LONDON • Gareth Bale aimed a thinly veiled dig at former Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho after scoring a hat-trick in Spurs' 4-0 win over Sheffield United in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Welshman, who returned to Tottenham on loan from Real Madrid having left in 2013, opened the scoring in the 36th minute with a clever flick. He doubled the lead just past the hour mark with a stylish finish into the top corner - his 50th Premier League goal.
The 31-year-old then made it 3-0 shortly afterwards when he drilled another left-footed effort low into the corner to complete his first Premier League hat-trick since 2012.
Son Heung-min completed the rout - Tottenham's second league win under interim manager Ryan Mason. The victory lifted them above Liverpool and West Ham United into fifth place in the standings with 56 points, five behind Chelsea, with four games left.
"(It's a) fact that we're more on the front foot, we're closer to the goal and you're able to score more," Bale told Sky Sports. "We're playing football the Tottenham way."
His comments appeared to allude to Mourinho's reign, when the Portuguese was criticised for his defensive tactics.
Bale's display, albeit against the league's bottom club, left Tottenham fans and pundits asking why he was not given more opportunities to roll back the years by Mourinho.
Eight of Bale's 14 Premier League appearances under Mourinho were as a substitute but he has started both of Mason's games in charge, albeit surprisingly only on the bench in last week's League Cup final defeat by Manchester City.
BBC pundit and former Spurs midfielder Jermaine Jenas said on the BBC programme Match of the Day 2: "I still believe Gareth Bale coming to the club in the first place and paying all that money, what's the point of not playing him?
"Yeah, he lacked fitness initially, but I've always felt Gareth is the type of player who just plays until he gets himself fit. He has been a world-class player and he is ruthless in that situation, as we saw today."
Bale, whose wages of about €700,000 (S$1.1 million) a week are split equally between Real and Spurs, also suggested that more playing time has helped his progress.
"I just needed to play games and get a run of games and I'm doing that now," he said.
"I'm happy and when I'm happy, I play well."