1. Ahead of kick-off I would have taken a point from this game, something Rio Ferdinand confessed in his post-match interview, but it’s always going to be frustrating to concede with pretty much the last kick of the game. You’re left to the stew on the fact if they could have just held on for a few more seconds we’d be 7 points clear. As it is, we’re 5 points clear and that’s nothing to be scoffed at. We’ve played all of the four teams below us away from home now, our toughest games, yet we’re still top, so you’ve got to be pleased with that. We’ve scored late goals against enough teams to know that we’re not in any position to get in a sulk because someone did it back to us.
2. With Robin van Persie having already scored against City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, you could hardly be surprised when he scored our opening goal. There was some lovely one touch passing in the build up, before Danny Welbeck brought the ball in front of the goal and played in Tom Cleverley. He’s not in a position to cross that often which is a shame because his ball to the back post was perfect. Van Persie’s header found the back of the net (although Lloris may feel disappointed to have been beaten at his near post) to make it 11 goals in his last 11 league games. He’s a machine.
3. Whilst David de Gea will take a lot of the blame for Spurs’ equalising goal (which I’ll get to in a minute), we should remember that it was his brilliant saves that kept us in the game until injury time. In the first half, Gareth Bale had a shot from outside the area which De Gea kept out with his legs. Then in the second half, Clint Dempsey was one on one with him and even after starting to move in the other direction, our goalie again kept it out with his legs. There were a few moments that had ‘goal’ written all over it for them but De Gea’s reactions secured our lead. However, he was at fault for the equalising goal, but I don’t think he was helped by Nemanja Vidic, who clearly doesn’t seem to trust our Spanish keeper to deal with the danger (rightly or wrongly) and therefore was another body between the De Gea and the ball. I’ve seen some people say there wasn’t much De Gea could have done differently but I have to disagree. It’s not just Schmeichel or Van der Sar who would have made sure they cleared the danger in that position, whoever they had to fly in to and take out along the way, but plenty of Premier League goalies too. What other keepers may lack in comparison to De Gea when it comes to his lightning speed reactions or distribution, they make up for in the ability to command the box and make the ball theirs. De Gea, at 22, just doesn’t have that yet. He needs to bulk up more and he needs to take charge. Schmeichel would have flattened Vidic and Caulker to get the ball away but De Gea was held off and could only take a feeble swipe at the ball. It would be lunacy to drop De Gea for this, as he is quite clearly the best goalie we have, but you wouldn’t put it past Ferguson. Fingers crossed the other top saves in the game will be enough to ensure he keeps his starting place. I like De Gea, I hope we stick with him and get to enjoy his performances for us over the next five or ten years. I suppose the concern could be that we are developing him, letting him make costly mistakes whilst learning his trade with us, before him upping and leaving for Real Madrid/Barcelona when he’s truly a world class keeper. Should we have bought the finished article when replacing Van der Sar, instead of a goalie who still has plenty to learn? There are arguments for that, but I have a lot of time for De Gea, and am looking forward to seeing the best from him.
4. Whilst our defence has been lacking at times this season, it’s great to see what Ferdinand and Vidic are capable of when they’re playing together. How many times over the past few weeks have you heard “and Vidic heads it clear…”? It’s great having him back in the team and only serves to remind you how much we were missing when he spent last season out injured. Rio was also impressive, managing to get his head to a Bale shot that was on target, but his stand out moment was against Jermaine Defoe. Defoe was behind our defence, it looked to be a certain goal, then out of nowhere, Rio got across him and blocked the shot. It’s rare to see Rio in that position because his reading of the game is so good he doesn’t often need to make a last ditch challenge, but that was superb.
5. From our point of view, the biggest talking point was the linesman and referee not spotting a blatant foul on Wayne Rooney in the penalty area. Rooney took a touch to take the ball around Caulker, Caulker put his leg across Rooney and got nothing on the ball, yet somehow, linesman Simon Beck, wouldn’t flag for it. Sometimes penalties are debatable, with it depending on which team you support as to whether you think it’s nailed on or not, but there could be no debate about this (unless you’re the Chelsea website columnist Pat Nevin, who tried to argue on MOTD2 that it looked like Rooney kicked Caulker’s leg, much to Alan Hansen’s bemusement). Ferguson could be in trouble for criticising the linesman, pointing to the history we have with him. Beck is also the linesman that gifted Chelsea the title in 2010 when missing that blatant offside against Drogba, but he is also the lino that didn’t flag for Nani’s handball ahead of that bizarre goal he scored against Spurs a couple of years ago. This isn’t an anti-United agenda, Beck is just shit at his job. Let’s leave it there.
6. In our game at Old Trafford, United’s midfield ran the show, with Scholes completing 135 passes and Carrick 93. It was a different story this time around, particularly in the second half. Dembele completed more passes than anyone else (49) with Phil Jones just behind him (42). Carrick’s influence could be compared to Parker’s, with them both completing 39 passes (although Carrick had a better accuracy rate), yet what Carrick lacked in passing in this game, he made up for in defensive duties. He completed more than double the amount of tackles of anyone on the pitch and made more interceptions than any other United player. However, whilst not wanting to sound like a broken record, Dembele was available for £15m this summer and would have been great for us this season.
7. I was impressed with the tactical change from United which seemed fairly effortless and worked for most of the game. The addition of Phil Jones strengthened the midfield, Kagawa did an excellent job of keeping possession (93% pass completion rate overall, 12/14 in the final third) and Welbeck picked up where he left off with his hard work against Liverpool. However, the substitutions didn’t really work in the way we would have liked (although we’d probably be singing a different tune if Rooney won then scored that penalty). After replacing Kagawa, he completed just 64% of his passes, and just 3/6 in the final third. Can Kagawa not last the full 90? Did Fergie want Rooney to have more playing time after a few weeks out? Who knows, but things did start to go downhill once the changes were made.
8. Obviously, if Spurs had scored first and we scored an injury time equaliser we’d be delighted with the point. The timing of the goals changes that feeling though but there’s no shame in getting a point at White Hart Lane, particularly when you consider they’ve got the 4th best home record in the league this season. As always, hopefully this will be a learning curve for United and they’ll be that bit tighter during injury time the next time we’re clinging on to a 1-0 win. 15 games to go…
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