If ever the Premier League decided to produce a DVD to market the league abroad, they could do worse things than put together a collection of encounters between United and Spurs as this fixture has produced incredible drama over the years and today’s match was no different.
Mind you, the footage from today’s game could also be used in a clinic focussing on non-existing midfields and overly exposed defences.
Despite his appearance on Wednesday night there was no space in the starting lineup for Wayne Rooney, as Fergie chose RVP as lone striker supported by a five-man midfield comprising Nani,Scholes,Kagawa,Giggs and Carrick with Rafael,Evans,Ferdinand and Evra playing in front of Lindegaard.
A puzzling lineup considering that, in Dembele,Sandro and Bale, Spurs have some of the most dynamics and physical midfielders in the league, as United would find out barely after kick off.
With the game just two minutes old, Vertonghen exchanged passes with Bale before galloping towards the penalty box completely unchallenged to see his shot deflect past Lindegaard by Jonny Evans’ arm as the United defender dived in a desperate attempt to avoid the inevitable.
To say that Spurs controlled the game in the first half would be unfair on them, as they completely played United off the park like very few teams have done at Old Trafford during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign.
With United producing an even worse first half the showing than they did last Sunday at Anfield, Spurs’ second goal had an aura of inevitability to it.
Van Persie lost possession on the edge of Tottenham’s box, before the ball was quickly transferred to Gareth Bale on the halfway line who ignited the afterburners powering through United’s midfield and defence before slotting the ball past Lindegaard.
Rio Ferdinand is still a superb defender and few players in the league can match Bale’s pace but the lack of protection the midfield offered was simply scandalous.
For all their attacking guile and firepower, United get consistently overrun and outmuscled in midfield where a lack of power and solidity has been hampering the side for years.
Fergie’s loyalty to Ryan Giggs is commendable and the Welshman has been crucial to United’s successes even if he’s approaching his fourth decade but he is not, and never has been, a central midfielder and the decision to start him today costed United dearly.
Giggs shouldn’t obviously be singled out as the whole United team was flat, submissive and lacked any sort of desire throughout the first half but exemplifies an emerging pattern in Fergie’s selections, which have been questionable recently.
United showed signs of life before the end of the first half as Nani was brought down by Vertonghen and United were denied what looked like a clear penalty by referee Chris Foy.
Boos rang around the ground as the teams headed towards the dressing rooms.
United reemerged with Rooney replacing Giggs and making his first league appearance since the suffering an injury against Fulham back in August.
He was soon in the thick of the action as his cross from the right was met by Nani, who side-footed the shot past Friedel to put United back in the game
The goal surely provided a welcome change for the Portuguese, after his recent performances and alleged off field antics.
Any hopes of a comeback were immediately dashed in the second of this season’s three craziest minutes so far as Defoe brilliantly played Bale through as United’s back four was yet again caught off guard.
Bale’s shot was brilliantly saved by Lindegaard but the Danish keeper could do nothing about Dempsey’s tap-in.
AVB’s side two-goal advantage lasted less than a minute as Van Persie threaded a superb ball through for Kagawa who eluded Spurs’ attempt to play the offside trap and rolled the ball past Friedel.
The goal sparked United into action, in fact they produced their best performance of the season so far, with Paul Scholes superbly pulling the strings in midfield – the United midfielder will finish the game with a 91% pass completion rate.
With 58 minutes gone, United had a half-hearted penalty appeal turned down as Kagawa was challenged by Walker in the box and three minutes later Wayne Rooney went close to repeat the wonderful free kick he struck against Fenerbache on the same ground, as he made his United debut exactly eight years ago.
The United striker was denied by the post as Spurs continued to ride their luck, which had so often eluded them in the past against United, as they did two minutes later when Sandro’s arm made contact with the ball but Chris Foy waved play on.
With twenty minutes to go, Van Persie scuffled a shot wide after having been played through by Carrick and Rooney saw his shot ending on the wrong side of the post after a superb run by Rafael.
Brad Friedel repelled a Scholes’ piledriver and a free header from Evra as Spurs’ very own Fort Apache held out.
Welbeck and Hernandez replaced Kagawa and Ferdinand but when Carrick’s header hit the bar, United knew that a famous comeback wasn’t to be, as Spurs deservedly secured their first win again the Old Trafford side after 26 attempts.