Japhet Tanganga has admitted that he was extremely nervous about coming up against Sadio Mane on his Premier League debut and scouted the Liverpool forward on Youtube before the game.
Jose Mourinho’s decision to hand the 21-year-old his debut against the Reds back in January came as a bit of shock but the youngster repaid the Spurs boss’ faith in him by putting in a competent display.
Tanganga coped admirably with the likes of Mane and Mohamed Salah and earned rave reviews for his performance, despite the home side falling to a 1-0 defeat.
The Spurs academy graduate told talkSPORT: “The boss [Jose Mourinho] pulled me aside a couple of days before the game and said, ‘do you want to play at the weekend?’, and I was like, ‘well, yeah!’
“Even though I was nervous I obviously couldn’t say no – that’s what we train for.
“So before the game, I was YouTubing Mane and basically scouting him.
“I was watching him twisting guys up and I was like, ‘this could be me, man’. So I was nervous, but I had a decent game and he didn’t embarrass me or anything.”
The game against Liverpool was Tanganga’s first Premier League appearance but it was during last summer’s pre-season tour of the United States that many Spurs fans got their first glimpse of the defender.
Among the games that Tanganga was involved in was a 3-2 win over Juventus in the International Champions Cup, a game in which the youngster came up against the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo.
Speaking about the feeling of playing against the Portuguese great, Tanganga said: “That was crazy! It didn’t feel real in many ways.
“I was thinking, ‘I was just playing this man on FIFA but now this is real life, I’m playing against one of the greats’. He has a presence for sure.
“Luckily, I played well that day and so did the team, but I’ll never forget coming up against him for sure.”
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Given how conservative and risk-averse Mourinho generally is, it was surprising to see him throw Tanganga straight into the deep end against Liverpool. It suggests that the Spurs boss does believe the youngster has the right mental attributes on top of being a good defender. Tanganga does appear incredibly matured and level headed for a 21-year-old.
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