In terms of Premier League strikers, Harry Kane earned membership to the most exclusive of clubs on Saturday with his 48th-minute goal in Tottenham’s cakewalk of a win over Bournemouth.
Turning past Simon Francis, with the benefit of the Cherries’ defender’s frantic and under-hit attempt of a clearance, Kane was able to stroke home his 20th goal in the league this season.
It’s significance is considerable, as he becomes only the fourth man in the English top-flight, since the imposed 1992 watershed of when modern football apparently began, to score 20 or more league goals in three successive campaigns.
The other names on that list being: Alan Shearer – who hit four 20+ seasons at Blackburn and Newcastle 1993-97 – Thierry Henry who breached the magic mark five times 2001-06 and Ruud van Nistelrooy 2001-04.
That trio all being in the conversation when assembling a forward line for an all-time Premier League XI.
But not only does the gravitas of the individuals matter in emphasising Kane’s achievement but also the timeline, as it’s been more than 10 years since we’ve seen it.
Since 2006, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez, Robin van Persie, Didier Drogba and Sergio Aguero (who could, admittedly, still make it three on the spin this season) have all reached their respective peaks but not managed such consistency in front of goal.
To add to the scale of it all, Shearer was 25, Henry 26 and Van Nistelrooy 27 when they recorded a third-straight season of 20+ league goals; Kane is 23.
Tottenham’s No9 can also lay claim to having elements of each of the aforementioned trio in the way he plays.
He has a similar poacher’s instinct and penalty box presence, bordering on greediness akin to Van Nistelrooy; he’s scored Henry-esque goals in the way he has taken defenders on down the left channel before cutting inside and curling the ball into the far corner but, of course, the most fitting comparison is with Shearer.
There has always been a sense of pure Englishness about Kane; the ‘50s-style square jaw, neatly constructed slick-back hair, an unfussy and straightforward demeanour refusing to embrace the celebrity side of sport, all while being a physically-strong centre-forward who leads by example. Before he even existed, he’d already been invented, as the ideal of what a No9 from the British Isles should be – a simple footballer who evokes memories of simpler times.
And yet, still doubt remains, with the overriding question that for all this, just how good is he? He is, to many, the perennial one-season wonder who will eventually be found out. Except it’s three seasons now and assuming he stays at White Hart Lane and grows alongside Tottenham’s developing core, there’s every reason to suggest he can join Shearer on four, Henry on five and maybe even surpass them and make it six seasons of 20+ goals, injuries permitting.
Kane is a strange kind of striker in that, he doesn’t have one signature aspect of his game you can hang your hat on; exhilarating acceleration like Henry, sheer physical power and aerial dominance of Shearer or a tractor beam-like ability in the box of Van Nistelrooy.
Kane’s first touch can be a little clunky, he occasionally goes through periods of losing possession, his set-pieces need fine-tuning and he lacks natural pace but that is all nit-picking as, ultimately, he is good to very good in nearly every aspect of being a forward.
He is, unlike the more established and recognised names he has joined in Premier League history, still evolving. And that’s the key to how Kane will be defined.
Because he was verging on hopeless for England at Euro 2016 as his reserves were drained by a domestic season of considerable intensity. But irrespective of how you feel about international football’s relevance, if he does experience an England career punctuated by poor tournament performances, it will be a stick to beat him with.
The other major barometer will be in the Champions League where his career, alongside Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs, is at the beginning of their evolution. Although, he already has two in three.
That, though, is all for another day as he grows as a goalscorer and builds on a start which indicates he can become more than just a Premier League record holder.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho must rally a fatigued and foundering team on Sunday as he rekindles an increasingly thorny rivalry with his former club Chelsea, the Premier League leaders.
United have drawn five of their last six home games and go into Sunday’s Old Trafford showdown on the back of a leggy 1-1 draw at Anderlecht in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final.
They are far from ideal conditions in which to be preparing an ambush of the champions-elect, but despite his protestations that it is “just one more game”, Mourinho is likely to be highly motivated.
Sacked by Chelsea midway through last season’s car-crash title defence, he has had two deeply unpleasant experiences on his two trips to Stamford Bridge this season.
In October, he saw United thrashed 4-0 and made a public show of taking Chelsea manager Antonio Conte to task over his touchline exhortations, accusing the Italian of trying to “humiliate” him.
February’s 1-0 FA Cup defeat was a closer affair, but brought with it barracking from the fans who had once sung his name.
Check out the most interesting stats ahead of the tie in the video above.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho will face up to his former club Chelsea again on Sunday in the latest chapter of one of the Premier League’s biggest rivalries in recent years.
Here are six memorable previous encounters between the two sides.
Jan 1998, FA Cup: Chelsea 3 Man United 5
Manchester United looked to be cruising to victory until the home side threatened a dramatic comeback. Two goals each from David Beckham and Andy Cole, and one for Teddy Sheringham, sent United into a 5-0 lead with 16 minutes remaining. But Chelsea rallied with goals from Graeme Le Saux and Gianluca Vialli, before Vialli’s second three minutes from time set United’s nerves jangling.
Apr 2006, Premier League: Chelsea 3 Man United 0
Mourinho’s Chelsea guaranteed their second straight Premier League title with a 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge. William Gallas, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho scored for the home side while the sight of Wayne Rooney being carried off on a stretcher sent the game into panic stations with the World Cup in Germany fast approaching.
May 2008, Champions League final: Man United 1 Chelsea 1 (6-5 pens)
United emerged successful from the first all-English Champions League final in Moscow. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for United before Frank Lampard equalised just before half-time. Didier Drogba was sent off in extra time and in a thrilling penalty shoot-out John Terry missed the chance to seal victory for Chelsea before Edwin van der Sar saved from Nicolas Anelka to seal United’s win.
September 2011, Premier League: Man Utd 3 Chelsea 1
Manchester United were 3-0 up at halftime thanks to goals from Chris Smalling, Nani, and Wayne Rooney. But a Fernando Torres goal keyed an improved showing from Chelsea after the break, and when Rooney missed a penalty the comeback was still on, with the Blues doing well to create chances and get back in the game. But then, with the chance to make it 3-2 with just under ten minutes to go, Torres did this:
February 2012, Premier League: Chelsea 3 Man Utd 3
The two sides looked evenly-matched going into this game, and when Chelsea took a 3-0 lead in the second half, it was more a case of the Blues converting their chances and Manchester United missing theirs than Chelsea outplaying their rivals. No matter – Sir Alex Ferguson’s side produced a trademark comeback thanks to two Wayne Rooney penalties and a Chicharito header. There was still time for late drama after United’s equaliser, as David De Gea produced stunning saves to deny Juan Mata and Gary Cahill and preserve a point.
Oct 2016, Premier League: Chelsea 4 Man United 0
Mourinho clashed with Blues boss Antonio Conte and was serenaded with chants of “You’re not special any more” as his United side crashed to an humiliating 4-0 defeat. Pedro opened the scoring after just 30 seconds and further goals from Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante contributed to Mourinho’s thoroughly miserable Stamford Bridge return.