A bad day at the office for our midfield meant that a game that started spectacularly ultimately ended in tame surrender as a ten-man United team deservedly strolled away from WHL with the three points.Â
Harry went for the conservative option when deciding how to replace the missing Modric and Robbie Keane began on the left side of midfield with Peter Crouch making his full league debut for us alongside Defoe. Giovani wasnâ€™t even on the bench. King and Bassong both made it from treatment couch to take their places at centre back, giving Harry one less unpleasant problem to solve at least.
There was little time to digest all this before in the second minute Palacios robbed a dithering Berbatov in midfield and knocked the ball square to Assou-Ekotto. His immediate deep cross towards Crouch was headed up in the air by Vidic and Defoe emphatically and acrobatically scissor-kicked us one up.
Perhaps picking out a sometimes lightweight midfield as our soft underbelly Ferguson had selected a feisty United team and the match soon got tetchy as Palacios and Huddlestone struggled to cope with the pace Scholes and Anderson were dictating. Unweighed down by principles or loyalty, Berbatov was finding space to link up play effectively and after half an hour a desperate challenge on the Bulgarian by Palacios gave away the free kick from which United equalised. Giggs curled a shot over an off-balance Cudicini.Â
We were under pressure but not overrun so still in the game but then some sloppy defending and a poor clearance from King gave Anderson the chance to put United ahead just before the break. The goalscorer celebrated with what look liked a mock spray of machine gun fire into the home end. Classy. The away fans briefly turned up the volume but in general the noise from the lower Park Lane was just a bit of mildly irritating feedback.
Jet-lagged and booked, a well under par Palacios was replaced by Jermaine Jenas at halftime but the balance of the game changed little. Crouch and Lennon were causing occasional problems, but Defoe was struggling to find space and fight off Vidic and Ferdinand whilst Keane was anonymous. Optimism was lifted when Foster just got his fingers to a lovely curled Jenas shot and Crouchâ€™s header came off the top of the bar from the resulting corner. Scholesâ€™ timing of a pass has always been better than that of his tackling and the ref gave him a second yellow after yet another late slide in after the ball had gone. Ferguson responded with a sub, Berbatov went off to a crescendo of boos, Carrick came on to generous applause. Berbatov looks now a neat and skilful footballer. When he was with us he was an outrageously talented striker who looked a class above the majority of those around him. He may be filling a few holes in his medal collection but he looks to be going backward as a player.
The post Scholes period of the game is almost too depressing to write about. Redknapp decided that getting down the flanks and stretching the ten men was the way to go. He made the point extravagantly from the touchline to Assou-Ekotto that he should be bombing down the wing and then replaced Corluka with Hutton with presumably the same instructions. BAE got forward a couple of times but the Scot not once. Hutton was dreadful. Thereâ€™d been no threat down Unitedâ€™s left all game and now all of a sudden Evra was claiming a large swathe of the Tottenham grass for France. United slowed the game down to that of a mournful trudge as we struggled to make our manpower advantage tell â€“ assuming we really had one that is. Robbie was so ineffectual that those around me questioned whether or not the sending off had just in fact reduced the sides to parity. Rooney scored Unitedâ€™s third from a quick break and that was that. White Hart Lane was emptying well before the end.Â
The day had a depressing dÃ©jÃ vu feel to it as the bubble of early optimism was pricked good and proper by a team quicker to press and quicker to pass. We knew weâ€™d made a good start to the season, this game though just brought home that itâ€™s nothing to get carried away about.
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