Written by Yolkie from 7Cantonas.com
Tottenham Hotspur claimed a well deserved win at Old Trafford for the first time since 1989 as Manchester United’s lethargic first half performance proved costly.
Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale scored first half goals and Clint Dempsey sealed the result early in the second half after Nani had pulled one back for United – Shinji Kagawa scored shortly after Dempsey’s strike, but despite a second half domination, the Reds were unable to get a result.
The starting line up gave concern to some; with Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs named in midfield against a Tottenham side that have recently started to enjoy better form after a difficult start to the season. The visitors grabbed an early lead – in the last league game at Old Trafford, a Dutch defender scored a fine solo goal, and Vertonghen’s effort was just as welcome to the travelling supporters, though his finish took a slight deflection.
Ferguson’s side didn’t respond; United were pitiful all over the pitch and were punished heavily when Gareth Bale sauntered through the midfield and defence unchallenged to slide home Spurs’ second goal and put them out of reach. Such was the low standard that the reds were performing to, that it took until close on half time, and a half hearted effort from Nani, to produce their first effort on target.
Predictably, Ferguson’s half time motivation worked a treat; not least due to the replacement of Giggs for Wayne Rooney. After a fine midweek performance, Rooney’s energetic contribution early in the second period was vital to United getting back into the game. It was his cross that was converted by Nani, yet less than 90 seconds later, Dempsey was putting the ball in at the other end to deflate the home crowd and put the game beyond the hosts.
Almost instantly, Kagawa’s sharp turn and effort reduced the arrears, but Spurs’ renewed resolve and concentration proved too much for United to overcome. Michael Carrick flicked the crossbar with a header that looked more like an intended flick on, while Paul Scholes tested the fingertips of Brad Friedel, but United were never within serious reach of getting a leveller despite their territorial domination.
Scholes’ effortless masterclass in the second half was every bit as brilliant as the first half’s display had been abject, and ultimately it was in vain – the legend was undoubtedly United’s best performer but he was just as ineffective as his team-mates in the first half. Ryan Giggs might get a shedload of criticism though it was Rooney’s introduction rather than the Welshman’s removal that was the trigger point for the Reds’ temporary revival; Kagawa, goal aside, was poor again, as was van Persie. Nani was as he ever is (for better or worse), while Michael Carrick’s unimpressive start to the season continued. Perhaps the most worrying sign was to see Rio Ferdinand so poor. After such an inspired performance at Anfield, the realisation that there are two more months without Nemanja Vidic and a long spell without Smalling or Jones, it’s hoped that Ferdinand’s performance was more of a blip than an indication of an inevitable, age-led decline.
The cliche goes that all teams have an off day, and they do – so on that basis, it has to be considered that United were simply not at the races in the first half, were comprehensively punished, and were not able to recover despite making a decent fist of it in the second half.
However, Ferguson’s side have been far from convincing all season long so far; at Everton, and against Tottenham, they were found out, and the victory at Liverpool came about more as a gift from the Scousers than a product of the managers selection. Whether United are paying the price for a hectic and interrupted global pre-season, are unable to adapt to the new systems, or are simply just underperforming at present is not exactly clear; and while it is too early to jump to any hasty conclusions, with many of the same concerns dogging supporters about the side, it might be worthwhile suggestion to our esteemed manager to send all of the side on the kind of break Rooney went on, if the second half is anything to go by.
Man of the Match : Paul Scholes – for United at least, and even if for only the second half, his performance was just about the only bright spot to take away from the game.