Jose Mourinho reached his first final as Tottenham manager after Son Heung-min and Moussa Sissoko clinched a 2-0 victory over Brentford in the League Cup on Tuesday.
But Tottenham will have to wait 110 days before contesting the final against either of the Manchester clubs, with City playing United in the other semifinal on Wednesday.
Mourinho will have a chance to deliver Tottenham’s first trophy since winning the League Cup in 2008. And he knows all about success in this lesser regarded competition after lifting the trophy four times across spells in charge of Chelsea and Manchester United, including when the west London club beat Tottenham in the 2015 final.
“I had to learn the meaning of the cups here and I always took it serious," said Mourinho, who was hired by Tottenham in November 2019. “I think if there is any secret it is to take it seriously.”
Second-division team Brentford knocked out four Premier League sides to reach the semifinals, but gifted Tottenham an opening goal in the 12th minute when Sissoko was left unmarked for a header.
But Tottenham took until the 70th minute to extend its lead when Son lifted the ball into the net after Harry Kane and Tanguy Ndombele combined for the breakaway.
Brentford had been denied an equalizer when a VAR review spotted — through a forensic examination of footage — that Ivan Toney was marginally offside with his knee before scoring.
The west London club finished with 10 men after Josh Dasilva's high studs-up challenge left Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg with a gash on his left shin.
“I’m not happy. I think we have to play better," Mourinho said. “Sometimes bad decisions, sometimes technical mistakes, many times recovering the ball and not being vertical and playing backwards.”
But still the final whistle was able to be greeted with the song “Spurs are on their way to Wembley” being played at Tottenham's empty stadium. The final has been pushed from February to April 25 in the hope that fans will be allowed in — unlike any sporting event now in the country.
This semifinal was the first game since the start of England's third lockdown on Tuesday, with the toughest laws since those imposed in early stage of the pandemic last March when even professional sport was prohibited.
A return to Wembley will be familiar for Tottenham, which used the north London stadium as a temporary home from 2017 to 2019 while its new stadium was being built.
But Spurs haven't contested a final there since that 2015 League Cup final loss to Mourinho's Chelsea.
“I know a lot of the boys have been here a long time now and we are desperate to win trophies for the club,” said Tottenham defender Eric Dier, who played in that final. “It's something we're hungry to do.”
The League Cup is the only trophy Tottenham has won — also in 1999 — since lifting the FA Cup in 1991. The north London side reached the 2019 Champions League final but lost to Liverpool and later in the year Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino as manager.