contingent that appeared off-key and jaded after relentlessly traversing the club-and-country spectrum.
Even Kane's record-breaking equaliser was a momentary stroke of brilliance in an otherwise isolated performance.
Pochettino will be grateful that his side will not be subjected to any undue rigours like the Europa League in the build up to the United clash.
Tottenham have a week-long lull to prepare for Louis van Gaal's men.
Pochettino and his lieutenants have seven days to ensure they are fully primed in both mind and body for the club's most important game in years.
By the numbers
22: Harry Kane has now scored more goals (22) in a Premier League campaign than any other Tottenham Hotspur player.