Sunday 16th January 2011, 16:10 ko
Spurs played hosts at White Hart Lane in a fixture where they were looking to end a ten-year spell of misery against Manchester United. A fixture that United legend Ryan Giggs made his 600th league appearance in a United shirt. Only Sir Bobby Charlton has surpassed this feat on 606 appearances but given the age defying displays the Welshman is putting in lately, it will only be a matter of time before Ryan takes that record from our talisman of yester year.
United welcomed the return of Edwin Van der Sar, Nermanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney to the side following the last weeks 1 nil FA Cup victory over Liverpool.
The game started very brightly for both teams with Spurs having the first real chance in the opening 1st minute. Gareth Bale broke down the left-wing only for his strong cross to land safely in arms of United’s flying Dutchman.
It didn’t take long for United to respond and in only the 2nd minute, Rooney broke into the Spurs box; Rooney, honest in his play, stood up under a clumsy challenge only to scuff his shot wide of the far post.
On 7 minutes Spurs were given another opportunity when Carrick brought down Palacios 20 yards out. Van der Vaart’s effort sailing comfortably into the arms of Van der Sar.
Crouch missed a golden opportunity to give Spurs the lead on 9 minutes, firing wide from close range at the near post following a beautiful pass from the in-form Dutchman Van der Vaart.
Modric looked dangerous for most of the first half and looked like he would cause trouble for United throughout the game.
The frantic pace, and tactics applied by both teams made for a very entertaining opening to the game although no team could find that vital goal.
Berbatov showed his clever foot work on 17 minutes, flicking the ball to Rooney who rushed his cross, meaning no one had the chance to get on the end of it.
Bale, also looking lively put in another good cross to the far post but Peter Crouch was unable to get anything on it.
On 20 minutes Van der Vaart found himself the first player to be record in the Mike Dean’s book with a really silly, needless booking for kicking the ball away following a free-kick awarded for a shove on Rooney.
A nice first time shot from Rooney on the edge of the area brought about a good save from Gomes, although he could only parry the shot back into play, luckily for Spurs no one for United followed it up.
Gareth Bale having some successes down the left-wing found himself with another good chance to put a good ball in on 24 mins, however, he rushed his cross thumping it far too deep for the well placed Crouch at the far post.
Rafael da Silva was shown a yellow card on 26 minutes for going to ground on the centre circle mis-timing his tackle on Palacios.
A very soft free-kick on the half hour for a slight nudge on Crouch from Vidic. Bale, 35 yards out, was never going to trouble a goalkeeper of van der Sar’s quality, still attempted a shot on goal.
Moments later Gareth Bale was involved again, he had an age and a day and space to put in a cross but fires it high and wide for a goal kick.
Rafael was fortunate not to be given his marching orders after he pleaded with the referee to show a yellow card to Palacios after a late challenge. However, referee Mike Dean sympathised with Rafael, luckily for him, booking the Spurs and Honduran international player. Rio duly gave the young brazilian right back a telling off and a gentle clip round the ear, “we don’t want to see those antics son”.
On 40 mins Rafael broke superbly down the right-wing covering every blade of grass from the United box to the Spurs area, as he arrived in the Spurs box he could only fluff his pass to the waiting Rooney, which was easily cleared.
I thought Berbatov looked great first half with some delightful first touches, trying his best to silence the hostility of the White Hart Lane faithful.
Van der Vaart crafted another good chance but his effort hit the side netting, summing up a first half where neither keeper was really tested.
Mike Dean showed inconsistency in his authority over the game, following an almost identical challenge to Rafael’s earlier booking, Crouch fouled but no booking. This was immediately followed by a clumsy tackle from Fletcher only for Dean to produce another card.
Half time gave us a chance to catch our breath following an entertaining but unfruitful first half. It also gave us the change to get Dwight Yorke’s shirt and tie combo trending on twitter.
An assured start to second half from United as they maintained possession and frustrated Spurs who were forced to chase and close down United during a 5 minute spell. Giggs gave United their first opportunity of the second half with a volley from the edge of the box, but, following on from the theme of the first half, he saw his shot off target and fly harmlessly past the post.
On 50 minutes I decided to adopt my match attendance superstitions and took my watch off, placed it in my pocket and went upstairs to put on my retro shirt. It almost paid off immediately with a Giggs corner that narrowly flew passed the far post, shortly followed with Wayne Rooney who provided the first real shot on target with a delightful effort that Gomes could only parry for a corner. The resultant corner was very typical of United’s poor set pieces and was delivered perfectly to the hands of Gomes.
Modric with a scuffed effort on 55 mins, should have done better for Spurs given the space he had. Evra committed a foul on the right hand edge of the box but Van der Vaart’s firm strike was comfortably gathered by the ever dependable Van der Sar.
A lovely flick from Lennon out to the right-wing made a run into the box but the return pass was behind him, the ball landed at the feet of Van der Vaart who set himself to shoot only for Michael Carrick to rush back and crucially steal the ball away from the his feet.
United made the first tactical change on 60 minutes, bringing on Anderson for the departing Nani. However, Spurs started to take control of the game and had good spells of possession for 15 mins after a bright start to the second half from the visitors.
The frantic pace of the game lacked the composure in key areas of the park for both teams, meaning that real chances on goal were as rare as a Yangtze River Dolphin.
Rooney, who was largely disappointing, didn’t look fresh, he was very reactive in his play, lacking anticipation and failing to effectively read the game.
United were dealt a difficult blow when Rafael was given a very harsh second yellow, having not even made a challenge. He crossed behind Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who went to ground on 72 mins. United down to 10 men. Rooney was also booked for dissent after remonstrating with Mike Dean. An awful decision from the ref, but maybe he had the imaginary card waving incident of the first half still in the back of his mind…
Spurs introduced Jermaine Defoe on 78 mins searching for the 3 points against 10 man United replacing midfielder Palacios. United responding with their own substitution by bringing on Chicharito for Berbatov.
With Spurs in the ascendancy, Lennon wins a corner after breaking into box under a challenge from Evra. The resulting corner looks to come to nothing but Chicharito’s poor flick inside the box falls straight to the in form Van der Vaart, however his effort curls narrowly wide of the far post.
The one man disadvantage didn’t halt United’s desire to push forward however and still went in search of a winner.
Defoe’s first attempt at goal on 84 mins was fluffed wide. United then showing slight signs of panic in their own area under pressure of the Spurs attack.
Giggs’ mis-timed sliding tackle offered Lennon a great chance to cross the ball but luckily Chicharito put in a great challenge.
Spurs finishing strongly trying to use the one man advantage to good effect, but United were not done themselves, applying their own attacking pressure led by the energetic Anderson and age-defying Ryan Giggs.
The game ended with a typical counter attack from United through Chicharito, who slid the ball left for Giggs, his cut back at the edge of the box summed up Rooney’s Sunday afternoon as he was unable to get good contact under pressure from the Spurs defence.
Manchester United extended their unbeaten run in the Premiership to 21 games and returned to the top of the table on goal difference ahead of their noisy neighbours, albeit with two games in hand.
Given that United have struggled away from home, today’s result was a good point gained having been reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes remaining.
Final Score 0-0Referee Mike Dean Line ups Tottenham Hotspur Gomes Hutton Bale Gallas Dawson Assou-Ekotto Lennon Van der Vaart (y) Palacios (y) (Defoe 78) Modric Crouch Manchester United Van der Sar Evra (y) Ferdinand Vidic Rafael (y/r) Giggs Carrick Nani (Anderson 61) Fletcher Berbatov (Chicharito 78) Rooney (y)