When you talk about statement wins, this is it. Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie came very close to scoring during 30 minutes of huge pressure on Brad Friedel’s goal, but in the end, Tottenham’s brilliant counter attacking and goals from Gareth Bale, Jan Vertonghen and Clint Dempsey were too much for Manchester United, beating the red devils at home 2-3.
It’s been 11 years since Tottenham last beat United in a Premier League match, in that time losing 17 matches and drawing 5 more. At Old Trafford? 23 Years. And it took a young and highly criticized Portuguese manager, who sticks with a 41 year old goalkeeper instead of the captain of the French national team to do it.
Speed and awful United defending decided the match. Jan Vertonghen isn’t the fastest player in the world, but his break was enough to leave a confused United defense wide open, as he ran through 35 meters uninterrupted. When Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans finally reacted to what was going on, they were too late, and Evans’ hand helped Tottenham score the opener.
United didn’t press as expected. Excellent pressure from Dembele and Sandro in the middle of the pitch caused turnover after turnover. Eventually, Gareth Bale showed once again his exceptional physical abilities, leaving another (former) world class defender in his dust, as Rio Ferdinand no longer has the speed or the power to deal with a charging Bale, who finished clinically with his weaker foot against Anders Lindegaard, as Alex Ferguson continues with his goalkeeper yo-yo act.
It’s been less than 3 years since Tottenham lead 2-0 at Old Trafford only to lose 5-2. After six minutes in the second half, the ghosts from that much rose once again, as Nani, in a bad match, made it 1-2 after some neat double passing down the wing. He never should have been playing, but when you’re out of wingers, Alex Ferguson decided to turn a blind eye to a player assaulting another one at United training.
In every other year, Tottenham would have folded. Not this time, as Clint Dempsey once again embarassed the slow and weak United defense, making it 3-1 after only a minute from Nani’s goal. No time to take a breath as Shinji Kagawa scored and put United back in the match, making it 3-2.
Spurs stopped pressing and let United have their way and possession, but fortune didn’t help them on a very rare case, especially at Old Trafford. Rooney hit the post in his return match; Robin van Persie had his share of misses; Patrice Evra had a close one. Eventually, the defense, led by Gallas and Caulker, made it through.
Does this mean Spurs are title contenders? At this stage of the season, everyone in decent form is. But wins like this, against a very limited United team, more limited than anyone thought they’d look, is a deceleration of intentions, besides the history it made and what it meant to Tottenham.