|DATE||Sunday 20th January 2013|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
From the bottom to the top ... Spurs meet Manchester United on
Sunday - the side currently leading the Premier League after having
visited Loftus Road to play QPR - the bottom side - and playing out
a 0-0 draw. Somehow, I don't think that will be the result
United have been on a good run that has taken them to the top of the table, assisted by City and Chelsea dropping points, so they are now seven point sin the lead over their city rivals, with Chelsea six points further behind. Then we are two more behind - making a grand total of 15 points behind the league leaders. But this comes despite the first Spurs win at Gold Trafford since 1989, which was well deserved, even though there was a bit of a rearguard action staged towards the end, as Spurs tried (and succeeded) to ride out the United pressure.
This game comes at just the wrong time for Tottenham. Having lost Sandro to injury last week and with United welcoming Wayne Rooney back into the side, with him grabbing the only goal of the FA Cup replay on Wednesday, the resurrection of his partnership with Robin van Persie will test the Spurs defence.
United have had a rocky season, going behind in more games than they are used to and losing games which they would normally have ground out results from. Having struggled to be the strugglers Reading, Newcastle United and Southampton, United are having to rely on scoring more than the opposition to win games (I know how that reads, but I mean rather than go out and beat them without much resistance). This means that this season they have become reliant on Robin van Persie's goals, which have hit Arsenal just as much as they have boosted United. With nearly 20 already, he is in deadly form and Spurs will have to be alert to his movement in and around the box. Rooney's return saw him score and then miss from the penalty spot on Wednesday, so he is a little ring-rusty, but is still a player who can turn a game (as well as a pint of milk).
As well as these two, Ferguson can select from Javier Hernadez, Danny Welbeck, Federico Macheda and former Crewe Alexandra youngster Nick Powell to play from the bench. Macheda might be on his way during this transfer window, but Welbeck is an England international and Hernandez is a goal-scorer who thrives in the box.
United's defence has been a bit of a changeable feast lately. But with Vidic back in the team, alongside Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Rafael, the back four look more assured. The changing nature of the defence, along with the absence of a regular keeper behind them has left them a little vulnerable and teams that have a go at them seem to get rewarded. Evra might suffer against the pace Spurs will pitch in against him, as could Rafael, with Bale and Lennon likely to switch over at some stage in proceedings. In the centre of the back four, Vidic is good in the air and strong in the tackle, but Rio Ferdinand now has to rely on his reading of the game, with his pace having left him with every additional injury he sustained. With Phil Jones not quite realising his potential just yet, he has not forced his way into the starting eleven, with Jonny Evans now a fill in should Vidic or Ferdinand be out for one reason or another. The same goes for Chris Smalling, who has also suffered injury since he signed for United. Full back Alex Buttner came in during the summer and has played an attacking role, but is a solid tackler, with United hoping he will be a Gary Neville type defender.
The goalkeeping duties have been split between David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard, both good keepers, but not seemingly good enough to oust the other. De Gea suffered early criticism in his United career and Lindegaard has been at fault in some of the games he has played, so testing them with shot son target could be a good ploy, with nerves bound to be in their mind and their bodies with the other breathing down their neck.
There is a wealth of talent and experience in the United midfield, with a choice from Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Anderson, Antonio Valencia, Nani, Ashley Young and Shinji Kagawa. Cleverly has been favoured ahead of Giggs lately, while Darren Fletcher will sadly miss the rest of the season after surgery to try and resolve his bowel condition. Scholes is still mis-timing his tackles in midfield, while our former player Carrick is still spraying passes around, although he doesn't cover quite as much ground as he used to. Ashley Young has suffered injury and loss of form since signing from Aston Villa and Nani is erratic, but usually does something controversial in games against us ... so, you have been warned. Valencia usually occupies the right wing berth, using his physical presence to strong his way up the line and Kagawa is a nifty player, with a little burst of pace over short distances and an eye for a through pass. I think the most likely starting four will be Cleverley, Carrick, Giggs and Valencia, as Old Red Nose goes for experience initially, as I reckon he sees this as a key game to win.
Spurs know what they have to do to get something from this match. Exactly what they did at Gold Trafford. Start quick; get an early goal, keep going at United and don't let them have space to play. Simple !! Except United now know and will be ready for a Spurs side ready to come out of the blocks at them and they will set up to make it difficult to find space, especially wide, thus forcing Spurs inside and into a waiting defence. However, this may not be a terrible thing, as Defoe is in good form and his quick feet could fox Vidic and Ferdinand and the runners from midfield should give Spurs adequate options.
I would love us to do the double over United for the first time since 1989-90, but I think United will be out for revenge for losing at home, so there will be goals ... hopefully enough from the Lilywhites to warm us up on what will be a freezing day, but I fear we may have to settle for a share of the points..
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 2 Manchester United 2|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
|TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :|
|MANCHESTER UNITED TEAM NEWS :|
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
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Manchester United 1 (1)
Sunday 20th January 2013 Kick off 16:00
White Hart Lane
|Dempsey 90+3||van Persie 25|
Dawson (foul on Evra) 30
Carrick (persistent fouling) 22
Evra (foul on Lennon) 44
Rafael (foul on Lennon) 77
Rooney (foul on Lennon) 79
|Crowd : 35,956||Weather : Snowing, cold|
|Referee : Chris Foy (St. Helens)||Assistant Referees : Mr. S. Beck; Mr. M. McDonogh|
|Fourth Official : Lee Mason||-|
|Tottenham kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Manchester United :||kit|
18 Jermain DEFOE
|Manager : Andre Villas-Boas||Manager : Alex Ferguson|
|Sponsor : Aurasma||Shirt sponsor : Aon|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : Nike|
With a late, late equaliser from Clint Dempsey, Tottenham took away a point from this match, which was the least they deserved for an enterprising display against a surprisingly defensive United side, who had just five shots in the whole game. For a match against a team who are top of the table and were leading through a goal halfway through the first half, you would have expected them to go on an win to, but perhaps times have changed and Spurs are a side to be worried about rather than just trodden over.
With the game in doubt until 70 minutes before kick off, it was no surprise to hear on the radio that Chris Foy had been out on the pitch but had not made a decision on whether the game would go ahead at about 14:20. Let's face it, he has troublemaking decisions at the best of times, so 100 minutes before the game would not be out of keeping. Frankly, for once, I agree with Old Red Nose. Foy had an appalling game and had he had anything about him, he would have sent off a couple of United players at least. As for the alleged penalty, I was too far away, but on first viewing it was only ROoney who was annoyed about it and for his dissent to the lineman, he should have been booked to go with his cynical trip on Lennon when the little winger was breaking on him on the halfway line. I await Ferguson's comments on that one.
Not that they will come as he only sees things one way and the fact that we scored so late into injury time was a fantastic way to wind the old man up. The referee allowed United plenty of dodgy challenges before he began booking people and then still failed to get to grips with Phil Jones, who was throwing his body in the way of ... no not shots ... but Gareth Bale most of the time. He was playing like some defensive lineman in American football. His attempt to grab at Scott Parker's ankles as he went away from another "untidy" challenge saw him fail to get to grips with the basic laws of the game.
Frankly, if this is the way United intend to play the rest of their games against the top teams, they are in dire risk of losing the top spot to anyone who can put a ruin of results together. With Hugo Lloris having little to do apart form pick the ball out of the net, they must have thought one goal was enough to hang onto, but this United side packed the centre of the field, channelling the play inside and into the massed ranks of their ordinary looking players. Carrick lacked his usual poise and passing, increasingly turning to nudging players off the ball and Rafael and Evra reduced to cynical fouls when they proved they had no answer to our speedy wingers. Every time Lennon in particular got hold of the ball, you could see their nerves start telling them to stop him, whatever that took. Ferguson's tactics failed to counter Lennon's play and while Bale had two men on him at all times and Defoe found himself up against three defenders, Aaron enjoyed a bit of space, which he made the most of.
The game itself kicked off in persistently falling snow. There were few early chances and both teams suffered from not finding their intended targets with balls into the penalty areas. Around ten minutes in, the game opened up a bit, with Scott Parker winning the ball on the halfway line, before running forward with it and attempting a shot into the top corner of the goal that ended up in the top corner of the stand !! I'm sure he will score for the team soon, but with Steffen Freund as a coach, perhaps not. van Persie put a header straight at Lloris and then Lennon cut inside from the right to hit a low shot to De Gea's left and the keeper got down smartly, but could only parry the ball out to Defoe, who shot wide, but was offside anyway.
While United had enjoyed some spells of possession ,they had not really threatened before they scored with their first shot in anger. Cleverley crossed in from the right and van Persie was unmarked at the far post and this time his header was on target as Kyle Walker jumped in front of him. The ball found it's way in between Lloris and his near post, with the ex-Gooner running past the Spurs fans with his tongue hanging out. It was a poor goal to concede, but some Spurs fans were going over the top about the players. There was still plenty of time left.
Quickly Spurs looked to get back into the game, with Defoe hitting a first time shot on the right from a tight angle, which De Gea had to be alert to at his near post to push away. Then a ball into the box with five minutes left until half-time saw United head out, but only to Bale on the edge of the D. Steadying himself, he drove the ball at goal and the ball took a flick off Rio Ferdinand, leaving De Gea diving the wrong way and lucky enough to stick out a leg to keep the ball out. As the ball bobbled around the box, it came back to Bale, whose shot was this time blocked on the edge of the area.
The half-time break saw the return of Robbie Keane, who is training with the team prior to the start of the MLS season. Perhaps Spurs should have signed him up on a month's loan while Ade is away at the African Cup of Nations ?
But at the start of the second half, it looked like our one forward would be enough, as Defoe got onto Lennon's through pass and smashed a shot at goal, but off balance, it skewed wide of the goal to the right. The 49th minute saw Bale try and outrageous outside of the right boot swerver, which went over and a minute later, good work by Dembele set up Clint Dempsey to run through into the box, despite being bumped as he went by their defenders, where he got a shot away under pressure, but could not direct it wide of De Gea and the keeper once more denied Spurs with his leg. It was a great chance and you got the feeling that it might not be our day today.
United's play was ragged and for all Ferguson's talk of our long ball play, his team were hitting balls at van Persie, but most of the time they were inaccurate and went through to Lloris or off for goal-kicks. Just after the hour they brought on Rooney for the disappointing Kagawa and soon after Spurs replaced Kyle Naughton, who had a good game, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto. I guess Naughton must have been injured, as it wasn't necessarily looking like a change that would win us the game. Chances were exchanged at either end, with Dempsey bringing De Gea into action again, with a stop at his near post following a scramble form a corner and then Rafael's far post cross caught Welbeck stretching and he couldn't wrap his boot around the ball to get it on target. Bale decided to take responsibility himself and lashed a 25 yarder over with not enough dip on it, while at the back Michael Dawson set a captain's example with a fine challenge to take the ball away from van Persie as he shaped to shoot.
The only real save of the second half that Lloris had to make came with 15 minutes to go when a cross from Valencia was let by van Persie ten yards out and the Spurs keeper blocked his effort, but he was offside too and it wouldn't have counted anyway. Just a couple of minutes later at the other end, Jermain took the ball on from a Lennon through pass, but took an extra touch that allowed Ferdinand to get his long leg in the way and the ball went out for a corner. After Rooney had been booked for cynically bringing down Lennon, indicating that his pace has well and truly gone and that he knew he wouldn't be able to catch him, Defoe had another shot, but straight at the goalie this time. With five minutes left, Bale once more let fly and this time Ferdinand got his head to the ball selling his goalkeeper, who was going the other way and lucky for United, the ball few less than a ball's width past the post to the gaps of the crowd as they watched the replay.
Aaron Lennon had a shot straight at De Gea and then the board went up with three minutes on it. No account taken of United's time-wasting, with the ball kicked away at almost every occasion. As it was, it turned out just long enough. Assou-Ekotto put in a long cross from the left wing and rising at the far post with Dawson, De Gea could only punch at the ball and it didn't go very far, dropping to the edge of the box. Lennon seize don it and ran at the defence, crossing low when he got to the six yard box and the ball found Clint Dempsey, who swept the ball into the net first time to send Spurs players and fans wild, with the United players looking deflated. It was a worthy leveller and the American playing just behind Defoe deserved the luck to score, as he had not had much in the previous 92 minutes.
There was little time for much else and the whistle blew on a decent game in difficult conditions, but the game should probably never have been started, as the pitch slowed the ball and the players looked tentative in some of their play. I am sure that Ferguson was keen to play, as Spurs were without Adebayor and Sandro, but it came back to bite him and perhaps proved that as a squad ours is the equal (or maybe more) of his.
A fantastic point. A result that keeps the run going and is another game against a top four side that we have equalled them in. Now come two away league games at Norwich and West Bromwich Albion. A six point haul would be good, but the team need to keep on playing in the style they are now accustomed to.
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|What you thought|
The equaliser could not have been better ... even if we had paraded
Ezekiel Fryers on the pitch at half time.
Is it me ... or does Alex Ferguson getting annoyed look more and more like an old bloke who is irate at missing a bus he has hurried for ??
Fully agree with your comments about the physical nature of United's game and no surprise that Fergie tried to turn the table in the BBC interview by saying we got stuck into them and lumped high balls into the box. Yes, of course we did. It is the ideal way to get the best out of Defoe !! It did happen form free-kicks and corners, because that is what you do with free-kicks and corners. Has the man learned nothing in all the years he has been involved in football ??
|Benny The Ball||
Ferguson should learn a lesson in accepting decisions.
Did we slag off the ref or linesman when Bale was brought down in the box for a penalty at Sunderland ? And got a booking for his trouble ?
How did Spurs react to the Mendes goal that never was that denied us a Champions League place at Old Trafford ?
Get a grip Ferguson. You get every decision going at your place and we rarely get homer referees.
And put your hat on the right way round.
|Other scores during this week :|
|Swansea City||3||Stoke City||1||Saturday|
|West Bromwich Albion||2||Aston Villa||2||Saturday|
|West Ham United||1||Queens Park Rangers||1||Saturday|
|Other score during this week :|
|Arsenal||5||West Ham United||1||Wednesday|
|8||West Bromwich Albion||23||10||4||9||33||32||34||+1|
|12||West Ham United||23||7||6||10||26||33||27||-7|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||23||2||9||12||18||39||15||-19|
Position before match :
Position after match : 4th
Position after the weekend : 4th
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