With a performance that was lacking in the qualities that than those
which had preceded it and with the Manager of the Month curse ready to
strike, perhaps the outcome should have been clearer than many Spurs
fans thought it would be. But once more, United's 3-1 win showed
Tottenham how much they have to do to be amongst the top teams in the
With a late kick off set for ESPN TV
coverage, the arrival of the teams just before sun-down made it seem
more like a winter game, rather than one played out in mild late summer
conditions. The heat rose immediately after kick off as Jermain
Defoe's instinctive goal-scoring gave Spurs a flying start. When
Wilson Palacios made his presence felt with two early tackles, the ball
became Tottenham's and Benoit Assou-Ekotto's cross towards the far post
was met by Vidic, who headed back to the edge of the six yard
box, where Defoe flung himself upwards to execute a fine over-head kick
to rocket the ball on the volley past a static Foster. 52 seconds
on the clock and 1-0 up. Had Spurs scored too early ?
It prompted a rapid response from United,
who worked the ball out to the right hand corner of the box and Fletcher
drove in a fourth minute shot that Cudicini was required to beat away at
the near post. But, with the game swinging from end to end, Ledley
King put a ball onto Crouch's chest and his volley was a yard too high
to trouble the keeper. Another Spurs chance was created when
Lennon escaped the attentions of Evra and put a low ball across the face
of goal, with even the long legs of Crouch not able to reach it and get
the touch which would have doubled the lead. And it was the tall
striker who once more gave the United defence a worrying moment, as he
took a ball played in to him away from Vidic, by flicking it over the
defender's head, then hitting a volley with 14 minutes gone, but it
lacked power and was straight at Foster.
Play switched ends and Cudicini fell to
hold a Vidic header from Giggs' free-kick and then some sloppy defensive
play let Fletcher through, but BAE was back to block his effort on goal.
A 25th minute foul by Wilson Palacios was punished with a free kick and
a yellow card, mainly due to the imploring of Giggs, Scholes and
Fletcher in a manner which I thought was supposed to be worthy of a
yellow card itself. Fletcher was prominently in the referee's ear
the whole game and showed disgusting dissent on a number of occasions,
but without rhyme nor reason Marriner did nothing about it. Worse
was to come when Giggs bent his free-kick over the wall and into the top
corner, but questions could be asked about Cudicini's positioning.
However, the Italian stopper was on his
toes when Keane ducked under a Scholes pass and left Berbatov with a
clear strike at goal, but Carlo got enough on the ball to take it over
the bar in the 27th minute and then was alert to deny Rooney at close
range as the England forward latched onto Evra's low cross three minutes
later, but had Sebastien Bassong to thank for clearing the rebound off
the line, as Berbatov looked to cash in. It was during this period
that the official was giving everything to United and Spurs were
struggling to keep United at bay, but when we did get a corner,
Huddlestone found Crouch's head at the near post and he put his header
wide, when something on target might have restored the lead in the 33rd
minute. Spurs did put a neat flowing move together and should have
had a free-kick when Paul Scholes swiped Robbie Keane's legs from under
him, but play went on and Defoe tried to bend the ball round Foster from
20 yards, the the goalie saved at full length. Marriner obviously
didn't feel it necessary to go back and book Scholes, but more of that
Five minutes before the interval, United
took the lead and it was a fortunate goal that did it. A cleared
corner fell to Scholes on the right hand edge of the box. His
wildly hit shot was going well wide, but was blocked and dropped to
Anderson to run onto and hit first time past Cudicini, with the ball
passing close by him as it went in.
There was little left in terms of chances
in the half, although Vidic finally got a yellow card for fouling
Crouch, as he had done every time he went up for the ball.
Following the equaliser, the Tottenham midfield had sat deep and allowed
United to dictate the play, which lead to the teams turning round with
the visitors having the advantage.
Even the presence of Ossie Ardiles and
David Ginola could barely rouse the Spurs crowd at the interval, as hope
had turned to despair. With Palacios replaced by Jenas, at least
it looked as though Harry was going to have a go in the second half.
And they did at the start of the half, when they had United rocking a
little bit. A good move down the left saw Jenas free Assou-Ekotto
and his pull back to Jenas was touched on to Keane, who hit a quick
shot, but Vidic closed him down and got a knee on the ball to take it
over the top.
Each side traded yellow cards, with
Scholes entering the book at last for a foul on Defoe with a tackle from
behind, then Ledley King picked up a rare caution for doing the same to
the ginger midfielder. Having escaped with a free foul in the
first half, Scholes got away with another tackle from behind before
Spurs broke away and Jermaine Jenas curled a shot from the edge of the
box that was creeping just inside the post until Foster launched himself
to tip it around the upright. It showed what a few extra inches
can do and you wondered if Carlo would have been able to make the same
sort of save.
Anyway, from the resulting corner,
Huddlestone crossed to the far post and struggling to get over the
header, Crouch nodded the ball against the top of the bar. Tom's
next involvement was to be on the end of Scholes' boot as he slid in
with his studs raised and missed the ball, which was long gone and
caught Hud on the head. I am flabbergasted that Ferguson failed to
see it as a bookable offence and wonder if he is becoming more like Mr.
Arsene Magoo in his view of the world. Having had two other
bookable challenges go unpunished, it was lucky no serious damage was
done to Spurs players as Scholes got away with it for far too long.
Unfortunately for Tottenham, the momentum
they had built up against the eleven red shirts slowed and stalled
against the defensive set-up when they went down to ten. Carrick
replaced the Bulgarian United striker and the aim was to stifle Spurs
and then spring forward with Carrick's astute passing. And that
was what happened. Tottenham attempted to hammer the United barn
door down, but couldn't do it. leaving United the more potent force,
despite the attacking changes Harry made in replacing Corluka with
Hutton and Keane with Kranjcar.
The best chance we had was straight after
the sending off, with Lennon trying to replicate his goal against
Birmingham, but from the other side of the pitch; cutting in from the
right to hit a low left foot shot that Foster stopped low down by his
post. In the other direction, Rooney was proving a handful, with
his strong solo running causing problems. He almost scored a goal
like one of those in the 2-5 game at Old Trafford last season, turning
Corluka inside out on the left wing and then hitting a low shot, which
Cudicini did well to keep out at the foot of his right hand post.
Evra made ground up the same flank before
getting over-excited and smashing a shot that rippled the net to the
cheers of the Red hordes, but it was the outside of the side netting,
but that was five minutes before Rooney put the game beyond Spurs in the
78th minute. From a poorly delivered corner, the ball was quickly
moved to Rooney on the right and his run took him past Hutton and BAE,
allowing him time to push the ball under Cudicini for 3-1. it was
a poor goal to concede and highlighted the poor final ball from Spurs,
especially from dead-ball situations.
Spurs tried to get back into it and Hud
shot straight at Foster, but it was left to Cudicini to preserve a
semblance of pride in the score-line, as he punched away a shot from
Fletcher from the edge of the box and then, was quick to re-position
himself for the shot from the rebound, which Rooney put to the keeper's
left, but Carlo dived to make a very good save to push it wide.
Such high hopes were held going into the
match, but once more, the mentality of the team was hit when the
visitors pulled level, with some looking tired and sluggish. It
will need more sustained effort and concentration if they are to reclaim
a place in the top three this season.
It was a brave move to play Keane behind
the front two, but his lack of chasing back left a lot for Assou-Ekotto
to deal with, although he was alert to players getting in behind him and
the midfield allowed United too much space and time to control the game
for long periods.
A defeat was going to come sooner or
later, but it is the manner of the loss that rankles. United were
worthy winners, it was just the way they did it that sticks in the craw.
the heathrow spur