Looking Forward



Premier League

Saturday 29th September 2001

There are more stars in the Manchester United squad these days than there are in the Galaxy.  As one leaves for pastures new (because he chewed over the inner workings of the Gold Trafford dressing room), another appears in his place.

The bald pate of Barthez has lit up a few games since he joined, because of his unpredictability.  His desire to dribble the ball out from his box has nearly cost the Red Devils some goals and his desire to get forward to score is also a chink in the armour of his character.  Should any concerns about him surface or he be granted a rest, then Roy Carroll will be selected.  Signed from Wigan Athletic, the Northern Ireland keeper is being groomed to take over when the Frenchman leaves.

In defence of the keeper, the Neville Brothers ply their trade.  Gary looks like he has improved a bit lately, but Phil is only a bit part player (maybe that is why he looks like Frankenstein).  Silvestre tends to get the other flank position, while inside him, Wes Brown and Lauren Blanc have been paired together.  Brown is a big hope for club and country and can't be any worse than the two playing in the centre of defence for England at the moment.  Blanc on the other hand came in to replace Stam, although the propaganda machine at Man U say he was going to play with him.  He has had a few harsh reviews of his performances so far, but will need a little time to settle in.  His pace is the one thing that has been isolated as a weakness, which is a shame as Spurs do not really have anyone, apart from Simon Davies, who might be able to exploit this failing.  Others in the squad who could get a look in if changes are to be made are Denis Irwin (on his last legs), David May (who got a rare outing v Ipswich Town), Ronny Johnsen (same again) and Ronnie Wallwork (who is a tough youngster who was banned for assaulting a ref in a tunnel in Belgium while on loan).

Midfield reveals a rich seam of talent that is mostly home grown.  Beckham we all know about, while Scholes and Butt are also household names.  Roy Keane will be out suspended, but I personally am lookign forward to watching Juan Sebastian Veron.  What I have seen of him on the box so far looks to be a level above most players in this country.  His style and dynamic running put him head and shoulders above everyone else.  I am not sure who will do a marking job on in form our side.  Freund ??  I am not sure that he could live with Veron, but that goes for most in the League.  On the fringes is Luke Chadwick (even after his skinhead haircut), who is trying to make an impression, while Quentin Fortune is getting the odd game and looking like he could be a decent regular player at any other club.

Up front, there is a bewildering array of star quality starting with the 19 million man, Ruud van Nistelrooy.  His signing was put in doubt after his knee injury last season, but he has looked sharp and hungry for goals at Man U.  He is tall, strong and good in the air, so maybe it is lucky that we have signed Richards to take him on in what will be his debut.  Cole had a game last week and got a goal, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played alongside him and scored twice.  Players like this come in and score at will, while a 12.6 million purchase like Dwight Yorke sits it out.  That's mainly because Ryan Giggs is a regular feature of the team these days and provides a supply line to the front men, while also having the ability to get on the end of the slick passing moves that originate from the back.

The task is a big one and that is an understatement.  Last season we caught them as champions with nothing much to play for, but they still put the foot in when they started to realise they might not win.  Their desire to maintain their championship challenge along with the Champions League campaign will mean that they will be out for the three points.  Tottenham will have to be more mobile to cope with the quick breaks that will spring forward form the goalkeeper or defenders, so the side and Dean Richards could be in for a tiring afternoon.  Although we have a decent enough record against the Red Devils at White Hart Lane over recent years, this time it will need a hell of an effort to stay with them, as they have stayed out in front of all-comers with their new signings.  Thus, we will have to battle for everything that is going  ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham  1  Manchester United  2

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



Tottenham   3   Manchester United   5                                     (Half time score: 3-0)
Saturday 29th September 2001
Weather : -  Rain showers, sunshine
Crowd : -   36,038
Referee : -  Mr. J. Winter (Whitley Bay)

Scorers : -   Tottenham  -   Richards 15, Ferdinand 25, Ziege 45
                  Manchester United -  Cole 46, Blanc 58, van Nistelrooy 72, Veron 76, Beckham 87


Spurs :   Poyet  (Ungentlemanly conduct) 45, Freund (foul) 90, Perry (foul) 90

Manchester United :  Butt (dissent) 14, Irwin (ungentlemanly conduct) 45, Beckham (violent conduct) 70 


Spurs :  Sullivan; King, Richards, Perry; Taricco, Freund, Anderton (Rebrov 82), Poyet, Ziege; Sheringham, Ferdinand.
Subs not used : -  Keller, Thelwell, Davies, Etherington.

Manchester United :  Barthez; Neville, Johnsen, Blanc, Irwin (Silvestre 46); Veron, Beckham, Butt (Solskjaer 40), Scholes; van Nistelrooy, Cole.
Subs not used : -  Carroll, Chadwick, P.Neville

Without wishing to denigrate the performances of anyone taking part ... this was a fantastic match to be at !!

The first half was a joy to behold as Tottenham ripped the champions to shreds with their sharp passing and movement that left red shirts trailing in their wake.  Unfortunately, the second half saw the Manchester United stars in the ascendancy, with Spurs left trailing in a wake of goals.  The team that came out for the second half in Spurs shirts were a shadow of those who disappeared down the tunnel with the cheers ringing in their ears.

The writing was on the wall for United when Richards headed in from Ziege's right wing corner in the 15th minute.  He ducked in to head across Cole and powered a low header past Barthez.  Up until that point only Veron's wayward shot high over the bar and Cole's shot, which was half blocked by Perry, that spun wildly wide of the post had troubled Spurs.  Before the next goal came along, Veron again treated a resident in Row Z with a shot whizzing over the goal.  A good passing movement found Gus Poyet alone in the middle of the Man U half.  He looked around and Les bent his run along the Reds back line perfectly to avoid being offside, before ramming home the ball from 12 yards out, just to the right of the penalty spot.  At last Les had managed a Premiership goal and his low finish past Barthez was vintage Ferdinand.

Veron finally got one on target as a skidding shot forced Sullivan to save.  Perry was getting a foot in at the vital moment and Richards was being a rock in defence with anything that came in high or low.  As the Manchester side looked like they were losing their rag a bit (bookings for Irwin and Butt for temperamental flare ups), the balance of the game changed just before half-time.  Butt was injured in an aerial clash with Treacle and his replacement was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.  There was little he could do immediately, but his introduction made it a more attacking one for the Red Devils.

Spurs wrapped up the half with a sublime goal.  After a number of passes (I lost count of how many exactly), they were toying with Man U and when Freund lifted the ball over Irwin towards the right hand corner, it looked as though they were going to run down time.  But Gus cut inside and drifted a left foot cross to the far post, where Christian Ziege arrived unmarked to steer his header across the goal to where Barthez had just come from.  3-0 up and Spurs fans were in heaven, but you never know with Spurs and you never can be sure of anything when United are playing.

And that proved to be just the case.  When we needed ten minutes of stability to make it hard for United to get back into the match, the right wing opened up for Gary Neville to cross and Cole got in a header ahead of Taricco and 48 seconds into the second half, they had one back.  Following a corner that was headed wide by Blanc, Mr. Winter, who had a red mist before his eyes for most of the afternoon, gave another corner, from which Blanc headed in.  A third header on 72 minutes from van Nistelrooy pulled the visitors level and four minutes later they had a fourth, when Veron exchanged passes on the edge of the box and slid a shot across Sullivan form the left hand corner of the area.  When Solskjaer pulled the ball back from the left wing to a waiting Beckham on the edge of the area, it was simple for him to chest it down and drill it home for the last goal of an amazing contest.

How Spurs were so bad in the second half is a question that was on everyone's lips as they left the stadium.  The class gap is still evident, but to make the strides that Tottenham showed in the first half means that they might just be on the right track back to the top.






What can Tottenham fans say about this match ?  That it was one of the best halves of football ever played by Spurs ??  That it was one of the worst halves of football ever played by Spurs ??  Both would be true and then some.

For Dean Richards , who had such a storming first 45 in Spurs colours, he must have thought he had made exactly the right decision in moving to Spurs by half-time.  At about 4.10 p.m., he must have realised he had woken up from his dream and reality was staring him in the face.  A goal within a quarter of an hour of starting his first game and being generally everywhere on the pitch that you looked, his 8.1 million fee looked money well spent.  What followed in the second half was more worrying, although it was not all his fault.

Losing the three goal lead to three headed goals was not what Hoddle or the fans wanted to see, but the problem stemmed from the lack of cover on the Manchester United right flank.  For most of the time, Spurs got sucked into the middle, leaving the right side open and Neville crossed from there for the first goal; the second was from a corner earned on the break down that wing and the third came from the other flank.  Ziege had little cover and I am not sure if Ledley King was supposed to be playing the left of the back three, but the gaps opened up and United exploited them expertly.  Also, King was isolated with van Nistelrooy too often and there was only going to be one winner in the air there as the Dutch international had a big height advantage.

It was strange in that Spurs were predominantly attacking down their right wing in the first half.  Irwin and Scholes/Beckham could not cope with the inter-passing that was being played down that line.  Taricco was enjoying space and time, but not all of his crosses found their targets.  The first goal came from a corner on that side when Ziege swung a good ball over into the six yard box and Richards met it with his head.  The goal in injury time that gave a 3-0 lead was a "real" Tottenham goal.  Smooth passing, which spanned the length and width of the pitch, ending with a fine cross by Poyet and Christian diving low to head past Barthez.  Les' low drive to finish an astute pass from Poyet was what is expected from a striker and it is, hopefully, the start of a scoring streak from the Spurs forward.

When Butt (who had clashed earlier with Taricco) was on the receiving end from the Argentinian and had to be replaced by Solskjaer, it looked as though Spurs would get more joy with one less midfielder to be faced with and that initially happened, with a third added just before the break.  However, where Hoddle got his game plan exactly right in the first half, Fergie did it even better in the second.  Breaking down the Tottenham flanks caused all sorts of havoc and the holes that appeared in the midfield were run into by Veron and Scholes.  Spurs basically were out-thought in the second period, leading to the amazing collapse.

It could easily have been more as Solskjaer directed a free header wide, Johnsen did the same from a corner, Sullivan and Taricco jointly foiled van Nistelrooy and the Dutchman looped a shot from wide in the box just over the bar.  in fact, Tottenham had three shots on target and four off, while Man U had nine of each.  Most of these must have been in the second, because in the first half I can only recall one on target and that was from low Veron drive, pulled in easily by Sully.  It shows how the visitors dominated in the second period as Tottenham conceded space, possession and goals.  Manchester United did show some of their seamier side, with Cole's late clattering of Taz and Beckham's petulant retaliation on Freund, but their will to win in the second period was stronger.

So are there any redeeming factors to be taken form this match ?? It was a stunning performance in the first half and one which would have won most matches.  If Spurs scored three goals from three chances, then it is not a bad average, but they must be able to maintain it for a whole game.  Not many opponents would have come back form a 0-3 scoreline at half time, but not many sides would have failed to turn up for the second half like Spurs did.  Richards showed that he has many valuable attributes and is an athletic and energetic performer.  His height at set pieces will also help Spurs out as we have failed to capitalise on these in the recent past.

Sullivan had little chance with any of the goals, while the defence were a bit over-run as the Reds poured through the midfield.  Sheri and Les failed to hold the ball in forward areas when it was needed in the second half, while the midfielders presented Beckham and Co. with the ball at almost every opportunity.  From the first half, when possession was as valuable as the bonuses the players seek, they were spendthrift in comparison in the second, turning it over on numerous occasions.  

Despite winning a half convincingly, we lost another even more so.  There is still along way to go.

The Funky Phantom

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