A sneak into Premier League archive- Manchester United vs Tottenham
The football season in England and the home countries are off and running and the writers of SportsKeeda are toiling hard everyday to bring the best of analysis from the English Premier League on a daily and hourly basis. Why not have a rest from the present and take a stroll down the memory lane to recapitulate one of the finest games in Premier League history. Sit back and enjoy!
Manchester United are regarded as kings of comebacks yet this prestigious tag could not have scripted a better come from behind win for the Red Devils since the Premier League’s inception when Sir Alex Ferguson’s boys paid a visit to White Hart Lane on 29th September, 2001, to take on Glenn Hoddle’s brave Tottenham.
Playing his favoured 4-4-2 combination against Spurs’ 3-5-2 tactical arrangement, Sir Alex was looking to use this tricky game as a launchpad to kick start a somewhat stuttering opening leg of a brand new season. The trip to North London came on the back of a moral-sapping Champions League loss at Deportivo La Coruna and there was enough evidence that the Champions looked vulnerable at the back whatever their attacking options might have been.
With influential midfielder Roy Keane suspended and Ryan Giggs rested for the Spurs clash, the onus fell on Juan Sebastien Veron and Paul Scholes to control the middle of the park against a clever, agile and athletic Tottenham side that always banked on wide players with tremendous counter attacking abilities. Given Glenn Hoddle’s importance on set pieces, it was of no surprise that German left-winger Christian Ziege was a constant threat to the United defence not only for his effective set pieces but also for his link up play from left back to central midfield.
Glenn Hoddle gave debut to his new 8 million pound signing Dean Richards bought from the manager’s former club Southampton. It was a good signing at that time which, honestly, never really took off in the long term. Yet Richards will always remember his debut game given the entertainment it produced for the whole of ninety minutes which can only be described in memorable archives. The game could be easily divided into two halfs which either team dominated and the whole world was stunned at the manner in which the champions came back into the game after being 3-0 down going into the break.
United’s vulnerability at the back was always going to be a concern for Sir Alex and Spurs set out to take full advantage of that by relying on set pieces and long balls in addition to slick passing game. The home side were rewarded for their adventurous approach to the game when debutant Dean Richards got past his marker, that is, Ruud Van Nistelrooy to head home a Christian Ziege corner kick from the right. 1-0 Spurs and what a dream debut for Deano.
Despite United’s one touch football, the visitors were having immense problems tackling a hard working Spurs midfield trio of Gus Poyet, Darren Anderton and Steffen Freund. To put it in simple terms, United were being outplayed and out-thought by a neat football playing side managed by a tactically efficient manager. The home side doubled their lead in the 25th minute when Mauricio Taricco, reveling on the right hand side with the amount of space he was being provided with, found Darren Anderton who in turn passed to Gus Poyet and the Uruguyan produced a neat ball that Les Ferdinand met with great skill and pace by spinning and turning Frenchman Laurent Blanc before firing a powerful low shot past Fabian Barthez. White Hart Lane was ecstatic brimming with confidence that Spurs could make it four in a row against the side from Old Trafford after three successive 3-1 wins in the previous seasons. Frankly, Spurs deserved to be in the lead as the home side’s midfield embarrassed Sir Alex’s men. United were pegged back by injury to Nicky Butt and although the visitors sent in an extra attacking forward in the form of Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tottenham continued to pour forward after restricting the opponents to ineffective long range shooting and amazingly before the first half whistle went off found themselves 3-0 up with their third effort on target. In added time, Taricco again found Poyet who crossed for Ziege and the German capped off an impressive first period performance with a fine header past Frenchman Barthez.
Not only the Spurs and the United fans were left stunned by the extraordinary developments of the first half, the Premier League was left wondering whether Tottenham had punctured a big hole into United’s pride!
Such embarrassment made Sir Alex Fergusson angry at the sight of his players producing a negative performance and one can easily think of the tongue lashing David Beckham and company received from their manager. Because what happened in the next forty five minutes can only be scripted in dreamland for United fans were to be treated by the comeback of the decade and this was only possible by a team that have scripted so many memorable comebacks under their evergreen die hard Scottish manager Sir Alex Fergusson.
The Red Devils started the second half just the way Spurs finished off the first period. The visitors pulled a goal back within a minute of the restart when David Beckham crossed to Gary Neville and Andy Cole dived in to head home the right back’s cross. It was 3-2 soon when on the 58th minute Laurent Blanc rose up well to head in David Beckham’s corner and the fightback was truly on as Spurs were not able to match United’s passing game and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Mikel Silvestre and Juan Veron were masterminding the comeback that looked so unlikely at the break. The home side were pegged back at their own half and it was a matter of time before the equalizer came when Norwegian Solskjaer picked out Silvestre and the Frenchman, probably for the very first time in the match, found an otherwise ineffective Ruud Van Nistelrooy and given the striking instincts of the Dutch striker the visitors were leveled as Nistelrooy headed past Neil Sullivan after seventy two minutes. 3-3 and the Red Devils were now sensing real blood to win the match.
The inevitable did happen as one of the architects of this amazing match Juan Sebastien Veron put United into the lead four minutes later with a low 18-yard shot past Sullivan’s left corner and David Beckham put the icing on the cake as he hammered a shot past the hapless Spurs goalkeeper three minutes from time to round off a memorable Premier league victory that would remain engraved in every football fan’s memory for years to come. One question that comes to mind is how could United write these amazing comeback scripts that even render Hollywood plots irrelevant and boring.
The match was virtually divided into two halves as Spurs scored all three goals in the first period with probably their three chances of the game. United proved they are the masters of recovery by scoring amazing five goals in the second forty five minutes to destroy Glenn Hoddle’s seemingly early winter party.
Hope the 2010-2011 Premier League is lit by games of these calibre and quality.