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Match Reports
Man Utd v Spurs, 16.05.99

SUNDAY MAY 16th, 1999

Manchester Utd scorers:-
Beckham, 42
Cole, 48

Spurs scorer:-
Ferdinand, 24

Referee:- G. Poll

Attendance:- 55,189

ManU(4-4-2):- Schmeichel; G. Neville, May, Johnsen, Irwin; Beckham, Keane, Scholes ( sub Butt, 70 ), Giggs ( sub P. Neville ); Sheringham ( sub Cole, 46 ), Yorke

Subs not used:- Van der Gouw; Solskjaer

Booked:- Sheringham

Spurs(4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Campbell, Scales ( sub Young, 70 ), Edinburgh; Anderton, Freund, Sherwood, Ginola ( sub Dominguez, 10, sub Sinton, 77); Ferdinand, Iversen

Subs not used:- Baardsen; Clemence

Some weird things happened today:- Arsenal fans were heard going into Highbury singing "Come on you Spurs"; Spurs took the lead at Old Trafford, and made United fight very hard for their title; Les Ferdinand scored that goal, being his first in 1999 for his club; Teddy Sheringham has now won a medal, so what will we chant now ?; and, whilst I look forward to reading authentic eye witness reports, I suspect that EVERYBODY in the Old Trafford stadium cheered this result.

This is not designed to be a report. I shall leave that to Brian, and those in attendance, but it was a pleasure to see those tear filled eyes at Highbury, and at the same time to be supporting the club that caused so many ManU fans to be biting their nails, and to be screaming for full time at least five minutes before the end. Even Ferguson wanted the ref to blow !

If it had not been for some stout defending, notably by Campbell, and Carr, and four excellent saves by Ian Walker ( mostly from Scholes ), this could have been a very convincing victory. However, at times, Spurs did play controlled football, and it was some time before the ball appeared in our half.

All things considered, it was a pretty good day :)

Now here is Brian Judson's full report on this unique day:-

For eighteen minutes, North London's football fans were allowed to dream the impossible dream. The red half of North London joyously sung 'Come on you Spurs' on their North Bank and Clock End as the news spread that Tottenham were incredibly winning at Old Trafford. The irony of the occasion was deliciously superb. Never before have Arsenal's fans been so desperate for a /Tottenham/ victory : they were prepared to sell their souls to win the Championship.

Those of us supporting Tottenham who wanted to see Tottenham win the match were appalled to hear some of our number actually praying that Tottenham should *lose* a match. To those morons, can I just say that you are no true fans of Tottenham. A Tottenham supporter should always want to see their team win irrespective of the circumstances and nuances relative to the game .....

George Graham had replaced the suspended Taricco with Edinburgh, the last survivor of the 1991 FA Cup Winners. At the press conference called to announce the squad to the press, Graham had hinted, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, that he might decide to play the diminutive Jose Dominguez in goal and drop Ian Walker .....

Manchester United rang the changes yet again as Ferguson tried to keep his side as fresh as possible for more daunting challenges ahead. I was surprised that he played Yorke because Yorke has been looking tired and strained over the past two or three matches. I had expected Solskjaer to partner Sheringham up front as they seemed to have an understanding of each other's play.

In view of Tottenham's recent record at Old Trafford (they have not won there since Gary Lineker scored the only goal of the match played on 16th December 1989 in the League) and had not scored since losing 2-1 (Darren Caskey) scoring on 16th October 1993, it was little wonder that Manchester United were expected to win. And so it came as a shock to see Manchester United fumbling in the early stages of the game as Tottenham took the game to them .....

But Spurs lost Ginola as early as the 4th minute of the match with a calf injury. The Tottenham physiotherapist desperately tried to patch him up but Ginola disappeared down the tunnel with scarcely a backward glance. Eventually Dominguez appeared on the touchline some five minutes after Ginola had initially limped off.

I felt Ginola's departure actually helped Spurs. He is a great player but he does allow himself to be distracted when things do not work out the way he wants them to, particularly when he has been fouled by an opponent. At any rate, Ginola's departure seemed to have an effect on Spurs. They began to push forward. The United players were gobsmacked as they had not expected this. They'd been told that Spurs would roll over, concede the game, /anything/ to prevent that anonymous little outfit from the other end of the Seven Sisters Road from winning the Premiership.

The tackles became more desperate, Schmeichel became more agitated and Keane crashed around like an elephant with toothache. But Spurs were not blessed with players who could score so why should Manchester United worry?

And then Walker kicked a huge kick downfield, which Iversen, speeding past the pedestrian David May, pushed on to Ferdinand, wide on the left. Ferdinand brushed aside Johnsen's ineffectual challenged and lobbed the ball towards the Manchester United goal. Too late, much too late, Schmeichel realised the ball was going to fly over his head and he hastily back peddled towards his goal line. Twisting, he became even more frantic as the ball returned to earth. Scrambling, Schmeichel could do nothing to prevent the ball crossing the line, succeeding only in getting himself entangled in the netting at the back of the goal.

There was a stunned silence before everyone realised Spurs were 1-0 ahead! I watched the replay before I realised Ferdinand *had* scored and Spurs *were* 1-0 ahead. The din in my living room must have been deafening as I capered about, shouting my head off.

Looking at Alex Ferguson as the teams lined up for the restart, it was joyous to behold his thunderous expression. His teeth moved even faster as he chewed away on a fresh strip of chewing gum. The Reds were definitely shell-shocked. They all shared the same thought : "They were supposed to roll over for us! They weren't supposed to score!"

Manchester United were fortunate that, at this point, Sheringham was not dismissed. He had already been booked for a foul on Campbell when he followed through and kicked Dominguez. But referee Poll either missed the incident or adopted a benevolent attitude towards it. The result was that Sheringham was able to stay on the pitch for a big longer.

For eighteen wonderful minutes, it looked as if Spurs were going to win as move after move by the red-shirted players was broken up, mostly by Campbell, playing a skipper's role. He was here, there, everywhere, pleading, cajoling, bullying, urging on his team.

But slowly, the shock of falling a goal behind receded and the Reds began to re-assert themselves. Keane chased everywhere in their cause, urging his team on, as Spurs began to run out of steam.

The writing was already on the wall that Tottenham's lead was about to vanish. Scholes had already forced Walker to make two world class saves to enable his team to survive a little longer. Then, Beckham headed over Tottenham's cross bar from a Giggs cross when it looked easier to score.

There were only three minutes left to the break when Scholes took the ball off Sherwood, who collapsed in a heap, protesting he had been fouled by Scholes. Giggs then sprinted upfield before returning the ball to Scholes. Beckham timed his run right as Yorke pulled Edinburgh out of position, leaving a gap for Scholes to push the ball into Beckham's path. Beckham unleashed a very fierce shot that Walker almost managed to reach but the ball flew past him into the net.

The entire stadium erupted as Beckham fell under the weight of his relieved team mates. After almost half an hour of despair, the celebrations began anew.

During half-time, I thought Spurs had played fairly well. I had one or two concerns, one of which was that Scales did not look match fit to me. Another was that Anderton sometimes seemed to be in a dream, uncertain as to what he was supposed to be doing. But there were players who deserved to be commended. Walker was one for the number of saves he was making, although his distribution of the ball remained poor at times. Campbell was a colossus at the heart of Tottenham's defence. And Iversen seemed to cover every blade of grass as he harried every red-shirted player.

Within two minutes of the resumption, the game was won and lost. Gary Neville took the ball forward and released it at the right moment for Cole, who had replaced Sheringham at half-time, to take two strides and hit the ball behind Walker. Again the stadium erupted and this time Spurs knew it was all over. They knew they would not be allowed to come back from the dead.

But Manchester United unaccountably took their feet off the pedal and began to celebrate rather prematurely, stroking the ball about as if there was only seconds left to play, instead of some twenty minutes or so. Ferguson appeared on the touchline, red faced with anger, to tell them not to take risks at this very late stage of a long season.

And then the news came through that Kanu had scored at Arsenal. Tottenham's players sniffed the air and realised that fear was again on the agenda. Cautiously, they began to push forward, looking for the goal that would deny the Reds the championship. At Highbury, everyone was listening anxiously to their portable radios and walkmans, as they urged Tottenham forward in the quest for the goal that Arsenal desperately needed them to score. Seventy years of enmity between the North London rivals was suspended for a quarter of an hour as the Highbury hordes cheered every mention of a Spurs attack.

Manchester United's instinct was to push Yorke back and pull Beckham inside so that there were six players strung across the pitch to prevent Tottenham breaking forward. Beckham and Keane worked tirelessly as did Butt when he replaced Scholes with some twenty minutes left.

In vain did Spurs search for a way through the maze of red shirts. Time slipped through the hour glass as the sands of the 1998-99 season slipped away. And then it was all over and Manchester United were champions again, for the fifth time in seven seasons. At Highbury, their hopes dead in the water, the Gooners sobbed their hearts out, broken-hearted because they had not retained the championship and had nothing to show for what in another season might have brought the championship back to Highbury.

Manchester United's players collected their trophy and their medallions. I could not bear to see Sheringham lovingly kissing his trophies, particularly as his had been a peripheral role for much of the season, as he had been injured. Tottenham fans can no longer taunt him he has won nothing since leaving us but we can remind him he was only a bit player in the success Manchester United have enjoyed this season.

And so ends the 1998-99 season. I can think of only one other dramatic finish to a season. The Tottenham half of North London will not want to be reminded of Micky Thomas's somersault at Anfield .........

Over the season, it has to be said that Manchester United and Arsenal were the best teams in the championship. Both played the sort of football that Tottenham once played.

And Tottenham? Since George Graham was appointed manager last October, there have been signs that the good days are on the way back. We may not have pulled up any trees but we have won our first trophy since 1991 and begun the rebuilding, long overdue, of the squad. I think we can be fairly optimistic that we will improve on 11th position next season. For within a day of the end of the 1998-99 season, planning began for the new season with the signing of Willem Korsten from Vitesse Arnhem for 1.5M.

Brian Judson's match preview

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