Manchester United (Away)
Saturday 22nd October 2005
For once, Tottenham go to Old Trafford as an equal rather than an under-dog. Having "won" at the Glazier Dome last season, it will be another test of how far Spurs have progressed since January, when Pedro Mendes' "goal" saw Tottenham take the spoils ... or would have had it not been for Clattenburg. As it is, Graham Poll will preside over the match between the sides placed second and third in the table, with Spurs on top for a change.
With the good play Spurs are exhibiting so far this season, it will be a game that pits Martin Jol's footballing beliefs against those of the man who tried to pick his brains to put into the Man U pattern a couple of years back. With the team settling down in terms of personnel, they could play a style that they are all getting to know. United on the other hand, have had a few downs in their season so far, with their European campaign not going as well as they might have imagined.
One summer signing that has impressed for the Reds is Edwin van der Sar, who has made the goalkeeper's position at Old Trafford his own. The tall keeper has looked very good in goal for United, with last season's incumbent between the posts - Tim Howard - banished to the bench. With a good eye for coming off his line and a fine set of reflexes, the Dutchman has been a star for his new side, but, as always, he is not the best at crosses. This might leave Mido or Rasiak opportunity to put him under pressure.
What will happen, is that
he will rely on Rio Ferdinand to head away the balls that come in the
air, with John O'Shea there to help out too. Both players are
better on the ground, but their height is a major asset in keeping the
crosses from doing damage. Wide of the central two, Mikael
Silvestre and Kieran Richardson will play as the full backs. With
Gary Neville missing, Ferguson has had to resort to playing midfielder
Richardson in the right back slot, where he utilises his speed to get up
and down the line. Silvestre plays in a similar vein on the other
side of the back four. If the England midfielder can't make the
team as he is injured with a thigh problem, then Manchester United might
continue with Philip Bardsley at full back, having made his first team
Premiership debut at Sunderland last week. Missing Argentinian
Gabriel Heinze, it is a big loss for the defence, as he is a strong
tackler and a good distributor of the ball. Wes Brown could be
used, but he seems to have dropped down the pecking order somewhat.
Darren Fletcher can also play in defence, but he will probably be put to work in midfield, alongside Ji-Sung Park, Paul Scholes and Ronaldo. Fletcher works hard and his movement off the ball is good too, but he lacks a little in his covering, so our midfielders who push on might find themselves unmarked. Park is better at his defensive duties and also has a fair bit if skill with an ability to get into the box. He hasn't scored yet, but he has shown the knack of getting into the area on a regular basis. Alan Smith has been groomed as Roy Keane's long term replacement and with the Irish captain missing, he might feature to match the determination of Edgar Davids, in what could be the battle of the match. However, Fergie might consider a more attacking option with Scholes deployed in the midfield to fire shots on goal from distance. He also brings players into the game much better and is more of a rounded midfielder. Ronaldo will face a lot of stick from the Spurs crowd if he plays, as he was arrested in connection with a rape charge this week. A highly skillful wide player, he looks a little heavy these days, which night make his dancing feet a little more lethargic. However, if the side is seeking width, he is one fo the few options, with Gigs out with a broken cheekbone.
Up front, United can choose from van Nistelrooy, Rooney and Guiseppe Rossi, who made a goalscoring Premier League debut at the Stadium of Light. Ruud van Nistelrooy is a consummate finisher, who has a liking for scoring against Spurs, but with a fit defence, he might find his task a bit harder than normal. He has height, pace and the ability to hit the target unerringly, which makes him so hard to contain, but the side did a good job on him at Old Trafford last season and might do better this time. Rooney, everyone knows about. Strong, powerful, fiesty, fiery and dangerous ... in more ways than one. The only tactic with him that Spurs can employ is to close him down as soon as he gets the ball. Our defence is good at blocking and might need to be at the top of that part of their game on Saturday.
Despite their poor form in the Champions League and losing to Blackburn at home, United are still a formidable side to face. However, Spurs will not have a better chance to show what they can do against a top side and I think that they are believing that they can go to places like Old Trafford and not be second best. Martin Jol's winning mentality should start kicking in and it might result in ...
PREDICTION : - Manchester United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.
MANCHESTER UNITED : Ryan Giggs (fractured cheekbone); Kieran Richardson (thigh); Gabriel Heinze (knee); Quenton Fortune (knee); Roy Keane (fractured metatarsal); Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (knee); Gary Neville (groin); Louis Saha (knee); - (-);
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : - Noe Pamarot (knee); Wayne Routledge (broken foot); Anthony Gardner (thigh); Ledley King (thigh); Goran Bunjevcevic (broken toe)
available on BBC radio, it can be heard in these countries on these
|Manchester United 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1 (Half-time score : 1-0)|
|Premier League||Venue : Old Trafford|
|Saturday 22nd October 2005||Kick Off : 15.00 p.m.|
|Crowd : 67,856||Referee : Graham Poll (Tring)|
|Linesmen : Andy Garratt; Peter Kirkup|
|Fourth Official : Uriah Rennie|
|Weather : Dry, warm|
|Teams : -|
Van der Sar
Bardsley (Rossi 82)
Fletcher (Ronaldo 75)
Lennon (Keane 65)
|Colours : - (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)|
|Scorers : -|
|Cards : -|
|Match Report : -|
|Much had been made of
Manchester United's decline into mediocrity, but more should be made of
Tottenham's improvement in this entertaining draw, which could have gone
either way at the end. A fine second half performance reinstated
the Spurs side's rising profile as a team to be reckoned with.
Even the concession of an early goal could not spark United into a performance that would overwhelm Spurs, but for all the possession they had in the first half, it was nothing to that Spurs had in the second, dominating the half and taking the initiative. A free-kick, given when the intervention by Dawson on the speeding Rooney despite the lack of a meaningful contact, was curled in by Scholes and van Nistelrooy's header was dropped by Robinson a few feet out and Silvestre stuck out a leg to knock the ball under the despairing keepers dive. The goal came as a shock. Not because of it's early arrival, but because of the rare event of Robbo making a mistake and the home fans' mocking "England's Number One" taunts were only firing him up more to make sure they would not get past him again.
The Tottenham goalie redeemed himself with a smart push aside from Smith's neat move in the box and shot. With the attacking side of the Tottenham game starting to get going, Lee went down under a lunging tackle from Bardsley without a response from the poor referee Rennie. Why he is ever allowed to take charge of Premier League as games is a mystery to me, as he regularly spoils games for the fans and the players are also frustrated by his approach to applying the laws of the game (see their reaction with Jol at the end of the game). Further appeals for a spot-kick came when Mido took a long pass from King and curled a shot from 20 yards that had the sting taken out of it when Ferdinand turned away from it, but his hand was clearly in contact with the ball in the area.
United could have gone 2-0 ahead when a long cross from Fletcher on the right found it's way through to O'Shea. Luckily, he tried to take the shot at the far post with his right foot and succeeded in guiding the ball softly into Robbo's arms. Another player might have hit it with their left, getting more power behind it.
Despite Spurs giving the ball away on regular occasions and United passing it around comfortably, there was little incisiveness about their play and it was Spurs who could have scored near the end of the first period. Firstly Mido took an ambitious volley to Defoe's cross that flew into row ZZ and then Defoe ran into space to hit a shot that bounced awkwardly in front of van der Sar, who dived to push the ball aside.
In all truth, the score was probably about right at the break. Spurs not being that confident all over the pitch and United not knowing what to do when they had the ball. But whatever Martin Jol said and changed at half time certainly made a difference. Probably getting the team to believe that they could get something from the game and moving Davids infield, while playing Lennon on the left could have something to do with it.
It started well, with Defoe finding some space on the right and drilling a shot-cum-cross along the six yard line, with nobody following in. From one of a number of corners Spurs were winning, Ledley rose highest to head goalwards, but it lacked power and van der Sar plucked it out of the air easily. As United tried to break with pace, Spurs were finding the game getting strung out a bit. Dawson produced the tackle of the season to deny van Nistelrooy when Rooney's back-heel put him in on goal, but the England Under-21 defender got his leg in front to stop the United striker's shot in the 55th minute.
When Spurs did have the ball, they were making better use of it. Making United chase them and then releasing the ball at the right time made the Tottenham side a more difficult proposition. Spurs were finding joy out wide and although they failed to make the most of it, they were pushing United back towards their own goal. This precipitated a rash of yellow cards, the first of which was a cynical hack on Lennon from behind by Rooney, who had lost the ball and executed his foul in a fit of pique (the emotion not the unused Man U sub).
Then it happened. Davids went into a tackle with Alan Smith and Rennie waved yellow. The fifth caution of the season ruled Edgar Davids out of next Saturday's North London derby. It was a challenge that had been made five or six times before in the match, but had not warranted a yellow card. Just like the current front cover of MEHSTG indicates ... many refs are notching off Edgar's name in their "famous" list of people they have booked. Jenas was the next celebrity booking for a foul on Park, who then got kicked by Stalteri ... yellow.
It was all going to pot, with the whistle the most common factor in the game, but one such award of a free-kick, when Ferdinand scythed through the back of Defoe outside the area, brought the equaliser. A group of white shirts huddled over the ball, with Defoe keen to have the kick, but Davids pointed at Jenas and as the England midfielder strode up to take the kick, you felt the Dutchman knew what he was talking about. The ball arced over the wall and into the top corner to make it 1-1. The joy of the players was matched by those in the stands, including one Steffen Freund, who was attending with his son.
Things could have got better seven minutes later, when Carrick struck another free-kick from distance and saw it bounce back off the bar, with van der Sar not completely aware of his bearings. Mido was hacked down by Bardsley for yet another yellow card and with play switching ends rapidly now, Robinson did well to dive to stop a low, skidding shot from Park, fellow countryman Lee did well in getting a foot on a volley from Scholes and Davids charging down the ginger midfielder's free-kick.
The biggest worry for Spurs came in injury time, when a Scholes corner found Ronaldo unmarked and his bad week got worse, when he put his free header wide of the goal.
As far as Spurs fans were concerned, it was the best outcome of the game, as it allowed Tottenham to share the spoils and on the second half performance, they deserved that. The change in formation made it harder for United to break down our right and shored up the midfield, leaving more option to attack the frail United defence.
Not as much controversy as in last season's corresponding fixture, but the same result and another step in the long march to the end of the season.
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - JERMAINE JENAS
|HOLD ON TO WHAT YOU GOT|
|The great thing about our point at
Old Trafford wasn't just the Jermaine Jenas free-kick, but also the way
in which the team played together in the second half to deny Manchester
United space and time in their own back yard.
At one time, being one goal behind at United's Theatre of Glazing might have well been two or three, as the heads would drop and the home side would have run in goals at will. Nowadays, Spurs are a different proposition. No more will they be whipping boys. It is the away game at Bolton (01.02.05) when Spurs last conceded more than two goals and that was on a freak night of strange refereeing decisions.
Now, talking of strange referees ...
Has anyone wondered how Rennie is fit enough to be a Premiership referee ? He lumbers about and never seems to be up with play, but neither does he seem to take the advice of his assistants, who are nearer to the action. Karate or kung-fu he might be an exponent of, but he ain't no grasshopper. His interpretation of the laws of the game also leaves the fans exasperated and Martin Jol appeared none the wiser than us laymen (and women) as to why Edgar Davids' tackle was worthy of a yellow when Alan Smith was getting away with murder (most foul tackles). Frankly, I wouldn't want to be Rennie (even with all the black belts he has), when Davids and Jol faced him at the final whistle.
The way that United dominated the first half was nto reflected in terms of goals and they suffered with a reliance on Rooney to run the show. When he was running, he caused problems. Like the foul that Dawson was supposed to have made on him that lead to the first goal, but Spurs managed to keep him quiet in the second period. Except for one flick that put Ruud van Nistelrooy in, but then Michael Dawson stuck out a long leg to stop the Dutch striker getting a shot on target.
Robinson's slip looked like he was thinking about what he was going to do with the ball after he had caught van Nistelrooy's header, but it popped out and Silvestre popped it in the net. For our keeper, he was desperate to try and stop the follow-up, but couldn't and I bet his professional pride was hurt, but he dealt with everything else that United threw at him with typical efficiency.
Stalteri looked like "Bambi on Ice", as he slipped regularly on the Old Trafford turf. He was given a tough time, but he tried to stick to his task, while on the other flank Lee frankly had some leeway to attack on the flanks and nearly earned a penalty, but like last week, his claim was waved away.
Why Sven bothers with Rio Ferdinand I don't know. If he wanted an example of cool, skillful defending, he needed to look no further than the Spurs skipper, who had a dominating game. Good on the ball, good in the air, good on the ground, good all round, Ledley is the man to play in the England side. Especially when you compare him to the rash challenges that Ferdinand made and got away with, until he kicked Defoe down from behind and Jenas punished him with the free-kick that flew over the wall and into the net with van der Sar rooted to the spot. A telling moment when Davids took control of who was taking the dead-ball set-piece, sending Defoe away and pointing at Jenas to be the man who struck the ball sweetly into the top corner.
That wasn't David's only contribution, as he got stuck in, played the ball simply and led by example. With Carrick playing second fiddle, the Dutch midfielder rolled back the years to show his imperious reign in the centre of the pitch. Carrick blossomed a bit in the second half and hit the bar from a free-kick, but it was Jenas' coverage of the ground that impressed. He ran and ran and still got back to cover. He was the undoubted man of the match, but quite a few were not far behind him.
For the forwards, they had to make their own chances mostly. Defoe threatened with a shot out of the blue just before the break and produced a good save from the United goalie, while Mido had a shout for a pen when Rio managed to make it look like he was pulling his hand away from the ball when the curling shot from the Egyptian hit it. While Aaron Lennon had trouble getting round the lanky O'Shea, when he switched sides to attack Bardsley, he had more joy, but ultimately, there were few openings for the front two to score.
So, a real team effort that won a huge amount of possession in the second half and that stopped United's movement towards the Tottenham goal. Jol showed that he can inspire this team to do well against sides who were expected to be in the top four and with another coming up this weekend, perhaps the Dutchman can get even more out of them.
The Funky Phantom
|Other scores this weekend :|
|Aston Villa||0||Wigan Athletic||2||Saturday|
|Blackburn Rovers||2||Birmingham City||0||Saturday|
|Bolton Wanderers||2||West Bromwich Albion||0||Sunday|
|West Ham United||2||Middlesbrough||1||Sunday|
|9||West Ham United||9||4||3||2||14||8||15||+6|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||10||2||2||6||9||18||8||-9|
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