Manchester Utd (A)- Turmoil as Spurs only score 3


Audere est facere
Jul 28, 2004
Thread starter #1
On the morning of one of the Premier Leagues most historically enticing fixtures, Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, one tabloid's back page stated that Spurs were in turmoil, with the following article suggesting friction between Andre Villas Boas and both his playing staff and those behind the scenes at the White Hart Lane outfit. On the evidence of this result, perhaps the most impressive in Spurs modern day history, I would suggest that either the author of that article was inaccurate, or that turmoil suits this Tottenham side.

Teams in turmoil tend not to win at the country's most decorated stadium, so I think I'll believe the former of those suggestions.

Spurs began the game just as a team blessed with their talent should, keeping possession and pressing forward. With Gareth Bale restored to his most effective position, and the increasingly impressive central pair of Dembele and Sandro persisted with, Spurs had all the ingredients in place to take the game to a Manchester United side whose midfield lacking in the vibrancy it was once famed for. Add in one of the leagues in form strikers in Defoe, an improving Clint Dempsey who more than earned his reputation as a top class attacking midfielder last season, and an ever bright Aaron Lennon, and you have a front six with pace and guile to match anybody. All of that said, it was the intelligence and skill of a makeshift left back which set Spurs on their way.

Jan Vertonghen, fast becoming a fan favourite, is an accomplished centre back and a pretty decent left back too. He distributes excellently, is very composed, aware of everything that goes on around him and complements his skill on the ball with imperious strength. All of these attributes came into play as he opened the scoring, playing a simple but deadly one-two with Gareth Bale as he burst into the Manchester United area, held off Rio Ferdinand, cut in onto his right foot and saw his shot deflected off the arm of Evans to open the scoring inside two minutes. If he wasn't as good a defender as he is, a role somewhere in the Spurs attack would not be a ludicrous thought.

Spurs continued to control the match, with their opposition unable to ever turn an attack into a shot. Aaron Lennon's running was a thorn for Evra and company, while Bale was a threat whenever he received the ball. The real stars of the show, however, were the aforementioned pairing of Dembele and Sandro. The latter was right there to win possession as soon as a red counterpart looked to make progress into the Spurs half and constantly released Dembele, who held the ball beautifully whenever he had it, brought it forward and began Spurs attacks. This is exactly how Spurs scored their second goal, with Sandro winning the ball with a trademark inch perfect tackle on the edge of his own area. Once he had released Dembele, Spurs put on a perfect example of how to turn defence into attack, with the Belgian carrying the ball up the pitch before playing it forward for Bale. Bale had no hesitation in marauding forward at full pace, brushing aside Ferdinand while Defoe occupied Evans, before passing the ball into the far corner of Lindegaard's goal with his weaker foot.

The half ended with Spurs fully deserving their lead, even if there was some fortune in Chris Foy not seeing Vertonghen's pull on Nani in the penalty area.

Ferguson of course took action at half time. Ryan Giggs has spent two decades as chief tormentor of Spurs back line, but here he was just left behind by a side blessed with youth, guile and athleticism. His replacement, Wayne Rooney, signalled a shift from 451 to 442 by the home manager, and the effect was instant. Manchester United came out with far more drive and positivity than in the first half, and all Spurs good use of the ball in the first half was quite simply no longer present for no simpler reason than they no longer had the ball. A reduction in the deficit looked on the cards, and it came when Rooney, from the right, put in an excellent ball under pressure from Caulker. Nani, the subject of much controversy during the week, beat Gallas to the cross and the Spurs net bulged. Everybody associated with Spurs had their hearts in their mouths at this point, with years of surrender at Old Trafford having left scars which are re-opened all too easily.

What happened next was not on the script, as within a minute of conceding Defoe, out on the left, controlled a high pass and cut inside. Holding off Ferdinand, he slipped in Gareth Bale who hit a violent shot with his left foot. When Lindegaard could only parry it away, Dempsey was on hand to put the ball into an empty net, scoring his first for Spurs in the process. Maybe this was not to be the same old Spurs, one of footballs most overused cliché's.

Alas, it took moments for United to again get back into the game. Van Persie, not afforded the attention a player of his ability demands, played a perfect slide rule pass for Kagawa. Presented with the goal at his mercy, the Japan international showed quick feet to curl the ball into the far corner, rendering Friedel helpless. Game on.

In truth, Spurs played far too deep from this point on and invited pressure from their opponents. Rooney hit the crossbar from a free kick, Van Persie had a goal ruled out for offside and both Carrick and Evra can be frustrated at headers which failed to equal the scoreline. A combination of Friedel's alertness and the frame of their goal were vital to the final scoring. Equally vital, however, was the willingness of every single man in a white jersey (and navy blue shorts, thankfully) to run themselves absolutely ragged for the cause. Bale and Lennon were tackling and tracking throughout, the former even winning headers, and the entire defence stood up to every cross and shot that came in, none more-so than Gallas. His manful performance was inspirational and if his young defensive partner, highly rated Caulker, needs an example of what separates a talented defender from a top class defender, he needed only to his right.

The stroke of luck Manchester United so often have abandoned them on this occasion, and given the level playing field Spurs managed to end their ridiculously long winless run. Their usual weak penalty claims were for once denied, and the one clear opportunity that did fall to them was screwed wide by Van Persie when it seemed easier to hit the target. Andre Villas Boas can reflect on Spurs first league win at this stadium with immense pride, with his side having displayed every string to their bow over the course of the match. They were clinical when they had to be, they showed guile and intelligence, and when the situation commanded it, the dug in and were resilient. Yes, they cannot afford to ride their luck by dropping so deep to defend leads and are still a work in progress, quite understandable when they're adapting to life without men in Van der Vaart and Modric who were very good at keeping the ball in the opposition half, but all the signs are there that this young side are going to do impressive things. As a final note, the last time Spurs won away to Manchester United, they went on to finish third in the league. There is no reason why this talented side cannot achieve the same at the end of this season.