Looking Forward

 

MANCHESTER UNITED (Home)

Premier League

Sunday 21st December 2003

As Manchester Galaxy roll into town with their Milky Way of stars, Tottenham lick their wounds from a mauling by the Magpies and being penalty kicked out of the Carling Cup by Boro.

I don't think that many Spurs fans would give them a light against Man U on Sunday, with the league champions currently nicely placed in second with time in hand to move in on top spot.  And the three points against Tottenham will help them in that endeavour.

Tim Howard has proved himself a capable keeper since his signing from America and it would have been nice if we could have seen if Bobby Convey could have had the same impact for Spurs on the left wing, but thanks to the Home Office, we will never know.  Barthez had dropped out of the picture at Old Trafford, but Roy Carroll will deputise should anything befall the Yank.

Defensively, Rio Ferdinand will be playing like a man condemned.  He will no doubt want to finish with a flourish should his eight month ban be upheld, with Phil Neville or Roy Keane alongside him and brother Gary and John O'Shea outside him.  G. Neville always looks suspect, but does well enough to get away with it, while O'Shea is a great footballing defender ... not something you always want, but he adds another dimension to the attack by marauding up the line.  Rio has improved, by cutting out the ball skills in his own last third and concentrating on defending first and foremost.  Mikael Silvestre offers another option on the left with his forward thinking play and a little bit more pace, but if he is not talking to the rest of the English players in the squad, his lack of communication might affect his performances.

Nicky Butt has been missing out in midfield, but he will no doubt play in this one and play very well.  A layer linked with a move to Spurs, he is a player who does not stand out, but he is effective in a quiet way.  Paul Scholes is from the same school, but can pop up to get in on the end of a lot of moves and get back to act defensively when required.  Quinton Fortune usually plays wide on the right in midfield (or defence), but might be restricted to the bench on his return to White Hart Lane.  New Brazilian Kleberson looks a skillful creator and one who is very mobile, who, alongside Keane (if he plays in midfield) are a good blend.  Giggs provides a tricky outlet on the left and his form has been good for club and country, much like that of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has become the step-over king of the Man U team, taking over from Philip Neville !!  His skill mesmerises defenders and it will be interesting if he and Postiga both play to see how they match up against each other. 

Others who might feature in midfield are Eric Djemba-Djemba, the Cameroon international, who has yet to fully adapt to the Premiership and Darren Fletcher, who did much to get Scotland to the play-offs of the Euro 2004 competition.

No introduction is necessary for Ruud van Nistelrooy, whose scoring record is highly impressive ... even compared to Fredi's !!  Other strikers they have to choose form are Diego Forlan, who has overcome his poor scoring start to get among the goals and speedy youngster David Bellion, snatched from Sunderland and still integrating into the first team.

Whatever XI are fielded by United, I can't imagine Spurs getting much change out of them.  I just hope that we do put up a better showing than we did last Saturday and one more like last season's 0-2 defeat, than the second half when we lost 3-5.  With Richards missing, it might actually help to have Doherty or King in the middle of defence, as they will be more mobile against the movement of Ruud and Forlan.  Our midfield will be given a big test to match United's for determination and tackling, while our forwards will need to take any chance that comes their way, because there will be no room for error and every opportunity should be regarded as one of the few we will be allowed.

While we desperately need to start picking up points, I can see no further than a result of

PREDICTION : -   Tottenham  0     Manchester United   3

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.

VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE

How do you think your team have played this season ?

It's not been one of our better starts but then when you look at the table it is! I think that has to do with it seeming to be a poorer league this year than any I can remember. SKY play it up as the best in the world but the derby game last week showed how poor some sides can be - they may have some class players (or who were class), but we play games now against some opponents who just don't seem interested - or willing to show that Keano like fight to win.  That's not us being arrogant. We want to be challenged, given a good game. At the moment we're winning, but we sometimes don't get out of gear - and that does us no good in Europe at all.  Major changes have taken place in the summer (and don't believe the press - most Reds weren't that  bothered when Becks left though we of course miss his input, thankfully the circus around him has gone), so
we've suddenly got a young side. But we dread to think what would happen if Ruud got injured.  Tim Howard has been nothing short of spectacular.


Who do you think is your best player at the moment ?

Keano has been immense and as I said, Howard has looked like he's been there for years. Rio makes the odd cock up but has handled all that's gone on well.  But Ruud and Scholes are different class. Scholes is our best player - and it's only now really being recognised by the press. Without him we look lost.


Which player isn't playing as well in recent games ?

John O'Shea hasn't really got to grips with that 'second season' syndrome and Ronaldo has good and indifferent games. But he's only young so we've got to give him time. Klerberson has come on leaps and bounds and Forlan remains the enigma - as a Utd fan you either think he's 'got it' and will come good or think his recent goal spell was a bizarre fluke.


Any exciting new names in the squad that we should look out for ? 

Kleberson for the touches and Djemba Djemba (DJ DJ) for a lunatic like dedication to try and copy Keano. We've got a very good youth side coming through and they have been all elevated to the reserve team so hopefully watch this space.


What is the line-up expected to be ?

God only knows! Hopefully Ruud and Giggs together and a more attacking outlook than having, however well they are all playing (it just makes us too defense minded), Phil Neville AND Quinton Fortune in the same side.


What do you your fans think of Tottenham ?

It's not meant to be a dig by saying we don't consider you a major rival. We don't really think of Arsenal as such but recent seasons and title battles have made it be that way. Ours remain the ones that have always been there; Liverpool. Siddy. Leeds DisUnited. The 'random' nature of the fixture programme has meant we've played you so many times at the end of the season where it feels that both sides want a United win. Certainly I've always enjoyed our games, particularly at WHL. Just seems, or seemed for sure, to be two attacking sides going all out to win rather than settling for a draw. So we've had some classic encounters. Obviously the 5-3 - which was amazing - but I remember a 4-0 defeat in the 80s when Hoddle and Waddle destroyed us. I don't know the ins and outs obviously but in the 80s you were part of the big five and I'm amazed it's no longer the case. The ticket prices would be welcome if they were reduced as well!


Which Spurs player do you like ?

Robbie Keane because he doesn't seem to give up. And I have to say Carr always seems like a classic attacking full back.


What do you reckon the score will be ?

Not sure. Just depends on which United sides decides to turn up. But saying that we've got a great away record so far so obviously it'll have to be a good performance to beat us. I'm hoping for some as last year - Bolton beat Arsenal and we win. I won't get started on Wenger...

Thanks to Charles
Red News
www.rednews.co.uk

PLAYERS UNAVAILABLE

TOTTENHAM : -  Simon Davies (hip/thigh); Christian Ziege (thigh); Dean Richards (knee); Jamie Redknapp (knee); Bobby Zamora (calf)

MANCHESTER UNITED : - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (knee)

COVERAGE : 
TV :  Live on Sky Sports 1
Radio :  BBC Radio Five Live 909/693 MW; TalkSport 1089 MW (London area only)
Internet :  www.spurs.co.uk   Live webcast  (subscription only)

 

 

Tottenham   1      Manchester United   2     (Half-time score : 0-2)
Premier League
Sunday 21st December 2003
Venue : -  White Hart Lane
Kick Off : -  16.05 p.m.
Weather : -  Cold, clear
Referee : -  R. Styles (Portsmouth)
Crowd : -  35,910
Teams : -  
Tottenham : -  
Keller; Carr, Richards, Gardner, Taricco (Ricketts 64); King, Anderton (Poyet 19), Dalmat (Postiga 77), Konchesky; Keane, Kanoute
Unused Subs : - 
Hirschfeld, Doherty

Manchester United : -  Howard; G Neville, Ferdinand, O'Shea, Silvestre; P Neville, Keane (Butt 83), Scholes, Fletcher (Ronaldo 79), Giggs; Van Nistelrooy
Unused Subs : -  Carroll, Forlan, Fortune

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Manchester United
Scorers : -  
Tottenham  -  Poyet 62

Manchester United -  O'Shea 16, van Nistelrooy 26

Cards : -  
Tottenham  -  Taricco (foul) 45, Konchesky (foul) 

Manchester United -  Giggs (shirt-pulling) 81, Scholes (foul) 90 

It seems strange to disagree with the Tottenham manager after we have run Manchester United close, but lost out 1-2, but for David Pleat to say we were worth a draw is a big joke.  He must have had his reading glasses on when he was sitting up in the Directors box in the first half, as anyone could clearly see we were outplayed with ease by this United side for the first hour of the game.

From the second minute, when Giggs flicked a foot out at a Gary Neville cross and knocked his effort inches wide, it was obvious that the United side were going to run out winners.  Or should I say stroll out winners.

The first effort Tottenham had was a low cross into the area from Dalmat on the right wing, that both Keane and Kanoute missed, then van Nistelrooy broke away at the other end and his fierce shot was kept out by Keller and grabbed before Scholes could get the rebound.  The Dutchman was able to get through as Carr was playing him onside on the far side of the pitch and Tottenham struggled against the tactic of van Nistelrooy hanging back in an offside position until coming back onside just before the ball was played through.

The first goal wasn't long coming, with a corner from the Man U left wing finding it's way over a weak jump from Anderton and Kanoute's loose marking of O'Shea allowed him to volley home from close range.  Nothing had been learned from last week's goals conceded at Newcastle.

Tottenham did almost hit back straight from the kick off when Carr's long ball down the middle found Robbie Keane's head and his looping header just failed to have enough height on it to clear Howard.  Spurs had to make an early change with Poyet coming on for the obviously unfit Anderton.  The just as for the first goal, Tottenham had a good spell culminating with Keano setting up Poyet to drill in a low shot from outside the box at the Park Lane end, but Howard got down well to it and palmed it aside.  Then a breakaway through Scholes found Giggs and his astute pass through the middle left van Nistelrooy a straight run on goal.  His shot looked as though Keller had it covered ... until, it flew up off the challenge from Gardner and it took the ball away from the Spurs keeper and into the net.  25 minutes gone and two down.

It started to look as though it was a question of how many after last week's collapse at Newcastle.  Gigs ran through the defence to hit a shot that Keller half-parried out and then Taricco got a booking for a bad, late tackle on Gary Neville's ankle right on half-time.  Could things get worse ?

Well, when Konchesky got booked after the break, it looked like we might not end up with eleven players at the end, what with Styles being the ref.  Just before the hour some electric passing from United tore Spurs to shreds.  Dalmat tired to make a pass on the corner of the United box and with five passes, they moved the ball to the other end of the pitch and van Nistelrooy shot across Keller and missed the far post by a couple of feet.

It came a s a major surprise when Keane (Robbie) worked the ball out left to Konchesky and his cross was hoisted to the far post.  Kanoute jumped for it with O'Shea and they both missed it, although Dalmat was alert behind them.  His volley back into the six yard box was met by Poyet, who got a contact on the ball.  Howard got to it, it got through him and seemed to take an age to go in off the post.

Ricketts came on for Taricco about ten minutes after a farcical episode when the Argentinian was set to leave the field, only for Pleat to change his mind and Rohan was left standing there freezing his bits off.  Spurs almost grabbed an unlikely equaliser when Dalmat produced a fine chipped ball into the area and Keano just failed to get a decent volley on it and it slipped off the outside of his foot and away.

In the closing stages, Tottenham huffed and puffed but could not seriously threaten the Manchester goal.  Ricketts was through on the right when things opened up for him, but he was caught between shooting and crossing and hit a shot that Howard was right behind.  Kanoute flicked the ball up for him to hit a volley wide and both Giggs and Scholes were booked for bad tackles in the remaining minute or two of the match.

The manner that Man U took the lead and played the first half meant that there were times when it looked like they were coasting.  For them to do that with half of their first team meant that Tottenham had to do something in the second half and the effort and determination was better, but playing for half an hour against Man U is not enough.  Approach games like that and you will not only get beaten, but you will get relegated.  Don't go out thinking you are going to lose, even if you are.  Someone needs to instill some spirit in the side and quickly, as our next few games could determine the rest of the season.

MEHSTG TOP MAN : - STEPHANE DALMAT

Steve Dawkins

 

GRAND CANYON

 

I don't know whether to be happy or sad.  Happy because we got so close to getting a draw.  Sad because we were so inept in the first half.

That first half saw Tottenham cede so much ground to Man U, you would have thought Robert Mugabe had moved in and claimed independence.  We paid as much respect as you could possibly imagine ... more than a bunch of American rappers.  Man U took everything that was going and only a good pair of hands belonging to Keller prevented a bigger half-time margin.

And it is the margin between the two teams that worries me.  David Buchler might have come out at the AGM and said that we are a lot closer now to Arsenal because they didn't demolish us at Highbury a month ago, but if he really believes that this result means we are closer to Man U than last season, he needs to see a shrink.  The man speaks only for effect and has nothing of substance to say that will encourage a Tottenham supporter.  The gap between Tottenham and Manchester United was plain to see in the first hour of this match, when they looked capable of scoring every time they got the ball, whereas we looked like we able to provide them that ball as we turned over possession without any great problem.

Man U pressure you all over the park.  They close you down, they make you back off when they run at you and their movement is fantastic.  No, I don't support them, but you have to appreciate good football to know what you want from your own team when they are not playing well.  The five man move that moved the ball from one end of the pitch to the other inside a few seconds showed just how good they are.

Yes, we might have played them on a good day, but then you have to get things from the best teams if you want to challenge.  What we did was sit off them and only when we started to have a go at them, did we see that they are vulnerable like everyone else.

We never really deserved a point out of the match, but we could have sneaked one.  Gus' effort gave us hope and the ball was heading towards Howard's end more often.  But they were always in command.  We were all huff and puff against the effortless ease of United.

2-1 was a good result for everyone.  They got the points to take them to the top of the tree at Christmas, while we were happy with not getting thrashed.  But reading between the lines, the single goal margin only papers over the cracks again.  Like the win over Wolves a fortnight before, it is a false dawn and the real work starts in preparation for the game at Portsmouth.  That is where we need to start opening up a gap.  The one between Tottenham and the top can wait for another day.

Marco van Hip

22.12.2003

Sorry, if it's just me, but what in the name of a half-dozen defenders is David Pleat talking about?  We deserved a draw against United? He was encouraged by the second-half fight-back? We don't have to worry about a relegation battle?  The last time I heard this kind of ridiculous spin-babble-dementia it was Glenn Roeder ignoring the obvious as West Ham sank into the abyss.

We are in deep, deep trouble friends. The dismissal of Hoddle has done nothing to improve the form, passing, passion or league position of the current side.

And Pleat's post-match rambling seems to be surpassed only by his pre-match strategy session where, apparently the brains trust decided to play six defenders (again) against a United team that absolutely thrives on settling into their stride and then picking teams apart.

Here in North America we can see United play almost every week. It's been that way for years now. And anyone can tell they absolutely hate to be hassled and harried and Pleat played right into their hands. King and Konchesky are both, at best, defenders so their inclusion meant again that we played with six defenders and a midfield without bite or balance.

Seventeen games into the season we are two points off the drop zone. We could be in the bottom three by January. We have taken one point off a top side this year. Our home form is skittish. Our away form is appalling. The farce of a caretaker manager for almost an entire season would be laughable if it wasn't so misguided. This is not mid-table safety, it's not challenging for Europe, it's a relegation battle, pure and simple. 2003 has been a dismal year for THFC - this just isn't a bad run of results or a dip in form. It's a year-long malaise that clearly points out this squad isn't nearly good enough.

Here's to better things - wiser spending, a real manager, steady defending, a midfield, a bit of honesty - in 2004.

Tim May

23.12.2003

Dear Wyart it wasn't that bad on Sunday.  As soon as Anderton went of a sigh of relief from me; Dalmat is a star - to beat top players like that is a gift; our very own Giggs.  Let's get a manager preferably Martin O' Neill and lets get it on big fella.
HAPPY XMAS
PHIL 'GREAVES' CLOSE

 

Other scores this weekend :
Birmingham City P Middlesbrough P Saturday
Blackburn Rovers 0 Aston Villa 2 Saturday
Bolton Wanderers 1 Arsenal 1 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 0 Newcastle United 0 Saturday
Everton 3 Leicester City 2 Saturday
Fulham 0 Chelsea 1 Saturday
Leeds United 1 Manchester City 1 Monday
SCBC 3 Portsmouth 0 Sunday
Wolverhampton Wanderers P Liverpool P Saturday

 

League Table
 
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 16 13 1 3 34 11 40 +23
2 Arsenal 17 11 6 0 31 12 39 +19
3 Chelsea 17 12 3 2 31 12 39 +19
4 SCBC 17 7 5 5 18 12 26 +6
5 Fulham 17 7 4 6 28 23 25 +5
6 Newcastle United 17 6 7 4 25 20 25 +5
7 Charlton Athletic 17 6 6 5 22 20 24 +2
8 Birmingham City 16 6 5 5 14 18 23 -4
9 Liverpool 16 6 4 6 23 18 22 +5
10 Bolton Wanderers 17 5 7 5 17 23 22 -6
11 Everton 17 5 5 7 20 22 20 -2
12 Middlesbrough 16 5 5 6 12 15 20 -3
13 Manchester City 17 5 5 7 24 23 20 +1
14 Aston Villa 17 5 5 7 16 23 20 -7
15 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 17 5 3 9 19 26 18 -7
16 Blackburn Rovers 16 5 2 9 22 26 17 -4
17 Leicester City 17 4 4 9 25 28 16 -3
18 Portsmouth 17 4 4 9 18 25 16 -7
19 Leeds United 17 4 4 9 18 33 16 -20
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 16 2 5 9 13 35 11 -22

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