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Smash and grab United steal three points

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Tottenham Hotspur 1

(Defoe – 87)

Manchester United 3

(Rooney – 45, Young – 60, 69)

A Wayne Rooney header on the stroke of half-time, coupled with an Ashley Young brace in the second half, was enough to see Manchester United take the share of the spoils on a wet afternoon at White Hart Lane.

Jermain Defoe’s strike late on was a mere consolation in a game where Tottenham Hotspur can feel aggrieved not to have won the encounter.

Manager Harry Redknapp made three changes from the side that succumbed to a 5-2 defeat at Arsenal just a week before with Aaron Lennon, Sandro and Jake Livermore coming in for the injured Gareth Bale, suspended Scott Parker and Niko Kranjcar.

The game started in lively fashion with Louis Saha testing David De Gea early on while Emmanuel Adebayor fired over while at the other end, Danny Welbeck lashed over the bar before Wayne Rooney’s curling effort was comfortably gather by Brad Friedel, all in an energetic opening ten minutes.

The young Spaniard was called into action for the Red Devils after Adebayor seized on an uncharacteristically poor defensive clearance from the Premier League champions before bearing down on goal. However, his effort destined for the far corner was read by De Gea, who got down low to push the ball round the post.

Spurs were beginning to capitalise on the early possession and it looked as though it had paid off after 38 minutes when Lennon skipped past makeshift right-back Phil Jones. He pulled back to Saha who fired goalbound only for his shot to strike Adebayor on the line. In the ensuing melee in the box, the Togolese giant managed to backheel in.

However, with the home fans celebrating, referee Martin Atkinson had blown up for a free-kick to United after the on-loan front-man appeared to handle before nestling in the back of the net.

And true to United fashion, they managed to scrape ahead on the stroke of half-time after spending a majority of the opening 45 minutes on the back-foot. Young fired in a corner and Rooney lost his marker to plant his header past Friedel and into the back of the net.

58% possession in the first-half told a familiar story against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and Spurs started the second period in similar fashion as they pressed for the equaliser.

The on form De Gea was on-hand again to deny Livermore’s rasping 20-yard effort before Benoit Assou-Ekotto clipped the crossbar with a free-kick on the edge of the area just before the hour mark.

But a minute later, the away side had doubled their advantage after Luka Modric lost Nani from a Danny Welbeck throw-in before the Portuguese winger found Young who volleyed home into the far corner.

And it was all over on the 69th minute after Young found the time and space to pick his spot from 25-yards out and curl past Friedel to make it 3-0.

Defoe was introduced with ten minutes to go and it was a scant consolation on the afternoon as the pint-sized hit-man picked up the ball from 35-yards out before marauding forward and blasting past De Gea from 25-yards with four minutes remaining.

What Redknapp had to say

“I couldn’t believe we came in 1-0 down. It was everything we worked on during the week, Jake Livermore and Sandro were top class. Really there was only one team who should have been in front at half-time and we came in 1-0 down,” he told Sky Sports after the game.

“I couldn’t have asked more from the players. Sometimes you need the luck and we didn’t get any today.

“There was nothing much we could change, the two lads (Livermore and Sandro) dominated against (Paul) Scholes and (Michael) Carrick. We just needed a break but when you’re 2-0 down thinking you have bossed the game, mentally it’s difficult.”

On Adebayor’s disallowed goal, he went on to add: “I thought it was a bit harsh, we had the same type of goal against Stevenage (disallowed) when the ball hit Scott Parker (who was ruled offside). I thought it could have counted but it was not to be.”

Moment of the match

Hard not to look further than Emmanuel Adebayor’s disallowed goal in the first half. After some good work from Aaron Lennon on the left, he found Louis Saha whose effort looked destined for the back of the net. However, it struck Adebayor, seemingly on the hand even though replays prove otherwise, who nestled with a cheeky backheel. With the Spurs fans in jubilation, many failed to see Martin Atkinson had blown for a free-kick to United who, just five minutes later, had opened the scoring against the run of play.

Man of the match

Aaron Lennon came in to the starting XI at the expense of the injured Gareth Bale and gave United captain Patrice Evra a torrid afternoon on the right. Looked to really pick up some form after a lengthy lay-off, seemingly slipped back into the first team and put in a effective performance to showcase why he should be ahead of the Niko Kranjcar in the pecking order.

Final thoughts

All in all, a vast improvement from the debacle at the Emirates a week previous. Looked more confident on the ball and out passed the defending Premier League champions. However, there is a reason they are champions. Manchester United may have played badly at White Hart Lane, but the winning mentality instilled into the player’s right from the off is something Sir Alex Ferguson has mastered during his 25 years with the club. Clinical in front of goal is something Spurs, at times, lack and is something they could’ve done with yesterday.

However, the entire season hasn’t come off the rails. Spurs played well against United and were unlucky not to have gone into half-time 1-0 down. The game against Stevenage on Wednesday night is now more important than originally perceived. Winning breeds confidence and a big victory against the League One side will go long way to improve morale that looks to have dropped over recent weeks. A big victory and advancement to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup will surely give the player’s the necessary lift they need ahead of a tough trip to Everton on Saturday.


Ben McAleer

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