Sir Alex Ferguson has spoken of his surprise to see one Tottenham star losing his way so dramatically – and admits he got it wrong by suggesting he should be a target for Manchester United.
Dele Alli, a regular for club and country as recently as two years ago, has seen his fortunes at Tottenham badly dwindle. A big favourite of former boss Mauricio Pochettino, Alli saw his form fade away following Jose Mourinho’s arrival. He has since found starts easier to come by under interim boss Ryan Mason. But the player has only showed flashes of his previous best.
It’s all a far cry from his halcyon days at Tottenham. Indeed, at his peak between 2016-18, Alli struck 38 goals in 100 appearances from midfield. It was form that twice earned him the PFA Young Player of the Year.
And so good was his form, that Ferguson urged Manchester United to bring the player to Old Trafford.
In a candid extract from the Amazon Prime documentary All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur Jose Mourinho was filmed in conversation with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. And he suggested Ferguson believed United should try to sign the young England star.
“Sir Alex Ferguson gave me one piece of advice in two-and-a-half years (at Manchester United). Buy Dele Alli,” stated Mourinho. “That guy, with that mentality, the aggression he has in his mind, this guy is a Manchester United player. And he has a good eye for a player, but he is not a good trainer and we need to find the right motivation for him.
“I told Dele very directly he doesn’t train well. I’m not saying a disaster, but I’m not saying he is like Harry Kane.”
Now, having surveyed his fall from grace, Ferguson has admitted he got it wrong about Alli.
“I thought Dele Alli was going to be a top player, I must admit,” Fergie told SPORTbible. “I don’t know what’s happened there.”
Pundit Micah Richards, however, insists all is not lost for Dele. He reckons the Spurs star still has the qualities to return to the very top of his game.
“He needs to be nurtured,” said Richards on Sky Sports. “You don’t become a bad player overnight.
“What did he score, 16 or 17 goals in one of his earlier seasons? He’s got absolutely everything.
“As a young player, sometimes you lose your focus, sometimes you get a little bit ahead of yourselves and sometimes a manager doesn’t fancy you.
“I have no doubt there’s quality in there, but they need to get him on the pitch first and once he’s on the pitch, he can show what he can do.
“I don’t buy into the fact that he’s not good enough anymore, that’s absolute nonsense. When he first came on the scene, everyone was like, ‘wow’.”
Dele Alli keen to recapture his mojo
Alli, meanwhile, hopes to finish the season with a flourish after admitting his season has not been good enough.
I’m enjoying it,” he told Sky Sports. “With players like this it is a joy to play.
“I’m just trying to express myself and have fun. Mentally I just want to go out there and help as much as we can.
“We know that if we are to win these games we have to work together, so I’m just trying to find rhythm and play as much as I can.”
Tottenham are seventh in the table as they look to make up ground they lost in recent months. Considered outside challengers for the title earlier in the season, they have fallen well off the pace. However, they are looking to hold their heads up high by the end of the season.
Despite their recent resurgence, Alli admitted they are still disappointed with their position in the table. Speaking prior to the midweek defeat to Aston Villa, he urged his teammates to finish the season strongly.
“It’s important, we are not happy with where we are, we should be higher and we only have ourselves to blame,” he said.
“We are showing now what we can do but it is a bit too late. We just have to keep working hard and take it into the next season as well.”