Clint Dempsey scored the vital third goal in the second half as Tottenham defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time in the Premier League era. Their last win was in 1989 when Terry Venables was manager and Gary Lineker scored the goal. Now Andre Villas-Boas and Dempsey will replace them in the record books. Manchester United and Tottenham served up a five goal thriller and for once Spurs managed to come out on top, holding on in the second half as United threw everything at them.
Manchester United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3
Scorers: Nani, Kagawa Vertonghen, Bale, Dempsey
Team: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghem; Sandro, Dembele (Huddlestone); Lennon, Dempsey (Sigurdsson), Bale; Defoe (Dawson) Subs: (unused) Lloris, Mason, Townsend, Falque
It was a game of two halves – Tottenham totally controlled the first half while United dominated the second but the difference was that during United’s second half superiority Spurs managed to break out and score through Dempsey while United had been unable to to threaten Brad Friedel’s goal in the first forty five minutes.
Andre Villas-Boas selected the team which had served him well in the second half against Queen’s Park Rangers last weekend. Friedel regained his place in goal and in the absence of a left back Jan Vertonghen again filled in with Steven Caulker making his first Premier League start for Tottenham. Dempsey played in midfield behind Jermain Defoe with Gylfi Sigurdsson on the substitutes’ bench. Manchester United left Wayne Rooney on the bench with the experienced campaigners Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes in midfield alongside former Tottenham player Michael Carrick.
Tottenham’s First Half Control
Tottenham played a controlled, passing game throughout the first half and reaped the benefits of the domination and strength of Mousa Dembele and Sandro in the centre of midfield. United were unable to cope with the pace of Spurs all round the pitch as Vertonghen, Gareth Bale, Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon raided at will on the wings. Spurs had the perfect start when Vertonghen collected the ball from Bale on the left and set off on a powerful run which took him into the United box with defenders backing off. His shot took a deflection off Evans to put Spurs ahead in less than two minutes. It was Jan Vertonghen‘s first League goal for Spurs and his second of the week as he continues to grow in stature as a player with Spurs.
This goal failed to invigorate United as Tottenham maintained the attacking advantage when good play in midfield by Dembele released Dempsey who shot past from distance after seven minutes. Lennon followed this with a run straight at the United defence but his shot hit Ferdinand and went out for a corner which Caulker headed over. Tottenham controlled the midfield but Wiliam Gallas had to put in a fully committed challenge on Van Persie in the penalty area after a Dempsey header had been misplaced and created the shooting chance.
Tottenham closed United down quickly and made good use of the ball being much quicker to every loose ball. A good break by Spurs saw Defoe play Vertonghen in to win another corner but then the Belgian was called upon defensively as United tried to counter attack quickly. So stretched defensively were United that on twenty minutes as Walker raided down the right Evra had to body-check him to stop his progress and from the free kick Vertonghen headed Bale’s cross over.
Two minutes later United had a free kick on the corner of the area after a Dembele foul. Van Persie took it but it hit Bale and went out for a corner which Caulker cleared. United built up some pressure on Tottenham’s defence but Spurs broke it up and counter-attacked with good inter-passing between Vertonghen and Defoe until the defender’s final pass was cut out on the edge of the area. The statistics after thirty minutes showed the greater attacking threat posed by Spurs as they had had five goal attempts to none by United.
Vertonghen was always a danger to United as he moved forward but Nani was causing him problems defensively on the left. Sandro showed good strength and pressure to deny United as Tottenham continued to work hard with Dembele controlling the pace and tempo of the game. They combined well after 32 minutes to set up Tottenham for their second goal. Sandro won the ball on the edge of his box, passed to Dembele who took it forward to half way before releasing Bale who attacked the United defence at pace. He outran Ferdinand and shot powerfully across the goalkeeper from the right for Spurs’ second.
Spurs’ first half display was very controlled, playing the ball out from the defence, making good use of the ball and attacking United at pace. With eight minutes to the interval Friedel claimed his first cross but as the half closed the United threat increased as they pushed Spurs back. A powerful shot by Nani was well held by Friedel and they had claims for a penalty turned down when Vertonghen pulled at Nani only for a corner to be awarded.
Spurs supporters couldn’t get overly excited by the half-time score – they been there before and it had ended in misery. Two up at the interval at Old Trafford three years earlier only to lose 5 – 2 while eleven years previously, to the day, Spurs were three up at White Hart Lane and again conceded five in the second half. United introduced Wayne Rooney for the start of the second half in place of Giggs. It was an ominous sign for Spurs as Rooney had led the fightback in April, 2009, terrorising the Spurs defence and scoring twice.
Tottenham’s Second Half Defensive Resolve
United were much more positive in the second half and it took only six minutes for Rooney to make a difference. He played the ball in from the right where Nani got ahead of Gallas to score – United were on their way. Spurs fans shuddered at the thought of what the next forty minutes might bring. Tottenham to their credit responded immediately as Defoe collected the ball inside the United half and took it out wide where he beat Ferdinand before cutting in towards goal and released Bale on his left. Bale’s powerful shot was saved by the goalkeeper but fell invitingly to Dempsey who knocked in the rebound.
It was short lived relief for Spurs as they allowed Van Persie to play a ball through the defence for Kagawa who was unmarked on the edge of the area and beat Friedel to again reduce the arrears. The three goals had been scored in 140 seconds of defensive madness. United had the momentum but Spurs were still one goal up and they set out on a thirty eight minute journey to defend and hold that advantage. At times it wasn’t pretty, at times it was last ditch defending and on other occasions they rode their good fortune.
Lennon managed a break through Sandro who passed to Lennon but his cross was blocked for a corner but these Tottenham raids were becoming a rarity as they were forced back to defend. After 57 minutes a Rooney shot from distance was blocked low down by Friedel as it swerved at the last minute. Spurs were no longer collecting the loose balls, they were falling to United who quickly closed Spurs down and didn’t give them the opportunity to play out from defence. Every long ball cleared forward was immediately coming back at Spurs increasing the pressure on the defence. On the hour a foul by Lennon gave United a fee kick in a central position, twenty five yards out. Rooney struck it well and with Friedel diving in despair the ball hit the post. Two minutes later Van Persie had the ball in the net but was clearly offside.
As Spurs sat deeper and deeper it allowed United to press forward and pick their pass with Scholes dictating the game and creating problems for Tottenham’s defence. On 62 minutes the ball bounced up and hit Sandro on the arm but penalty appeals were again turned down. United had increased possession with 64% in the second half, Spurs being unable to get any time on the ball. On 67 minutes Spurs managed a rare foray forward but Lennon was unable to deliver a cross and then, a minute later, Van Persie got clear on the left but shot past the far post from a good position – a chance missed.
Sigurdsson replaced Dempsey with twenty minutes to play as Spurs struggled to get any time on the ball. Van Persie headed over from a cross while Friedel saved from Nani as Spurs lost possession when trying to play out from a dangerous defensive situation. With ten minutes left Gallas defended bravely at the back post from a dangerous cross and in the previous five minutes United had had 86% possession.
Spurs had five defenders strung across the field but United were passing their way through them while the midfield were unable to put United’s midfield players under any pressure. United central defenders were collecting the ball inside the Spurs half and immediately Tottenham were under siege. Friedel saved a powerful shot from Scholes and Rooney shot over. After 84 minutes a corner was headed on by Carrick and it curled up and hit the bar – perhaps this was to be Tottenham’s day.
Spurs couldn’t get out of their own half and when they did the player had no support or energy to do anything with the ball. They battled on, however, and the nearest United came to snatching the equaliser was through Evra when he got his head to a cross but Friedel saved well with four minutes left. Spurs broke but Defoe had nowhere to go. In the final minutes Tottenham were reduced to clearing the ball anywhere. Four minutes were added on and Nani shot over. Michael Dawson replaced Defoe for added defensive security and for a 94th minute corner United sent up their goalkeeper but Spur survived to claim the hard earned three points and bring an end to their horrendous record at Old Trafford.
Andre Villas-Boas celebrated with heart-felt delight as did Steffen Freund. After the match he commented,
“We spoke about making history at half-time. We knew we would be under pressure. The team excelled themselves. Our work-rate was immense, our spirit, we played extremely confidently in the first half. We really attacked, our goalkeeper didn’t make a save and we enjoyed most of the possession. We deservingly went 2-0 ahead and in the second half showed the spirit that has been fooling us in the last couple of weeks. “
Tottenham have waited a long time for a victory over United at Old Trafford and suffered many disappointments along the way. They deserved their win for their first half display and for the endeavour and total commitment to defending in the second period. The win at Old Trafford has been a long time coming but it was an even longer second half for Tottenham supporters but a win to be savoured.
Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham are on their way and now it’s Greece in the Europa League on Thursday.