It was a rather sickening feeling watching the Spurs fans go mental after Robbie Keane netted for the travelling team yesterday. As it was a Cup game, there were even more away fans than usual, overspilling in to the upper regions of the East stand. It was starting to look as though they had been sent a week from heaven, after thrashing rivals Arsenal 5-1 to book their place in the Carling Cup final, and now they were 1-0 up at Old Trafford.
At this stage, I wasn’t too worried about the outcome of the game. I knew we had the quality to fight back and get at least a replay. I couldn’t stop looking at those Spurs fans though, celebrating as those they had won the cup, and feeling like shit.
A great game followed, probably the best we’ve had at Old Trafford this season. Spurs got their tactics almost perfect. Whenever we got the ball to just outside their box, a wall of players kept us out. They were able to break quickly and got behind our defence on a number of occasions. Two mistakes cost them the game though, with Dawson saving Rooney’s shot with his hand, giving us a penalty and twenty minutes against ten men, and a few minutes before time, the otherwise impressive Cerny allowing Ronaldo’s shot to slip under his body.
It was only as I was leaving the ground that I was able to reflect on why Spurs scoring had made me feel so bad. I tried to recall the last time United had gone a goal behind at Old Trafford. It was Sporting Lisbon back in November. The time before? Well, this season, in both the league the European Cup, United have only gone a goal down on one occasion at Old Trafford. In the fifteen other games played at the Theatre of Dreams this season, United have conceded just three goals. Aliadiere cancelled out Nani’s stunning opener for Middlesbrough, before we went on to win 4-1. Derby got a consolation goal and arguably one of their best moments of the season so far in another 4-1 for United. Finally, Cahill levelled the score for Everton, before Ronaldo wrapped up the points a couple of minutes from time.
Sixteen games at Old Trafford, four goals conceded. It’s true we’ve scored more goals than any other team at home as well, but when looking at our defensive record in the league, Arsenal, Chelsea and City are the only teams who come close to us, conceding 8 in comparison to our 3. We have won 11 games out of 12 at home, after drawing the opening game of the season against Reading.
It’s is no surprise then that it felt so odd to see Spurs take the lead yesterday, but I’ll happily take that feeling on board knowing that it has arisen from seeing our team play so competently at home. I wonder if the Arsenal fans will be curious to see our home stats before the 5th Round is played…