Old Trafford prepares itself for the first home game of the new season, and what a duel we have in prospect. Two teams that have time and again served up breathtaking football and never ever seem to disappoint. Harry Redknapp’s great entertainers are in town as Fergie’s men prepare for their first real test of the new season. There is something about this game that always serves up top drawer football and at times high voltage controversy.
Although both teams have other more prominent and traditional rivals as geographically Manchester and North London stand apart, yet the atmosphere is always charged up as both sets of players simply hate being at the wrong end of a bad result. United have more often than not had the upper hand in this encounter however Spurs have always given the Red Devils a run for their money.
Both these managers – Harry and Fergie, have always been strong advocates of the very English 4-4-2 with wingers bombing down the flanks and sending in one cross after another. The tempo of these games is usually lightning fast and with both teams adamant on playing at breakneck pace, there is no time to relax.
Man United in the recent past have raided the North London club, first for their midfield lynchpin Michael Carrick and then for their star-forward Dimitar Berbatov. And United’s pursuit and subsequent success in those transfers has further added to this perpetually entertaining clash. The presence of these two figures of hate for Tottenham fans coupled with the revival of Tottenham under Harry RedKnaap has definitely lifted the profile of this encounter; this is no more just a starter, Man United v Tottenham is now part of the main course.
With the first encounter between the two just a few days away, here’s a look back at some of the most memorable United wins against the Spurs in the recent past:
Tottenham 3-5 Manchester United (2001-02)
No United fan needs another reminder; no Red Devil will ever forget this most memorable occasion. Although Man United have always prided themselves in their ability to conjure up unlikely comebacks, this was something out of this world. Back from the dead and how. It was the proverbial game of two halves, as Fergie’s United virtually turned up an hour later, Glen Hoddles’s Spurs ran riot in the first 45 minutes racing into a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead at the Lane. Ferguson took out the fabled hair dryer and possibly a few boots went flying around the dressing room at the break. The United gaffer took Denis Irwin and Nicky Butt off and introduced super sub Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer. The Norwegian came on, as he would for years, and turn the game on its head; the sacrificial lamb had turned into a tenacious ferret and Spurs fans looked worried. First Andy Cole, then Laurent Blanc and then Rudd Van Nistelrooy scored in under half an hour to level the scores. Four minutes on from the equalizer Solskjaer and Scholes combined to put Veron through and United lead for the first time with a low left footed drive.
The travelling United contingent went delirious as Beckham added sheen to the score line with a fifth. Spurs didn’t know what hit them as despondent Lily Whites’ supporters began to desert White Hart lane.
Tottenham 0-4 Manchester United (2006-07)
White Hart Lane was the venue and Man United were in red-hot form, as they decimated the Londoners in their own backyard. There was no early lead this time around for the Spurs, as United took charge from the word go. Cristiano Ronaldo was the architect; the Portuguese ran riot and poor old Spurs were left clueless. Goals from Ronaldo, Scholes, Vidic and Giggs gave Ferguson’s side a handsome lead and so the gaffer decided to use all of his three subs. However the desicion looked to have backfired as Edwin Van Der Sar broke his nose and United couldn’t bring on a substitute keeper. But cometh the hour, cometh the man. John O’shea stepped up and even made a brilliant save one-on-one against Robbie Keane as United’s bench grinned in delight. One of the great United moments of the decade as the Reds continued their march towards wrestling away the crown from Mourinho’s hitherto dominant Chelsea.
Manchester United 5-2 Tottenham (2009-10)
United were locked in a two horse race at the back end of the 2008-09 campaign with eternal foes Liverpool at their tail. After Macheda had salvaged United’s lead at the top with a last gap winner against Villa, the Red Devils welcomed Spurs to the Theatre of Dreams. Both teams lined up in their customary 4-4-2 as Spurs looked to have taken the initiative after Darren Bent slammed home from close range from a Corluka cross. Things got worse for the home side as Lennon tore Evra to shreds from the right wing and Modric doubled the lead, to send shock waves across Old Trafford. Deafening silence all around the Theatre of Dreams as problems mounted in pursuit of the title. After the interval Carlos Tevez was introduced to replace the beleaguered Nani, however Gomes refused to let anything by. Wayne Rooney, Dimatar Berbatov, Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo formed a fantastic front four and laid siege on the Tottenham goal. United finally got through but not without bit of good fortune, Wayne Rooney threaded in a beautiful ball through to the rushing Carrick, Gomes rushed out got the ball but the man too. Howard Webb pointed to the spot and despite numerous pleas from the Tottenham players, the decision stood. Ronaldo took a deep breath and converted the spot kick. The crowd sensed blood and Red Devils, singing their lungs out, brought the roof down.
There was always only going to be one winner after that, as Rooney equalized with more than 20 minutes to spare. Then the moment arrived as Old Trafford’s golden boy Cristiano Ronaldo headed home the third after Rooney had provided a perfect cross from the left flank. Two more goals were added to rub salt in Tottenham’s wounds, as United secured three vital points in the quest for their 18th league title.
Manchester United 2-1 Tottenham (1998-99)
May 16th, ’99 – it was the final day of the League season and United had to better Arsenal’s result to pip the Gunners from retaining their Premier League crown. This was the first step towards the historic treble and as is the case with Man United everything must be done the hard way. So, staying true to the course of the script, it was Spurs who took the lead on the day of reckoning. Dwight Yorke had the first real chance of the game but he he knew very little about it as his attempt to block off the keeper’s kick almost trickled in. Less Ferdinand became an instant Old Trafford villain as his lob successfully managed to evade a back-pedaling Schmeichel; 1-0 to the North Londoners as anxiety rose amongst fans inside the Theatre of Dreams. The players realized the gravity of the situation and responded in their customary swashbuckling manner but it seemed that the football gods had contrived against them. With time and patience running out, David Beckham stepped up and slammed home a brilliant shot in the top right corner.
United however needed more than a point and they went about getting it with all their might. The winner came from piece of individual brilliance from Andy Cole – great control, vision and immaculate execution culminated in a goal to die for. Days later Fergie’s Red Army reached the promise land – the ‘Treble’.
Manchester United 3-1 Tottenham (2010-11)
Man United had lost their main protagonist, Cristiano Ronaldo to the lures of Real Madrid. There was skepticism amongst United supporters following Ronnie’s departure. Wayne Rooney’s ability to lead the line was now under spotlight; could Wayne be the leading light at Old Trafford? No prizes for guessing that Spurs would be the side taking the lead. They did so via Jermain Defoe, but United looked the stronger of the two sides and equalized as Ryan Giggs rolled back the years with a brilliant free kick.
Anderson suddenly found his scoring boots, or perhaps bought a new pair, as the Brazilian scored his first United goal to silence the Lane. But Paul Scholes had a rush of blood and was sent packing by the referee; Spurs were thrown a lifeline as ten-man United held on. Rooney though, rose to the occasion and playing as the lone man upfront, displayed admirable composure and skill to put the United bench on ease. This was the first occasion that Rooney’s credentials were tested as the solitary striker and he passed the test in flying colors and to cap it off scored a brilliant third goal that ensured yet another famous win at United’s home away from home.