Defoe 87 – Rooney 45, Young 60, 69
Old Trafford, Manchester
Manchester United kept pace with league leaders Manchester City with an impressive 3-1 win over third-placed Tottenham at White Hart Lane, despite being second-best for large stretches of an intriguing game.
United Talisman Wayne Rooney opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time with good movement to beat Kyle Walker and glance in Ashley Young’s inswinging corner, while Young helped himself to two goals of the highest quality to round off a fine week following a goal for England in midweek.
And while the FA may be waiting until the summer to try to land Harry Redknapp, the Spurs boss will be wondering just how his team were on the end of such a comprehensive scoreline; for the majority of the opening hour Redknapp’s men out-fought and out-thought Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Sandro and Jake Livermore dominated the subdued Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick in the centre, and with Araron Lennon and Luka Modric causing problems for Patrice Evra and Phil Jones on the flanks, it seemed only a matter of time before the home side found a breakthrough. However, Spurs were denied one in controversial circumstances after Emmanuel Adebayor was unfortunately adjudged to have handled Louis Saha’s goal-bound effort before turning it in. United rallied, and with the defence marshalled superbly by Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans, they were able to steal a goal before half-time.
Tottenham started the second-half in the same fashion as the first, but save for a wonderful David de Gea stop from a shot deflected off of Saha’s heels, Spurs lacked the match-winning quality that the suspended Scott Parker, injured Rafael van der Vaart, and ill Gareth Bale would surely have brought. Indeed, while Modric coped well on the left wing in the Welshman’s absence, too often he was forced to drift inside to try and dictate matters, meaning Spurs’ formation inevitably became disjointed as they searched for an equaliser.
While Spurs have played some astonishing football this season, it was again defensive naivety that cost them twice in the second half; for Young’s first – a wonderful scissor volley across goal – Modric switched off for a throw, allowing Nani in behind, and with Walker slashing at a clearance, Young was left free to expertly double United’s lead on the hour. For the third, Walker failed to pick up Young, and after Evra found the Englishman in acres of space, Young curled a vicious strike into a helpless Brad Friedel’s top corner with 20 minutes remaining.
Defoe was able to hint at a comeback with a fine late finish after laziness from Ryan Giggs in the centre, but the game had fizzled out by then. In truth, while United were poor for long periods, Tottenham lacked the killer instinct needed to make their dominance count. Ferguson’s men snatched their chances greedily, and exhibited the extra class and steely determination that shows exactly why they are in the title hunt, and Tottenham are not.
Friedel; Walker, King, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Rose 84), Sandro (Kranjcar 80), Livermore, Modric; Adebayor, Saha (Defoe 80).
De Gea; Jones, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra; Nani (Park 79), Scholes (Giggs 61), Carrick, Young; Rooney, Welbeck.
Did you know?
While Ryan Giggs has now appeared in 901 games for Manchester United, another of their golden oldies passed a milestone against Tottenham – Sir Alex Ferguson has now managed Manchester United in the league 986 times, surpassing Sir Matt Busby’s record. United fans will be hoping he has room for just a few more over the coming years…
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