With the festive period behind us, United travelled to White Hart Lane to take on Spurs in the first of our hat trick of away games against title rivals before the end of the season. Traditionally Spurs have been easy pickings for United, with the London club having not beaten the reds since 2001, however under Redknapp they are a different proposition and additions such as Rafael Van Der Vaart to their already talented squad has seen them become a very formidable side. United welcomed back Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic and Edwin Van Der Sar to the side after managing to shake off injuries which had kept them out of last weeks FA cup tie against Liverpool.
With two teams who excel in attack the game had the makings of a classic, and promised as much in a ferocious first 10 minutes which saw Wayne Rooney nearly take an early lead after skipping past Gallas and narrowly firing wide. Spurs responded well and perhaps should have scored after Peter Crouch failed to steer home Aaron Lennon’s low cross, before Luka Modric’s mazy run was brilliantly intercepted by Rio Ferdinand with the goal at his mercy. United were sloppy as they have been all season on the road, with Fletcher and Carrick only succeeding in containing Spurs, whilst offering nothing in the final third of the pitch. This was manifested by the failure of United’s attack to sufficiently gel and work the Spurs defence, with Berbatov and Rooney in particular out of sorts, which in turn allowed Spurs to mount attacks with relative comfort.
Despite the lively start however, neither side were able to dominate, with United in particular defending admirably in the face of an outstanding Luka Modric who was putting in a man of the match performance and half time came at a good time for United who had appeared to have weathered the worst of the Spurs storm. United came out in the second half and appeared to have the bit between their teeth, with Giggs coming close early on with a volley, and then Rooney coming to life with a stinging shot from the edge of the box, forcing Gomes into a smart low save. Again though, United let the initiative slip, and Spurs grew into the second half with Van Der Vaart and Lennon beginning to influence the game and worry the red’s back four. However as has been common place for United recently, a refereeing decision made the headlines, as on 70 minutes Rafael was awarded a second yellow for a seemingly innocuous trip on Assou Ekotto. Down to ten men, the last 20 minutes were a case of survival for United to preserve our unbeaten record in the league this season, yet we needn’t have worried, as Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand produced a gutsy and determined performance to shut out Spurs and secure a valuable point.
With United sitting pretty at the top with games in hand, it is imperative to avoid defeat in big games like this if we are to win the title this season. However, the manor of the performance will be a worry for Ferguson, with a distinct lack of potency up front and the ease with which Spurs controlled the midfield in particular areas which need to be addressed. With Fergie hinting at a potential splash in the transfer market this January, a goalscoring midfielder will be high on United’s wish list, and the imminent return of Park and Valencia will only aid our floundering attack. United face Birmingham next week, before two away trips to Blackpool and Southampton in the cup, capping what could potentially be a great January for the men in red.