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Tottenham Miss Opportunity to Kill Man United Off In Final 20 Minutes

When Manchester United’s Rafael da Silva was sent off in the 74th minute for a second yellow card offense, United were there for the taking. Down to ten men, Sir Alex Ferguson issued the command to his players to bunch up, pack the midfield and defense and contain Tottenham as much as possible. It was Tottenham’s opportunity to show United and the world what they had, to sprint down the wings and open United up. Ultimately they failed, but it’s testament more to United’s brilliant defending than a lack of inspiration from Spurs.

Sunday’s nil-nil draw at White Hart Lane was a perfect example of how strong defensively Manchester United are. Nemanja Vidic was man of the match with his consistent performance in the back for United, constantly denying Tottenham goalscoring opportunities by preventing Spurs from getting shots on goal and clearing balls out of the area, time after time. He was assisted by a range of players helping the defensive cause in the final 20 minutes. Even Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney came back to help quite often.

United’s defensive resiliency Sunday reminded me of their performance against Arsenal in mid-December where no matter what Arsenal tried to do, United were a wall of defense preventing Arsenal from penetrating it.

Tottenham could have done better in those final 20 minutes, though. Peter Crouch was ineffective almost the entire game. Tottenham were too predictable with their crosses from the right wing which United headed away with ease, one after the other. Bale, in the last quarter of the game, was isolated on the left wing after Anderson came on and Darren Fletcher was in charge of stopping the Welshman from accomplishing his trademark blistering runs. Rafael van der Vaart, meanwhile, was his usual wonderful self but I felt all of his free kicks left much to be desired and that Gareth Bale should have been taking them instead.

Overall, though, it seemed that no matter what Tottenham threw at United, the Red Devils could stop them.

What does this mean for Tottenham and United? For Manchester United, it’s another crucial point which moves the red half of Manchester back into first place on goal difference. It also means another undefeated game. I wouldn’t be too surprised if several United players will be nursing injuries during the next week given the way Tottenham pushed them to their limits, but United should be pleased with the point.

Tottenham’s performance was strong, but I felt it was a “If only…” situation where they could have done better towards the end of the game especially the best chance of the match that fell to van der Vaart but he curled it agonizingly wide over the bar. After picking up a point against United, Tottenham sit in fifth place and you have to wonder now whether the gap between them and third place Arsenal, a gap of six points, is too much. Tottenham may end up battling Chelsea for fourth or fifth place and it’s too early to write them off from a push for third or higher, but time is running out.

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  1. Andy K

    January 17, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I was disappointed that Redknapp didn’t pull Crouch off and replace him with Pavlyuchenko as Crouch never looked like he was going to get the better of Vidic. This was definitely a case of Tottenham missing out on all three points as opposed to taking the one off Man. Utd.

  2. cam5131

    January 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I was very disappointed that Spurs couldn’t take advantage of Man Utd being down to 10 men at White Hart Lane. The offense (particularly Crouch) failed to truly threaten Van Der Saar in goal. If Spurs want any hope of a title chance or at least remaining in the top 4, then they need to capitalize when the moment arises.

    I am, however, pleased with the defense. Gallas finally played a decent match. Hopefully, this consistency at the back continues.

  3. Carmine

    January 17, 2011 at 9:52 am

    It was an exciting game. In the end, I thought that the subs would make the difference as I knew SAF would bring on Chichirito and Anderson for Berba and Fletch/Carrick. I was shocked when Nani was taken off but then SAF was looking to bolster the defence. Eventually CH14 and Anderson would come on but the opportunities would be less with Man Utd rallying in the back field and keeping the Spurs at bay. My vote for MOM goes to Vidic and VVart for Spurs, Bale was kept under the lid with Crouch being the worse player. I thought Berba or Nani had the worse game for Man Utd with Berba in particular was too slow…perhaps CH14 should have had the start since the game was more fast paced.

  4. Nick

    January 17, 2011 at 1:12 am

    “United’s defensive resiliency Sunday reminded me of their performance against Arsenal in mid-December where no matter what Arsenal tried to do, United were a wall of defense preventing Arsenal from penetrating it.”

    It sounds like you’re talking about City-Arsenal, seriously, were we watching the same match? United were attacking throughout that game nearly as much as Spurs were, it was a very open match. Both had opportunities and failed to close the deal, yes, Spurs did better in the final 3rd of the pitch than United thus leading to more spectacular displays of defense but it was less Spurs pounding on United’s door than two teams creating brilliant chances for 90 minutes without either being able to close the deal.

  5. JC

    January 17, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Vidic certainly solidified his position as the best central defender in the premier league (all due respect to Vincent Company). He was a monster today. I thought United’s weakest link was Nani, even though I was surprised to see him taken off (I thought Ferguson would give him more time to straighten up). This was the first match in awhile where I felt Valencia’s absence was a glaring problem.

  6. Joe

    January 16, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Disappointing result for Spurs, but I’m still amazed how they can make even a 0-0 draw entertaining. COYS, knock Chelsea out of that CL spot once and for all!

  7. SoccerLimey

    January 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    I thought honors should have been about even. Tottenham were the better side in the last half of the first half but Van Der Sar was rarely troubled. Rooney was awful and needs some bench time, and Giggs looked to tire quickly. I think without the red card, we might have seen Scholes for Carrick later on.

    Redknapp has himself a pretty solid squad that I think will finish above Chelsea and Man City who I think will fade towards the last few weeks of this campaign.

  8. MennoDaddy

    January 16, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I was very disappointed with the play of Crouch in today’s game. He was missing for almost the entire game, and the one glorious chance he had he completely fouled up. Would Defoe have done better in the 4-5-1 that Tottenham played? Maybe, maybe not. But Crouchy should’ve been pulled long before he was.

    Hutton also really disappointed me today. I saw way too many poor passes and defensive lapses and it actually made me wonder if Corluka might have been better off starting.

    That said, Van Der Vaart was, well, Van Der Vaart, Dawson and Gallas played quite well, and Modric was also very good. I suppose it’s a sign of the times that most Spurs fans were actually disappointed in only taking a point off of United at home.

  9. jose

    January 16, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    dude i saw the game and i was like, this vidic dude is a bad ass.

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