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Preview Man Utd v Spurs, 06.03.02

Here is Brian Judson's preview of the game

Full Record of Spurs -v- Manchester United

Prem          Pl   W   D   L   For-Ag  Pts
Home          10   3   2   5   17 -17  11
Away           9   0   1   8    4 -18   1
Total (Prem)  19   4   3  13   21 -35  12
Football Lge
Home (Div 1)  51  20  19  12   89 -64  63
Away (Div 1)  51   9   9  33   55 -101 28
Total(Div 1) 102  29  28  45  144 -165 91
Football Lge
Home (Div 2)   4   2   1   1   10 - 3   5
Away (Div 2)   4   1   2   1    3 - 3   4
Total(Div 2)   8   3   3   2   13 - 6   9
Total (Prem)  19   4   3  13   21 -35  12
Total (Div 1) 102 29  28  45  144 -165 91
Total (Div 2)  8   3   3   2   13 - 6   9
Grand Total   129 35  34  60  178 -206 112

A visit to Old Trafford is not the sort of fixture one wants to have when one's team is low on confidence. Although Spurs seem to have dominated the match against Sunderland on Saturday, it is clear that Spurs still lack the confidence to convert chances to goals. We will need to maintain concentration over the whole of the 90 minutes. It will be interesting to see how the centre-back pairing of Dean Richards and Ledley King deal with the threat of Ruud van Nistleroy! The truth is, I suspect, that Manchester United could probably play their reserve team and STILL beat us!

Manchester United have had a roller-coaster ride of a season to date. For the first time in a decade, their aspirations for the Championship are seriously under threat. Arsenal have one giant ace up their sleeve in Robert Pires, who would be my choice for Footballer of The Year, as he has impressed me with his hard work and flair, something that can be said of very few players in the current Spurs first team squad.

But old timers and historians like myself will remember that before WW2, Manchester United were NOT the dominant club in Manchester. Indeed, they were regarded as upstarts. They came very close to being relegated to the old Third Division (North) at one point in the 1930s, surviving only because they beat Millwall, at the Den, 2-0, on the final day of the 1933-34 season, condemning Millwall to relegation to the old Third Division (South). Yet within two seasons they were back in Division One and have remained there, apart from the solitary season of 1974-75.

Until the advent of Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Matt Busby was rightly regarded as Manchester United's greatest manager but Ferguson is more hard-headed than Busby was. Ferguson is not slow to discard players who he feels have their best days behind them. Busby failed to break up his greatest side, thus making it harder for his successors to prevent the slide to Division 2. But Busby built the more creative sides until Ferguson's current squad started to take shape. It is a pity that Munich robbed Busby of what would have been his greatest ever side. Their last domestic match was a 5-4 thriller at Highbury. Five days later, most of the Manchester United team were dead or dying. No one who remembers football in February 1958 will forget the shock and the horror of learning of that fatal crash. It took Manchester United a decade to recover from its effects, although they did win championships in the interim, they were not the same imperious side they had been until the advent of one George Best.

Much has been written about Best, one of Manchester United's most controversial players. Some think that Busby gave him far too much leeway. I suspect Nicholson did because of the way he clamped down on Graeme Souness. I think Ferguson has learned the lesson Busby failed to because of the way he shields players like Beckham from the press sometimes. On his day, Best was the greatest player in the world. He could do things with the ball that I have never seen any other player achieve. I think Best probably had too much success and fame far too early and it went to his head. Best, like Greaves, is an alcoholic and has been warned one more drink could kill him.

There are far too many memories to enumerate here ... who can forget the salmon-like leaps of Dennis Law? .... of the thundering shots of Bobby Charlton? .... of the jinking Willie Morgan? .... of the mercurial George Best scoring six times against Northampton Town on his first appearance after a suspension? .... of the towering Duncan Edwards, a colossus of a player? ....

Spurs rarely win at Old Trafford so it was all the more surprising that in our disastrous relegation season of 1976-77 we actually won 3-2 up there, through goals by Coates, Pratt and Moores, three players regularly barracked at White Hart Lane. I remember a Cup-tie where the end of extra-time was approaching and Ossie Ardiles scored the winner. That was a game where I think Hoddle played in goal for a long period after Milija Aleksic was injured. There have been other occasions but these are the two victories that stick out in my memory most ....

I think it is fairly safe to predict we will lose again on Wednesday. The big question is whether we will try to prevent them from thrashing us or whether we will surrender tamely. As Gary Lineker said recently, it all depends on which Spurs team turns up for the match!


Cheers, Brian

Man Utd's full results so far this season
Dare you re-live that 5-3 defeat? The report is here

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