The expectation was for an exciting, back-and-forth match featuring two of the best clubs in the Premier League on Sunday. Manchester United started the day at the top of the table and without a single loss in the league, whilst Tottenham sat squarely in the middle of the race for a top four finish. The expectation was also that many goals would be scored. The excitement was certainly present, the goals not so much. Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United kept the fans inside of White Hart Lane on the edge of their seats as both sides displayed the pace, skill, and awareness that they have come to been known for this season. Though the match ended in a goalless draw, either side could have come out with multiple notches on the scoreboard.
Wayne Rooney, Rafael van der Vaart, and Peter Crouch all had wonderful first-half opportunities to put their sides ahead. Ultimately, each center-back pairing proved to be impenetrable. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand dominated Crouch in the air, to put it lightly, and made it impossible for the lanky striker to combine with Spurs’ leading goal-scorer van der Vaart. At the other end William Gallas and Michael Dawson dealt incredibly well with the league’s leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov. Much credit must also be given to Benoit Assou-Ekotto who not only patrolled the left side of the Spurs defense effectively but rotated into the middle to assist the center-backs in bossing out United forwards.
The midfield battle continued throughout the game, as both sides attempted to control the middle of the park. Wilson Palacios did well in breaking up United attacks and making important tackles, the best of which saw Rafael receive his first booking of the match. However, Palacios displayed once again his lack of awareness as a passer, consistently giving the ball away in important areas. Gareth Bale saw very little of the ball out left, certainly less than we are used to seeing. Aaron Lennon did a wonderful job of drawing fouls and pestering United at the back while maintaining the ability to track back and assist Alan Hutton in defense. Sir Alex Ferguson will be disappointed with the play of his outside midfielder’s. Both Nani and Ryan Giggs were absent for large portions of the game. They were anonymous in attack and Giggs was only noticed when he decided to drop into a more defensive position. Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick both played fine in the center, nothing spectacular but no huge mistakes either. Special mention must go to Luka Modric who continued his incredible form. Modric’s ability to work well in minimal space was again displayed in this match as he consistently outworked a crowded midfield to deliver the ball into dangerous areas for Spurs.
Tottenham Hostpur: Gomes 7; Hutton 6, Gallas 8, Dawson 8 Assou-Ekotto 8; Lennon 6, Modric 8, Palacios 6 (Defoe 6), Bale 6; van der Vaart 8, Crouch 5.
Manchester United: Van Der Sar 6; Rafael 4, Ferdinand 8, Vidic 10, Evra 6; Nani 5 (Anderson 6), Carrick 6, Fletcher 6, Giggs 6; Berbatov 6 (Hernandez 7), Rooney 7.
Man of the Match: Nemanja Vidic
Spurs did something in this match that have had quite a bit of trouble doing recently: taking points off of Manchester United. Harry Redknapp has to be encouraged by the continued top play of Luka Modric. Modric’s form has been second to none and the little Croatia midfielder might finally be worthy of the infamous “world-class” label. Tottenham must also be encouraged by keeping United off the score sheet. The Red Devils came into this match as the highest scoring team in all the Premier League. Dawson, Gallas, and Gomes all did well to curb the United attack and preserve a clean sheet.
Next: Newcastle United (A)
For Manchester United:
Sir Alex Ferguson will surely be disappointed at Mike Dean’s decision to book Rafael a second time for what appeared to be a play in which the young Brazilian was attempting to get out of the way of Benoit Assou-Ekotto. That said, Ferguson will be grateful to come away from a match at White Hart Lane with at least a point. United have drawn a lot of matches on the road this season but remain unbeaten in the league. Vidic showed again today why he wears the armband for the Premier League leaders. He and Rio Ferdinand effectively quieted a Spurs attack that, for the final fifteen minutes of the match, featured Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch van der Vaart, Lennon, Modric, and Gareth Bale all on the field at once.
Next: Birmingham City (H)