Another point. Another game added to our unbeaten run. Another man of the match performance by Wayne Rooney. Sadly, another weekend where we fall further behind the league leaders Arsenal.
Starting XI: De Gea; Smalling, Evans, Vidic, Evra; Jones, Cleverley; Valencia, Kagawa, Welbeck; Rooney
Subs: Lindegaard, Rafael, Anderson, Hernandez, Nani, Young, Fellaini
Following the 5-0 away thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen, United went into this game with high spirits, but in truth, it was never going to be an easy game against a Spurs side who were fresh off a walloping from City last weekend, 6-0.
And Indeed it turned out that way. Spurs started quickly and played with a high tempo. The Spurs midfield, with Sandro Paulinho and Dembele, showing exactly what the United midfield is lacking. Pace, Power and Drive. And it was Tottenham who made all the early breaks, constantly cutting through the United midfield of Jones and Cleverley and putting us under pressure.
However it was United who had the best chance to open the scoring. Rooney found the ball at his feet in the box, but it was superbly blocked by Sandro.
Moments later, following another good break, Spurs were ahead. Paulinho was up ended by Evans just a couple of yards outside of the box. The resulting free kick was taken by Walker who hit a low hard daisy cutter that went under the jumping wall and past the unsighted de Gea. 1-0 Spurs!
Following the goal, Tottenham continued to swarm forward, with Paulinho, Dembele, Lennon and Chadli giving the United midfield and defence the run around. But then, 32 minutes in, United were level. Phil Jones’ cross wasn’t dealt with by Walker, and the ball dropped to Rooney who instinctively stabbed the ball past Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal to make it 1-1.
The goal was just what United needed, and it kicked them on to dominate the rest of the half, with Antonio Valencia being a constant threat to the Spurs back line.
Kagawa, who once again started through the middle after doing so well in in midweek, was moved out to the left midway through the first half as he was ineffective today and failed to capitalise on his chance in van Persie’s absence.
The second half started quite slowly, with both sides feeling each other out at first, like two boxers just gently exchanging jabs. Then in the 54th minute, Spurs midfielder Sandro gave the game a thumper of a shot. After twisting and turning and being allowed too much space, he hit a spectacular goal into the corner of David de Gea’s net, leaving the Spaniard flat footed and helpless.
But the lead lasted just 2 minutes. Following a typically robust tackle by Vidic at the back, United unleashed a deadly counter attack that resulted in Welbeck being tripped by Lloris and Mike Dean pointing to the spot, as well as booking the keeper. Rooney stepped up, and dispatched his penalty straight down the middle, to take him past Robbie Fowler into 5th on the all time Premier League scoring chart, but more importantly, back level in the game with over half an hour to play.
A few minutes later, some good interplay down the right between Valencia and Rooney left Rooney with a chance for his hattrick, this time from a free kick. Sadly it was tamely hit and the chance passed.
United had another chance shortly after. Danny Welbeck scampered down the left and somehow managed to keep the ball in, then got round Walker and he only had to slip the ball to the advancing Rooney, but Welbeck misdirected his pass and the chance was gone.
But United weren’t having it all their own way, Aaron Lennon, who had terrorised Patrice Evra all game was replaced by Andros Townsend, and the Frenchman’s game wasn’t getting any easier.
Phil Jones was booked with 10 minutes to go, after Rooney lost the ball in a dangerous position, leaving the makeshift midfielder to lunge in and pick up his 5th booking of the season and out of the upcoming Everton game. But United continue to give free kick after free kick away in dangerous positions. Some were deserved although some seemed incredibly soft. However United were fortunate that some of the deliveries and shots weren’t quite up to scratch.
United made changes in the second half with Hernandez, Nani and Young coming on to replace Welbeck, Valencia and Kagawa, but only Nani came close to making an impact on the game, with a few decent touches and movement.
But it wasn’t to be, nobody could quite make that decisive pass and opportunity to grab a winner, leaving United 9 points behind leaders Arsenal, yet just 2 points behind Liverpool and Chelsea in what has to be the most tight beginning to a league campaign in years.
Next up, David Moyes and Marouanne Fellaini’s old boys Everton make the short journey down the M62 to Old Trafford in a must win game on Wednesday evening.