Having once again seen league leaders Manchester City record a comfortable home win, the reds travelled to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham, and the daunting prospect of a 5 point deficit to make up against a Spurs side sitting 3rd in the table. United came into the game off the back of a dramatic late salvo courtesy of Ryan Giggs at Norwich, whilst Spurs were still reeling following their 5-2 hiding at the hands of Arsenal, seemingly giving the reds the edge in what was likely to be a closely fought game. Injury blows to Gareth Bale and Rafael Van der Vaart, and the absence of Scott Parker through suspension gave United further encouragement to get the result which would strike a huge blow in the title race.
Evidently keen to make amends from their defeat at the hands of Arsenal, Spurs flew out of the traps early on, with young midfield pairing Sandro and Livermore harassing the experienced Carrick and Scholes into a string of rare enforced errors. United seemed to be penned back in their own half for large spells of the opening exchanges, relying heavily on some world class defending from Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans, who were keeping United’s heads above water. A sloppy clearance from De Gea allowed Adebayor to bare down on goal, providing Spurs with their first clear scoring opportunity of the match, but the young Spaniard redeemed himself with a superb low save to maintain parity.
As Spurs grew in confidence, pressure on the United defence seemed as though it had reached tipping point, and a goal was imminent. It looked like it had come on the 37th minute, as Louis Saha’s shot was blocked on the goal line by Adebayor, who diverted the ball into the roof of the net, only for referee Martin Atkinson to rule it out for handball, a decision which replays showed to be a correct one. Another huge let off for United, and one which Spurs were made to regret, as with seconds left before the half time interval, Ashley Young’s corner found the unmarked Rooney in the box, allowing him to nod home from 6 yards and give United a priceless, if maybe undeserved lead.
After the match, Harry Redknapp described the goal before the break as ‘soul destroying’ yet Spurs showed no hint of being bereft of confidence in the early exchanges of the second half, as once again they brought the best out of David De Gea, Jake Livermore’s deflected shot forcing the United keeper into a low reaction save. Once again, Spurs were punished for not asserting their dominance into goals, as on the hour mark, a quick throw in by Phil Jones found Nani in space in the penalty area, and the Portugese winger squared to Ashley Young who volleyed back across goal to give United the crucial two goal cushion. This time, there was to be no Spurs response, as United finally began to control the flow of the game having secured what looked to be an unassailable advantage.
Young, who has had a week to cherish following his crucial assist the week previous and a goal for England during the week, provided extra gloss for the reds with 20 minutes remaining, collecting a pass from Evra, before jinking inside and unleashing a curling thunderbolt into the top corner from 25 yards. A chorus of ‘Harry for England’ rang out from the delirious travelling reds, as United continued their remarkable record against Spurs, having not lost to the North London outfit since 2001. Jermaine Defoe provided some consolation, capitalising upon a sloppy Ryan Giggs pass, before smashing home from the edge of the box, but the day belonged to United, who once again showed why they are champions, and why this title race will go to the wire.
DDG – 7 World class performance in a big game.
Jones – 6 Horribly exposed first half, much more solid in 2nd.
Ferdinand – 7 Marshalled the back four and kept United in the game.
Evans – 8 Surely now even his harshest critics have to subside.
Evra – 6 His woes against Lennon continue.
Nani – 6 Struggled in first half, but brilliant assist for Young’s first.
Scholes – 5 Pace of the game flew by him.
Carrick – 6 First half to forget, second showed improvement.
Young – 8 MOTM 2 goals and an assist, what more can you say?
Rooney – 6 Not his best performance but key opening goal.
Welbeck – 6 Struggled against King.
Giggs – 5 Careless for Spurs goal.
Park – 6