LONDON — With the concrete shell of the new stadium rising to his right, Harry Kane stretched out his right boot and flicked the ball into the net.
The striker, who grew up supporting Tottenham, scored the north London club’s final goal in White Hart Lane’s 118-year history.
A 2-1 victory over Manchester United was the perfect send-off on Sunday, ensuring Tottenham left its home as Premier League runners-up — the club’s highest finish in 54 years.
“What a way to finish,” Kane said after fans flooded the field at the final whistle. “We’re disappointed after losing out on the title again.”
Not since 1961 has the league trophy been paraded at White Hart Lane. Kane hoped the progression of improvement from 2016 to this year will continue next season, when Spurs play their home games 12 miles to the west at Wembley.
“We’re growing and getting better,” Kane said. “Third, second and hopefully next season we’ll be No. 1.”
That used to be United’s status, but it hasn’t come close to a record-extending 21st English title since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. United’s decline has been mirrored by captain Wayne Rooney’s diminishing influence on the team.
The captain did score the last-ever goal at White Hart Lane but by that time Tottenham already had the goals it required — from Victor Wanyama’s sixth-minute header and Kane’s 28th goal of the season.
While it was a party atmosphere for the hosts, who are seven points behind champion Chelsea, it was another miserable day for Jose Mourinho in his erratic first season in charge of United.
Defeat at Tottenham with a much-changed team ensured United will finish outside the top four just as it did under Louis van Gaal last season, with Champions League qualification now depending on beating Ajax in the Europa League final.
“For us it is more important to win titles than to finish top four,” said Mourinho, who has already collected the League Cup this season. “When people say we gamble (with the team selection at Tottenham), we didn’t gamble, we didn’t choose the Europa League. We had to do it.”
With two games remaining, sixth-place United is 15 points behind Tottenham despite vastly outspending the north London club. Since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 after delivering United’s last league title, United’s net transfer spending has been around million pounds ($450 million). In that time, Tottenham has spent about as much as it has recouped on transfers.
And it is the goals from academy graduate Kane over the last three seasons that have propelled the side up the standings. For the first time ever, Tottenham will play a second consecutive season in the Champions League, providing valuable income from UEFA as it completes the building work on a new 61,000-seat stadium.
After a season across north London at Wembley, Tottenham is due back here for the start of the 2018-19 season.
“It’s an unbelievable stadium and we just have to make sure we feel comfortable there,” midfielder Dele Alli said. “We’ve got to make sure next season it’s going to be our home for the year so we’ve got to make it as much of a fortress as White Hart Lane has been.”
All season, the new ground has been springing up, eating into a corner of the crumbling White Hart Lane. It was just to the left of the construction work, partly shielded by a large screen saying “The Lane. The Finale,” that Kane met Christian Eriksen’s cross three minutes into the second half.
Rooney’s 71st-minute strike briefly punctured the festivities amid a downpour, but the sun returned and Tottenham closed out the final minutes in the stadium of its best campaign since 1962-63 before a parade of club greats on the field.
As confetti showered the pitch, a rainbow emerged over the sun-kissed golden cockerel atop the East Stand. The emblem won’t have far to move at a club making progress on and off the pitch.
“Though today is tinged with sadness, we are all excited about the new stadium and the journey ahead of us,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said. “The club is building upwards.”
The next step is for the bulldozers to demolish the vacated stadium to make way for the new one.