It is not hard to see how Manchester United have gone unbeaten so far
this season. With all the decisions they got and all the dissent
they got away with for those that went against them, they must think
they are invincible ... even if come May they prove to have been
beatable on the pitch.
draw was against a pale shadow of previous United teams that have
visited the Lane and the red shirted players were involved in more
physical and more cynical play than we have seen from some lesser sides
this season. Time wasting from the ninth minute, van der Sar took
an eternity on each goal-kick and there was little that passed by
without comment to an official from Ferdinand or Vidic.
But Tottenham just went about their own
game with the attacking relish we like to play with. Bale was
restricted by his back injury and van der Vaart seemed a little off the
pace, with Crouch not getting much joy up top, it was left to Luka
Modric to show United the midfield artistry and creativity that they are
missing. His endeavour to start forward move after forward move
saw him deep in his own half to pick up the bal and then be up around
the United area trying top open a way through the massed defence they
put up to defend their goal. He covered huge expanses of the pitch
and took every kick a United player made on him and still came back for
more. He truly is a remarkable player.
From the first minute, when bale skinned
Rafael and put his cross into van der Sar's arms, it looked as though it
would be a game where Spurs had to find the right pass. And while
they plugged away at finding different ways through the United back four
(or later to be back three), they could not break them down too often.
Within a minute, it looked like the first of many chances United might
created happened. Spurs sat off Berbatov, who slipped a pass into
the right hand channel into the box and the England striker Rooney got
onto it, cut inside Assou-Ekotto, as so many do and evaded a challenge
from William Gallas, but pulled his shot across the face of goal from
the corner of the six yard box.
Still inside the first five minutes,
Spurs had a nice move on the left between Modric and Bale that was
blocked or a corner and from it, Dawson almost made connection six yards
out. Tottenham's neat passing, inter-mixed with some direct
running at the United defence caused them to panic and concede
free-kicks around their own box, but they need not have feared, because
although Spurs got their shots on target from the dead balls, they
failed to sufficiently trouble van der Sar.
The game was quite open and United
benefitted from Tottenham allowing them space to play. Berbatov
set up Rooney for a curling effort that Gomes took plunging to his left,
while a minute later with nine minutes gone, Hutton's break up the right
wing ended with a low cross played into the near post area, with Crouch
getting onto the end of it and flashing a volley a foot wide of the post
with van der Sar flat-footed.
The Spurs defence got behind the ball
pretty well and then the defenders read the play to nip in and break up
moves before they developed, but when United did play through balls they
inevitably ran through to Gomes or off for a goal-kick, as the defence
squeezed United further up the pitch. Conversely, when Spurs went
forward, they were still unable to find the killer ball, with Bale's low
cross across the face of goal being too far ahead of Crouch's run for a
touch to be had on the ball that would have taken it into the goal.
Halfway through the first half, an
opportunity was made in similar fashion to that earlier, with Berbatov
putting Rooney in, but once more Gomes did well to beat away the
striker's curler, although his view was partially impeded player sin
front of him. Just after this Rafael over-ran the ball and he flew
in on Palacios, who took a bit of evasive action to make sure he didn't
get caught too heavily, but the Brazilian full back still caught him and
got a yellow card. Ten minutes later when the roles were reversed,
the United player sat on the floor waving an imaginary yellow card to
tell the ref what to do.
Three minutes before half time, Spurs had
a good chance to take the lead, with Dawson driving a pass out of
defence to Bale, who touched the ball around Rafael and left him for
dead, before putting in a pacy cross to the near post where van der
Vaart got his head to it, but was too far in advance of the post to bend
his neck to get the header on target and it rippled the side-netting as
it flew at pace towards the crowd.
Half time entertainment included a chat
with Pat Jennings about his goal against United in the 1967 Charity
Shield at Old Trafford and a fan, who managed to get up to the box used
by Sky TV and hold up a banner about not wanting to move to the Olympic
Stadium. He was carted off while the banner stayed in the Park
Lane for the second half and will be featured on TV situated behind the
goal that United were attacking.
But there was little of that really.
Giggs had a volley well off target and Carrick got a header to a corner
that went through the six yard box, but did not threaten the goal.
Six minutes into the half they had their best effort, with Rooney not
closed down outside the box and his low shot brought out a fingertip
stop by Gomes who pushed the bal just wide to his right.
Modric made a perceptive run inside and
took the ball from the right wing and shot, but scuffed it, putting the
ball two yards wide and Palacios hit a shot wide and then one way over,
as he tends to do. just after the hour there was a worrying moment
when Benny let Rafael get past him by lifting the ball over his head
tight to the line, but his shot was hit into the ground and Gomes got
behind it to hold it at the second attempt. Spurs were using the
width of the pitch and got the bal into the box, but more often than not
United players got a leg in the way to knock it out, but when it did get
through to van der Vaart, he had trouble getting it o0ut of his feet or
losing the attention of a number of players huddled around him.
With 73 minutes gone, Spurs broke down
the left wing, as Bale slipped the ball inside from tight on the
sideline for Assou-Ekotto to run into space. Rafael was running
with him and bundled over the Spurs full-back, with Mike Dean moving
towards him, already reaching for a card. having already been
booked, it could only mean a second yellow and a red, but he was
apoplectic and raged in the referee's face, while Rooney hurled abuse at
the official and Ferdinand came and gave his two-ha'pence worth.
Rooney got booked, Ferdinand didn't and United were down to ten men.
Spurs could have played more on Evra, who
had been booked and Fletcher, who took Rafael's place at left back, but
they tried to play their way through the United side, with neat passing
and good running. Crouch had a shot blocked by Gallas and then put
the rebound over the top, while the opening that might have won it for
Tottenham came ten minutes from full-time. Luka Modric and Rafael
van der Vaart played a short corner routine that was helped by
Hernandez's mis-kick that left VDV in, but with a lot of players around
him, he lifted his shot over the bar, as he tried to bend it into the
far top corner from the right of the goal.
Into added time, Giggs took the ball down
and got to the edge of the Spurs box, but the ball just ran away from
him allowing Gomes to take it off his toes, while at the other end Rafa
got the chance to have a last shot, only for Vidic to throw himself in
the line of fire to stop the effort getting to the goal.
In the end, a point was perhaps the
equitable result, as United defended well and Spurs attacked well, but
there was only one team really interested in getting a result.
United perhaps realised that Tottenham are serious title challengers and
that a point at White Hart lane was a good result for them. While
the radio phone-ins were full of Spurs fans criticising Crouch and
saying Redknapp could have done more to change things, perhaps this is a
sign of the changing expectations that exist at Spurs now. Whereas
once a draw with United may have seemed a good result, now we go home
disappointed at only a draw.
With the league showing some odd results
already, there might still be a long way to go until the final table in