Tottenham vs Man Utd Match Review (Spurs leave it late at the Lane)By: Ian | January 21st, 2013
First off, I had a whole different review planned than the one I am now forced to write. The title should give you some idea why. And when I say late, I mean very late – almost the last meaningful kick of the game. That isn’t to say Spurs, after Utd took the early lead, didn’t press and attack well and in numbers, but the defensive performance was imperious up until that point. Would you have taken a point against Spurs before the match? Of course you would. But I don’t think that statement ignores the context of how the game panned out. For instance, if you are 4-0 up against Chelsea until the 70th minute, but draw 4-4, do you say that is a point gained, or three points lost? An extreme example, but it was seconds away from a Utd win away at Spurs, so I think I have to say this was two points dropped instead.
There was some question over whether the game would take place at all, given heavy snowfall that you may be aware of if you’ve been outside recently. But it did indeed go ahead thanks to underground heating and some groundsmen shovelling snow. However, it fell consistently throughout the match, and may have proved a bit of a distraction. Certainly, we can claim Spurs had some sort of camouflage!
As for team news, De Gea continued in goal, as he has in the league for some time now. Standard back four of Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra. A slightly odd positioning of Phil Jones sitting just in front of them it seemed, with a further midfield of Carrick (obviously), Cleverley and Kagawa. Welbeck and Van Persie up front. No surprises in the Spurs lineup, Bale, Defoe, Dempsey and co, all ready to go.
A cagey start preceded the first goal. There was a slight moment of tension as Lennon struck low, forcing De Gea to parry. Fortunately, he caught up with the ball before Defoe did. Offside was given, but you can never be sure that it will be awarded. So, if anything, Tottenham looked the better side early on, before Utd got the goal. Welbeck spread the play to Cleverley, who dug into the striking technique of his to cross well towards the back post. It found the head of one Van Persie, who just eat up the chance for his 22nd goal of the season, leaving Spurs probably feeling a little hard done by.
Utd did look alive, but Tottenham more so. Key man Bale was kept an eye on, and forced inside onto his relatively less dangerous right foot, if possible. The defence did a stirling job of this, before Bale did finally let fly with the right towards the end of the half. No change in the scoreline at half time though. However, Spurs drank some Lucozade and started the next phase with more vigour. Defoe struck wide within seconds and Bale tried to improvise an outside-of-the-boot shot that went safely over the goal joint. The clearest chance fell to Dempsey as the defence suffered a rare split, but De Gea’s right knee diverted the ball out for a corner. His shot-stopping, as is always made clear, is not in doubt.
Kagawa made way for Rooney to complete his league return, and he was in the middle of the action instantly. He went down in the box from a Caulker challenge, but the ref waved the penalty appeal away. To be fair, from HIS viewpoint, it was inconclusive, it looked more obvious from the linesman’s view. It was to him Rooney gestured, but in vain. Opinion after the fact seems to be that Utd were hard done by with this decision.
In the week, I think Giggs silenced his ridiculous critics as to his supposedly dwindling talents, and if it needed to be done, Ferdinand, solid as a rock throughout, then did the same for his cause. Lennon ran through and fed Defoe, who steadied himself to smack in the equaliser. Across surged Rio, timing his intervention perfectly to divert the oncoming shot away for a corner. Majestic defending from a still very classy player.
After that, I felt Utd were pumped up enough to see this game out and claim the win. Sadly, it turned out not to be. Spurs kept going and deep into injury time, in came the cross, De Gea didn’t punch away sufficiently, the ball came back across the box, and there was Dempsey to spin and turn the ball home. No time to do anything about it, sealing the result as a draw. The defence looked gutted, and well they might, they were terrific for all but that last couple of seconds, and how many times have we been able to say that this season? In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that was our best defensive performance of the season, despite the equaliser.
So, as I said at the start, the nature of the game leads me to think two points dropped. The gap at the top of the table is five points, not seven. Attention has been drawn to De Gea who, despite some very impressive shot-stopping, is very very vulnerable under the cross. He isn’t a commanding presence and is blocked easily by a crowded penalty box. The punch towards the end wasn’t a good connection, and more importantly it put him out of position. Perhaps if he had remained in place, Vidic may have dealt with it, or the play across the box would have come closer to him, making a save more likely. I think he is a excellent keeper in the making, but it’s this particular part of his game that still worries me.
FA Cup action next against Fulham to enjoy next weekend, but first, your thoughts on the Spurs encounter below.