It was looking as though it was going to be ‘one of those days’ as time ticked away at White Hart Lane on Saturday. United just couldn’t get in to their rhythm, and despite equalling Spurs for possession, rarely looked dangerous. Our best chance came with a wicked Anderson shot, whose omission from the starting lineup always puzzles me, on a day when our forwards just couldn’t seem to penetrate.
Of course, credit has to go to the top class Spurs’ defence, with the addition of new signings Woodgate and Hutton putting on a united front to protect their goalkeeper. However, when we were given the opportunity, we just couldn’t get the ball in to the danger area, we couldn’t make the keeper work for a save, and realistically, just didn’t look like scoring.
Rooney continued to look frustrated in front of goal and even resorted to diving, despite looking as though he’d got the better of Dawson, who was arguably the surprising man of the match. Tevez was almost non-existant, contributing little negative, whilst little positive to the game, and Ronaldo didn’t have the spark we’ve become accustomed to over the season. Giggs and Scholes were woeful in midfield, unable to push the forwards on or provide them with the killer ball, and our defence let the Spurs’ attack in too easily. For the second time in a week Robbie Keane should have scored the goal which killed off United, and we were again fortunate that he didn’t.
With Arsenal collecting all three points at the council house, thanks to a pathetic showing from the blues, we just couldn’t afford to lose at White Hart Lane. Of course that doesn’t mean we’d have conceded the league with a loss, but three points behind in February, with Arsenal a few weeks away from a trip to Old Trafford, would be unacceptable. In the final ten minutes, United seemed to wake up and realise this, as we saw chances from Anderson, Nani, Tevez and Rooney all fail to beat the keeper.
When the third minute of the allotted minimum stoppage time came to an end, United were handed a lifeline with a corner. Nani has proven he is certainly worth giving these kicks to, the only player on our books who can consistently take a good corner, and was happy to step up to take it. With Ronaldo our only attacking player with any height, and Ferdinand and Vidic rarely hitting the target, there didn’t seem to be too much to get excited about. However, our fantastic away support roared, desperate to salvage something from the game.
Tevez’s goal, which was attributed by some to Spurs’ defender Dawson, is not the first important one he has scored after the minimum injury time has run out. He got his first goal of his Manchester United career against Chelsea after first half injury time was up. Like that goal, he celebrated the equaliser against Spurs furiously, and was booked for doing so, which will not have put a dampner on it for our young Argie. He now has 11 league goals to his name and will be worth every penny we spend on him.
Claiming this point, in the manner that we did, could prove vitally important to United for a number of reasons. A draw wouldn’t have been a massive result for United, if we’d been told of the dropped points before kick off, however to claim the result at the death will have left morale high. The celebrations which followed the goal showed how important it was. United have learnt a valuable lesson, without having to pay the full price to do so. I imagine every single one of our lads imagined they were travelling back to Manchester with nothing, and the feeling of gifting Arsenal such an advantage would have been painful. They will still remember that pain when going in to their next games, Fergie will remind them if they can’t do it alone, and that could serve as motivation to go out and claim all three points.
However, if United had won the game, no lesson would have been learnt, and we may have been forced to learn it the hard way later on in the season. United needed that wake up call. After painfully easy victories against Portsmouth and Newcastle over recent weeks, it was about time we were really tested. We didn’t play well enough over the course of the match, with the final 20 minutes showing what United were really capable of. They should have played that way since the kick off, not assuming they could take away points from White Hart Lane without having to work for them.
Of course Fergie will have torn a strip off them at half and full time, and I’m sure they’ll pay the price for their lacklustre performance in training this week, completing the learning curve the Spurs game provided us with.
The rest of February sees us play City at home and Newcastle away in the league, as well as cup games against Lyon and Arsenal. We need to be at our best and the Spurs game will have reminded the players of exactly what is required of them to be at their best. Onwards and upwards…
Do you think Spurs taught United a lesson?