COS contributor Joe Dempsey takes a closer look at an enthralling encounter at Old Trafford.
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Manchester United were able to maintain their impeccable winning streak over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, which goes back almost 21 years when Gary Lineker scored the only goal of the game to defeat United 1-0, ironically from a headed goal.
The win today also ensures United remain the only unbeaten team in the league.
They didn’t achieve that feat in the easiest manner however, and it took an outrageous refereeing decision to ensure United held out for 3 vital points.
Nani went down in the penalty area after having his shirt pulled, and cried out for a penalty, however when the decision didn’t go his way he petulantly threw the ball up in the air in disgust, thus handling the ball in open play and conceding what should have been a free kick.
The Spurs goalkeeper, Hilario Gomez, put the ball down for a free kick, but a free kick had NOT been awarded, and, with the ball still legally in open play, Nani was able to nip in and score United’s second.
The Portugal ace had already created United’s first goal, teeing up United captain Nemanja Vidic with a lofted free kick to put the home side ahead with a precision header.
Spurs gave as good as they got up until the second goal, and there are many positives to be taken out of this game for Harry Redknapp.
Van der Vaart was supremely impressive and caused the United defence untold problems, smashing against the cross bar with a sublime effort in the first half when the game was locked at nil nil, and Aaron Lennon and Jermain Jenas tested the United defence with their penetrative speed in midfield.
United though were able to hold on at one nil, and fans will have been biting their nails at the prospect of yet another case of United throwing points away from a winning position, just as they had against West Brom a fortnight ago.
United though made sure of the 3 points in dubious fashion and sit joint second in the table five points behind leaders Chelsea.
You just wonder if Tottenham are only one or two players away from being the finished article and finally being able to compete for the title themselves.
Unfortunately however, for all the pretty football Tottenham played today, they struck stark similarities with their fierce London rivals Arsenal, who also play pretty football and still don’t reap the rewards.
Tottenham now sit an unconvincing ten points behind the leaders.
As for United, they were still just about worth their win. The score was 1-0 to the home side before the debacle and United didn’t look like conceding in the closing stages, rarely troubled by Spurs in the dying embers.
Nani was still able to hit the woodwork with a stunning drive from far outside the box and the score line could have been three-nil, which would have slightly flattered the Old Trafford outfit.
The protests continued at full time and United manager Sir Alex Ferguson looked just as bewildered as his counterpart Harry Redknapp as the teams trudged off into the dressing room.
While things looked desperate for Spurs, things are finally starting to shape up at Old Trafford. The Wayne Rooney saga is now a footnote, and along with the emergence of Javier Hernandez as one of United’s most promising fledglings, another player is finally coming to the fore.
Nani, despite his sulk at not being awarded a penalty, and subsequent goal afterwards, was one of the best players on the pitch. He is finally emerging from the massive shadow Cristiano Ronaldo left looming on the wing after his departure to Real Madrid.
He has the skills, the fancy footwork, and the ability to test the keeper from long range, though he is no Cristiano Ronaldo when it comes to free kicks, tamely shooting into Gomez’ arms in the second half from a promising position.
To say he could be the next Ronaldo is a little unfair, he isn’t nor will he ever be Ronaldo, he is Nani, and he is making his finally starting to make his own unique impression on the premier league.
The inquest into this game has only just begun, but things look good at Old Trafford after rivals Manchester City succumbed to defeat this afternoon.