Jose Mourinho has warned his players that Tottenham face "big, big trouble" if they cannot remain motivated for the run-in after their Champions League hopes were all but ended by last night's defeat to Sheffield United.
Spurs went down 3-1 in Yorkshire to leave them seven points behind Manchester United and Wolves, and facing a first year in five out of the competition they came so agonisingly close to winning last season.
Mourinho afterwards accused his players of mental fragility for crumbling after Harry Kane thought he had immediately cancelled out Sander Berge's 31st-minute opener, only for the VAR to disallow the goal for a handball by Lucas Moura.
Spurs now face three of their remaining six fixtures in the next nine days, concluding with a north London derby at home to Arsenal, and Mourinho says he should not have not to motivate his players for the run-in.
"It's very easy to motivate myself because it's my nature," Mourinho said. "I always say when a professional player needs an external motivation source, then he is in trouble. The motivation should be self-motivation, directly related to your professionalism, directly related with respect for your job, your club, the fans.
"That is the most important thing. The manager can just help but the nature of the player as a professional is the most important.
"Clearly if these boys don't care about results and don't care about the position we finish at the end of the season we'll be in big, big trouble for the future. So I hope that they care and fight for the best position in the table for the end of the season."
The visitors were incensed when a replay of the decision by VAR Michael Oliver was shown on the big screen at an empty Bramall Lane and the Spurs' dugout was further frustrated when George Baldock escaped a second yellow card for an apparent elbow on Heung-min Son shortly after the disallowed goal.
Mourinho's tactical analyst, Ricardo Formosinho, was particularly incensed at half-time and the Spurs players, led by Eric Dier, surrounded referee Chris Kavanagh at the whistle. The visitors never recovered their composure and Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie scored taps-in the second half before Kane's late consolation.
Steven Bergwin, who started at No.10 ahead of Dele Alli, denied the incident had affected the players but said he could not understand the VAR call.
"In my opinion it's a goal, he can't put his hands anywhere else," Bergwijn said. "They also pushed him in the back, so there are two things wrong.
"I don't understand [why it wasn't at least a free-kick], maybe it is because we played through but I think he has to give the goal. Where is he supposed to put his hands?"
The laws of the game state that a goal must be disallowed if the ball touches any part of the hand or arm of an attacker in the immediate build-up, although Kavanagh should have restarted with a Spurs free-kick because no advantage was gained from the foul on Lucas.
Mourinho declined to comment directly on the decision, claiming he did not want to be punished, but said his players must learn to respond to setbacks.
"We have to do better, we have to be mentally stronger to cope with what happened during the game," he said. "We cannot mentally die after Michael Oliver's decision. You have to be ready to cope with negative moments and go until the last minute. In spite of my efforts in the dressing room, now I feel I know more about the profile of my players. I felt that in the second half we wouldn't be strong enough to cope with a team that when they're winning just defends and counter attacks. So congratulations to them."