Despite a fine and spirited second half performance, Manchester United’s dismal first half display proved too much to recover from as Spurs ended their 23 year wait for a victory at Old Trafford with a 3-2 triumph.
United failed to find their way after the shock of going behind to a second minute Jan Vertonghen goal. His one-two with Bale left the United defence backing off and he evaded a half hearted tackle by Rio Ferdinand before his shot took a massive deflection off Johnny Evans to wrong foot Lindegaard and trickle in at the near post.
Generally we are used to seeing he Reds take heed when a goal down and gain control. However, Spurs allowed no such thing and controlled the game through their midfield. Dembele and Dempsey were given space and time to dictate the pace of the game. The possession Spurs were allowed, combined with the raw pace of Bale, Lennon and Defoe saw large gaps appear in the United midfield and often leave their defence horribly exposed.
It was therefore no surprise that Spurs doubled their lead just after the half hour through Gareth Bale. Demblele broke for Spurs on the halfway and slipped Bale in whos run cut through the remaining midfield and defence like a hot knife through butter. Good movement off the ball from Defoe gave Bale the space to run into and calmly place his shot past Lindegaard.
United were offering very little threat to Brad Friedel at the other end. Giggs and Nani were ineffective on the wings and as a consequence United were far too narrow. Kagawa, with his quick feet may have been Uniteds best bet at unlocking the Spurs defence but it wasn’t to be.
Nani can be deemed unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty after he tried to run on to a clever ball, over the top of his head, from Paul Scholes. He did appear to have been bungled over but the referee waved play on and United went in at half time two down.
To use the oldest of cliques, football is a game of two halves though. This was the case again as United put on a scintillating performance in the second half that really deserved to have finished with a positive result.
Giggs, struggling to get involved and being tested to the limits by the pace of Spurs, was replaced by Rooney. Rooney gave the Reds more focus up front and there was a far bigger effort from everyone in general.
A crazy few minutes of football ensued at the beginning of the second half. Wayne Rooney crossed from the right to allow Nani to poke home and drag United back in to the game. United then looked to immediately push forward to get the equaliser. In doing so, however, they found Bale running at pace at the United defence before unleashing a fierce shot which Lindegaard could only palm away into the path of Dempsey, who had an open goal to tap into, with Uniteds midfield nowhere in site.
The crazy couple of minutes of football wasn’t over just yet though. Rather than being shell shocked by Dempsey’s goal, as they were at conceding the first goal, United went at Spurs right at the kick off. Van Persie measured a slide rule ball to Kagawa, whos turn put him through on goal where he slid the ball past Friedel to give United more than just a glimer of hope.
The remainder of the game saw United continually surge forward and create chances. The dominance that United had in the second half can be summed up by the fact that Evans, Ferdinand, Carrick and Scholes all completed more passes individually than Spurs did as a team.
Scholes was once again the key man for United. Everything went through the maestro in midfield and he came close himself to United spoiling spurs day. Unfortunately his powerful, swerving volley was gathered by Brad Frieldel. But only just.
Frieldel, however, was just a spectator when Wayne Rooney smashed his free kick against the frame of the goal and rebound away. He was also helpless when Michael Carrick flick on a near post corner on to the angle of the Americans goal again.
Having twice stuck the woodwork and having a second penalty appeal turned away, this time handball from Sandro, it was Van Persie and Evra who had Uniteds best chances to get something out of the game. Van Persie found himself behind the Spurs back four and bearing down on goal. However, he looked in two minds whether to shoot or try and put Rooney in at the back post. In the end though he came close to neither. Evra found himself in front of his man deep in the box but his header was too close to Friedel, who saved comfortably. Both chances should have been taken.
The pace of Spurs was still a worry on the counter attack but each time they looked to finish the game off Ferdinand and Evans snuffed out any danger.
United pushed forward until the final whistle but found that they had left themselves with too much to do. United were unlucky to get nothing out of the game after the second half performance, but probably didn’t deserve to after the first half performance.
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