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Last season's game - Spurs 2 Manchester United 2, 12.12.98
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This preview was written by Brian Judson

Full League Record of Spurs v Man Utd

Prem          Pl   W   D   L   For-Ag  Pts
Home           7   1   2   4    8-10    5
Away           7   0   1   6    3-13    1
Total (Prem)  14   1   3  10   11-23    6
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)  14   1   3  10   11-23    6
Total (Div 1) 102 29  28  45  144-165  91
Total (Div 2)  8   3   3   2   13 - 6   9
Grand Total   124 33  34  57  168-194 106

This has always been a very attractive fixture since football resumed its peace-time activities in the summer of 1946. Since Spurs were promoted to Division One at the end of 1949-50, there have only been two seasons in which this fixture has not been played. The first occasion was, of course, in season 1974-75 when Manchester United spent a season in Division Two for the first time since being promoted to Division One at the end of season 1937-38. The other occasion, of course, was 1977-78 when we spent a season downstairs.

There are many games to remember over the years as Spurs and Manchester United have a long tradition of playing football as it is meant to be played. Manchester United, of course, won the treble last season, the first club to have achieved this particular feat. They have set benchmarks by which everyone else must set their standards.

There are so many players to enthuse about. To my mind, the greatest player I have ever been fortunate to see was George Best at his peak in his early 20s before booze, sex and all the rest of it took over. Best could do things with the ball that I have never seen other players do, not even Hoddle at his peak. I am astonished that people regard Ryan Giggs in the same breath as George Best. Giggs is an artisan compared with Best at his peak. I will never be convinced that Giggs is as good as Best. On his day, Best was better than Pele. You only have to consider how Best tore Benfica apart on their own ground in a European Cup tie in 1965 when Manchester United won 5-1.

Who was the better goalscorer? Law or Greaves? Greaves was the arch poacher. He did nothing beyond chatting to his marker for most of the game, lulling him into overconfidence, then suddenly conjuring a goal out of nowhere. Law strutted about like a bantam cock in a cock fight. He was cock o' the walk and he didn't care who knew it. Perhaps his best ever goal was a bicycle kick with his back to the goal which was denied because the linesman thought he was offside.

Who was better? Stiles or Mackay? Both were good at going forward. Both were hard tacklers. Both refused to accept defeat was on the cards. Both raged at players who were timid or who hid when things were not going well for the team. Both marshalled their defenders well.

Who was the better wing-half? Blanchflower or Crerand? Both were slow in pace but both had very fast footballing brains. Both could talk the hind leg off a donkey when they got on to the subject of football. Both were regarded as rebels in their way, questioning authority when they deemed it necessary.

If Manchester United had a problem it was with the goalkeeping position until they signed Stepney from Chelsea. Once Stepney settled down, he was never challenged for the position until the relegation season came round when he was clearly past his best. He was probably United's best goalkeeper until the advent of Schmeichel. Spurs have been blessed with good goalkeepers since the Ditchburn era. We have had Bill Brown, Pat Jennings, Ray Clemence and Erik Thorstvedt. The jury is still out on Ian Walker and Espen Baardsen. Personally, I'd prefer Baardsen to Walker.

Both clubs have good FA Cup records. The Lancastrians have now won the FA Cup 10 times to our 8. (It should have been 9 but for a dreadful day in May 1987 that I still find too painful to discuss.) Their League record of course is bettered only by Liverpool but they are fast catching up on that particular record. We have only won the League twice but both of our championship teams were exceptional teams, unlike many other championship winners.

Manchester United have again started well in the League but have not shown consistent form, although they have continued to win most of their games. Both Leeds and Sunderland look like challenging them this season. Arsenal and Chelsea are also up there but both have ageing teams. I wonder if they have the stamina to compete in the race when Leeds and Sunderland are hungrier for success.

Both teams have had their injury problems this season. Armstrong will need a fitness test to decide if he can play this afternoon. If he fails, we will probably start the game without a recognised striker unless Iversen is risked. Both clubs will be taking into account the fact they have important European matches looming on the horizon and will not want to have any more injuries to treat after the match.

How do I see the match ending today? I am loathe to predict another home defeat but I really cannot see us beating Manchester United given the paucity of back-up resources. I think we may well lose 2-1, possibly after snatching the lead.

To those going to the match, enjoy the game!

Cheers, Brian

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