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Man Utd v Spurs, 22.08.11

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
MONDAY 22ND AUGUST, 2011
(8 P.M.)
MANCHESTER UNITED 3 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)

Scorers:-
Welbeck, 61
Anderson, 76
Rooney, 87

Attendance:- 75,498

Referee:- Mr. L. Probert
Assistants:- Mr. D. Bryan & Mr. G. Turner
Fourth official:- Mr. M. Halsey

Teams:-
Man Utd (4-4-2):- De Gea; Smalling, Jones, Evans, Evra (Capt.); Nani, Anderson, Cleverley (sub Giggs, 81), Young (sub Park, 81); Welbeck (sub Hernandez, 81), Rooney

Subs not used:- Lindegaard; Fabio; Carrick; Berbatov

Booked:- Evans

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker (sub Corluka, 46), Dawson (Capt.), Kaboul, Ekotto; Lennon, Livermore (sub Huddlestone, 74), Kranjcar (sub Pavlyuchenko, 74), Bale; Van der Vaart; Defoe

Subs not used:- Gomes; Bassong; Jenas, Townsend

Booked:- Dawson, Defoe

New season – same story at Old Trafford

I wrote in my preview about Spurs starting a new season of Premier League fixtures against Manchester United (this was our 39th Premier League game against United), and our dismal record against Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. Sadly, despite a promising first half, the trend continued of Spurs essentially being lambs to the slaughter, despite the prior knowledge we had of key absences in United’s team. I was surprised to see us start with the same outfield team that had played last Thursday at Hearts, but not surprised that in the end our youngsters were outclassed by Fergie’s kids and his latest edition of a potential Champion team.

Old Trafford was awash with “19 – Champions” shirts and scarves in celebration of their most recent Premier League success, and encouraged by the announcer, the home fans held those scarves aloft, some taunting their guests with their achievement.

One of the differences between these two teams is that Ferguson did most of his transfer business early and has his squad ready for the season, whereas, with 8 days to go before the closure of the transfer window, Spurs seemingly still fumble around the market looking for a deal or two to strengthen the squad which desperately needs strike power and a midfield enforcer for starters. Okay, we’ve got Sandro in the treatment room, and he ought to be first pick, but if the rumours are true about Diarra coming, why could this business not be completed before the start of another crucial league programme.

Spurs have too many injuries for this early stage of the season, with no sign of Crouch, and the known absences of experienced defenders Ledley King and William Gallas. Then there’s the tale of the man whose head was not right for this game – Luka Modric. What a fiasco! Our player of last season – the man who made our team tick last season – apparently decided that mentally he was not up for this game. He’d better get his head right damned soon, or Levy will have to climb down from his early summer forceful statement about not selling our best asset. From a football perspective, I am already fed up with our new season!

I was worried before the game that Walker had been entrusted with Ashley Young, whereas the man we knew could handle United’s new winger, Vedran Corluka, was left on the bench. Walker wasn’t embarrassed by Young, but he did leave him too many spaces for a ball in the first 45 minutes, so Corluka came on and blocked his path more efficiently. Jake Livermore was chosen to continue his baptism in the first team with surely the toughest job of them all, to play in front of a full house at Old Trafford. Livermore did okay, but okay is not good enough against a rampaging United midfield that had no enforcer, but passed and moved with speed and thought. Livermore’s central partner, Niko Kranjcar could do nothing to stem the tide in the second half, and both were replaced with fifteen minutes to go. It was all too late though, as United quickly went two up to put the game beyond Spurs’ reach, and went on to make it three.

United had the early initiative with a cross from the left that passed out of play, before Rooney headed a cross from the other side straight into Friedel’s hands. Friedel was making his Spurs debut, and was the only change to the team that had so out-classed Hearts on Thursday. Friedel had an excellent game and prevented the scoreline from being greater. At the other end De Gea was not so often tested, but still showed signs of relative weakness. Still, despite the absence of Ferdinand and Vidic, new boy Phil Jones, and Johnny Evans kept Spurs at bay on his behalf. Friedel had to make a very good save after 7 minutes, diving low to his left to save Cleverley’s shot. Cleverley spent last season on loan at Wigan, but looked good and it looks as if he’ll be getting plenty of chances for his home team this term.

Similarly, striker Danny Welbeck once again got the nod over former Spur Dimitar Berbatov, and he too showed skill and intelligent movement, with pace, getting a goal as a reward. Spurs were still having to concentrate on defence in the early stages, with Dawson making a vital block of Evra’s effort. At last Spurs showed penetration, but Jones blocked Van der Vaart’s shot to concede a corner from which Dawson headed over. Bale picked up the ball in midfield and went on a typical run, seemingly getting fouled on the edge of the box. Referee Lee Probert looked like a “homer” at this stage and waved Spurs’ appeals away. One of his assistants had already missed a simple throw-in decision in front of the Spurs fans, and the pre-match gags about Howard Webb and Mark Clattenburg joining Ferdinand and Vidic on the injury list for United looked a bit ominous.

Lennon was sent away by a good deep ball from midfield, possibly by Livermore, and his cross was met by Bale, whose effort was held by De Gea. After a United corner, Bale cleared and Van der Vaart made a good run, ending with an attempted curler that De Gea held cleanly. Cleverley chipped a ball to Ashley Young who was lurking on the right of the Spurs area, trying a header which passed wide. After a Spurs throw, Kranjcar received and took a couple of touches in the middle, before trying a shot which De Gea again held. Yellow cards came out for Evans and Dawson respectively for fouls upon Kranjcar and Ashley Young.

After 42 minutes, Kranjcar headed on a midfield ball, and Van der Vaart picked up centrally, making a good run. He threaded the ball to Defoe, from whom the ball was cleared. After a Spurs throw, another Van der Vaart shot was held. In first half added time, Defoe scuffed a shot wide of the target. The half ended with Spurs treating United to a rendition of “You’re just a s**t Barcelona”! We had more than held our own in this half, and had our fair share of possession.

From the second half kick-off, Defoe passed inside to Van der Vaart, whose shot was wide in front of the travelling fans, who sadly were to see relatively little of their heroes in this half. Fergie had obviously given the necessary half-time pep talk, whereas Spurs were unable to change gear to keep up with the red charge forward. Friedel was down well to a shot by Ashley Young, teed up by Rooney, after Cleverley had got away with a hand-ball in the build up.

Kranjcar and Van der Vaart combined well, and this led to a shot by Defoe, straight to the keeper. Lennon went away on a break, and passed to Bale, who hit a shot too wide. A Lennon chip inside the area seemed to be handled from 3 or 4 yards, which looked a bit distant for a “ball to hand” explanation, but hey, it was United at home! After 53 minutes, Spurs moved forward in numbers and were passing well, but when the move broke down, United had a man over and Anderson’s shot was parried before Rooney forced a good save from Friedel. Van der Vaart was getting tired and not chasing back in the same way that “the man whose head wasn’t right” would.

Ashley Young had an effort go way over the bar, before United took the lead after a good cross from the right by Cleverley which was met by Welbeck with a successful glanced header across Friedel hitting the net. Two minutes later, United had a free kick on the very edge of the box, and Friedel made an excellent save from Rooney’s shot. Now United were on fire, and another Rooney effort passed over from 25 yards. Friedel was being tested with regularity, keeping Welbeck & Co at bay. Within two minutes of the Spurs double substitution, United went two up from another break, where they had at least one man spare over Spurs, with Van der Vaart stranded in the middle. Anderson finished the United fast passing move with an easy finish.

Friedel’s work was not over and he did well to rush out to the feet of Nani (“s**t Michael Jackson”) and take the ball. Defoe did hit the post after a Bale cross, and from the follow-up Pavlyuchenko’s shot was blocked. United made a triple substitution and Spurs struggled to get out of their own half. The final nail in Spurs’ coffin was headed home by Rooney after a Giggs cross from the right. Both Welbeck’s and Rooney’s headers came when the strikers had found space between the Spurs defenders.

Spurs did have a half-chance when Van der Vaart fired over and Defoe got booked for over-enthusiastically trying to win a spilt ball from De Gea’s pick up, as we entered added time.

The gap in class between Spurs and United looks as big as that between Spurs and Hearts, who we will play on Thursday night. Our passage to Europa League group football is assured but of course United and our next league opponents, Manchester City are in the Champions League. Already they look to be the teams that will fight for our domestic league title.

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