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Man Utd show guts to pursue glory

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Phil McNulty | 17:39 UK time, Saturday, 24 April 2010

Patrice Evra may have taken it too literally - but in the space of ten minutes he demonstrated that it is guts as much as glory that lies at the heart of Manchester United's relentless pursuit of success.

In the opening moments of the second half, as a struggling United fought to set the platform for a priceless victory against Tottenham, Evra was bent double on the Old Trafford turf.

Evra, overcome by sickness and stifling heat, was violently ill several times and needed lengthy attention before he was in a fit state to continue.

When he did resume, his response to his plight was to provide a cross that almost allowed Dimitar Berbatov to set up a goal for Darren Fletcher then win a penalty with a surge into the area that was abruptly halted by Benoit Assou-Ekotto's foul.

In the absence of Wayne Rooney, possibly missing for United's final two games with a groin injury, Evra epitomised the spirit that dragged Sir Alex Ferguson's side to a priceless three points.

Nani was in similar strife to Evra before the final whistle, but he also summoned up the strength to make a pivotal contribution as United secured the win they needed to play on any frayed Chelsea nerves.

Patrice EvraEvra overcame fatigue as he made a telling contribution to his team's cause. Photo: AFP

Evra's charge allowed Ryan Giggs to put United ahead from the spot - but Spurs looked to have inflicted a serious wound when Ledley King equalised with 20 minutes left.

In his programme notes Ferguson urged United's fans, despite the tension that comes with the sharp end of the season, to: "Relax if you can and soak it all up."

Easier said than done.

And what might have given Ferguson hope that a title campaign that was arguably within 19 seconds of extinction before Paul Scholes' winner at Manchester City may yet end in triumph, was the composed manner in which they responded to the setback of King's goal.

Nani's growing maturity was in evidence once again when he took a pass from Federico Macheda, a bold introduction by Ferguson in place of defender Rafael, nine minutes from the end and timed the delivery of his finish perfectly to loft the ball over the onrushing Heurelho Gomes in front of an elated Stretford End.

The Portuguese winger was then fouled by Wilson Palacios for Giggs to conclude proceedings from the spot. And as a stone-faced Ferguson strode off at the final whistle, pausing for a brief punch of the fists, the message from Old Trafford was clear.

It was this - United will track Chelsea all the way to the final day of the season, accompanied by the rich irony that any sort of result for Liverpool against Carlo Ancelotti's side could actually send the title to Old Trafford for a record 19th time. How will The Kop feel about that unpalatable prospect?

With Rooney reduced to a spectator's role in an executive box, United spent the first 45 minutes mourning his loss. Spurs came out in sympathy to make for the dullest spectacle imaginable.

United raised their game after the break, showing that they can get their hands dirty if Rooney is not around to provide the glitter.

And as with Scholes at Eastlands, Ferguson's old guard played its part as Giggs, seemingly immune to tension after a lifetime at the top, slotted two penalties.

United's cause was helped by a performance from Dimitar Berbatov that showed many more of the qualities that made him the club's record buy at £30.75m from Spurs. It was not blockbusting stuff, but the Bulgarian worked tirelessly and his instinctive touch led directly to Evra winning Giggs' first penalty.

Berbatov is always going to be judged alongside his price tag, but to suggest he does not care is an insult. Maybe it was a symbolic gesture when he stopped to roll his sleeves up in the first few minutes, and there was more than enough passion on show to please Ferguson.

For Spurs, this represented a huge disappointment, a squandered opportunity to take advantage of a United side stripped of Rooney and Rio Ferdinand. History tells us this is the sort of chance they make a habit of missing, given their wretched record of 67 away matches without a win against the so-called "Big Four."

NaniNani has grow in stature for Man Utd this season. Photo: Getty

Hopes of an unlikely win flickered after King's leveller, courtesy of another grim example of Michael Carrick's flimsy defending, but Spurs did not produce enough to claim even a point.

Harry Redknapp knew as much and sounded like a flustered General Election pollster as he talked about the possibility of "a nine point swing in a week" that may yet see Aston Villa emerge as a contender for the top four if they beat neighbours Birmingham City.

Redknapp was in the mood to make one bold prediction with some certainty, namely that he believes Fabio Capello will not resist the temptation to take his captain Ledley King to the World Cup.

Unlikely as it seems given King's unreliable fitness record, watching this imperious defender in action at Old Trafford was enough to make anyone wonder about this possiblity, given the uncertainties surrounding Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. The bigger gaps between games that will allow him recovery time is also a prime consideration.

King's ability to emerge periods of enforced inactivity and play to the highest level - one first-half block from Berbatov was from the top drawer - not only marks him out as a freak of nature but also makes you wonder what might have been had he been blessed with good physical health throughout his career.

To the untrained eye King appears, even now, to nurse himself through periods of games and this may yet force Capello to ignore his claims, but he is an operator of the highest class and a huge influence when he is fit enough to take the field.

The disappointment felt by Spurs at this defeat, and performance, will be soothed by the statistic that states six points is a respectable return from three games in swift succession against the top three.

United will now chase six points from their visit to Sunderland and a last day meeting with Stoke City at Old Trafford - and the sort of spirit shown by Evra and Nani will stand them in good stead for the shredded nerves of the final fortnight of this campaign.

You can follow me throughout this season at twitter.com/philmcnulty and join me on Facebook.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    A few questions

    (a) Can Man U beat Spurs without the ref giving dodgy free kicks/penalties
    (b) How many penalties have been conceded by Man U at Old Trafford
    (c) Does anyone seriously believe that decisions even themselves out

    Spurs were the better team by the way

  • Comment number 2.

    good article, Phil

  • Comment number 3.

    spurs may have been the better team but the two penalties were stone wall in anyones eyes..ifnot i think you may need 2 pay a visit to specsavers..good article by phil as ever

  • Comment number 4.

    it suprises me that there are people who think man utd dont deserve to be given penalties by the ref even if they are genuine and deservingly.nani has matured to be excellent player

  • Comment number 5.

    Great post phil... Its all upon Chelsea now... Lets see who the real men are... And I just cant not love Nani with his performance today...

  • Comment number 6.

    First half was one of the worst games I've seen this season with no shots from either side (though LEdley King had an excellent block to deny Berbatov a goal). I think one of the differences between this Man Utd and the great teams they have had in the past is that this one sits back after they scored and try to hit on the counter, whereas in the past they would have kept attacking. It almost cost them today though Nanis goal was an excellent Messi type finish and the late penalty probably put a shine on the result that Spurs probably didn't deserve to be honest. STill a lot of football to be played and Sunderland are strong at home and Stoke are resilient away so no certain 6points for Man Utd. Chelsea though do have a difficult next two games. Still all to play for I think.

  • Comment number 7.

    Dear Webb Of Deceit,

    Please stop being so sadly predictable. First post (Yippee!). Just a pity you didn't actually make some sort of reasonable point over and above the usual whining.

    United were slightly better than Spurs. Your claim to the contrary is ludicrous.

  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry, but how can anyone even consider claiming Tottenham were the better team? The were run ragged in the second half, and I can't remember a shot of theirs except for King's goal - which should have been avoided if Rafael hadn't been a muppet, and could even have been given as a foul by King on Carrick (although I think it was legitimate). United on the other hand showed passion, desire, and excellent football in the second half to create great chances, score a lovely goal, and win 2 stonewall penalties.

    And the first half was pretty poor except for the last 15 minutes, where again United were the better team. Even the stats given by the BBC show United clearly ahead on shots on target, possession etc.

    How anyone can have that big a chip on their shoulder to claim Tottenham were the better team is beyond me!

  • Comment number 9.

    Spurs were the best team? Was there another version of the match played in some sort of parallel universe on a different channel?

  • Comment number 10.

    Webb of Deceit
    ----
    The reason we get penalties is that we are always piling on the pressure and your players make mistakes. They were both penalties no question and to say spurs were the better team makes me think you watched a different game.

  • Comment number 11.

    To 'Webb of Deceit' both the penalties today were stonewall. Even Redknapp admitted it. And BTW I don't know which game you were watching but United were clearly the better side.

  • Comment number 12.

    Good Result for Manchester United today, I hope Stoke get something out of their game tomorrow at Chelsea. Manchester United also have to play Stoke at the end on the season at home. I expect Liverpool to win or draw against Chelsea and that is where United will capitalised on Chelsea and go top and win the Premier League! (19th)

    My predictions:
    Manu bt Sunderland and bt Stoke
    Chelsea bt Stoke, draw Liverpool and bt Wigan
    Manchester United would be Champions!

    I expect Spurs to finish 4th, Manchester City 5th and Liverpool 6th

    I hope my predictions are correct!

  • Comment number 13.

    Is it just me or is watching Man U and Chelsea fight for the title year on year really boring?

  • Comment number 14.

    A few questions

    (a) Can Man U beat Spurs without the ref giving dodgy free kicks/penalties
    (b) How many penalties have been conceded by Man U at Old Trafford
    (c) Does anyone seriously believe that decisions even themselves out

    Spurs were the better team by the way


    A few answers
    a) Yes. We did that today.
    b) Question has no relevance to today's game
    c) ?????
    Guess you were re-watching the Spurs-Chelsea game on DVD!

  • Comment number 15.

    As a Spurs fan I cant complain about the penalties, both were definite penalties.

  • Comment number 16.

    As a Spurs fan I will admit that Man U were the better side and Spurs definitely haven't played as well as they did against Arsenal or Chelsea. But I am sorry to say that the second penalty wasn't one and that reflects again the vary predictable scenarios that happen at Old Trafford. Think about all the decisions that go Man U's side when they are at home and compare them with other teams, it's shocking!

  • Comment number 17.

    Phil -good blog. It did seem at one time if both Evra and King had been struck by the same malaise, both looked as if they had eaten some 'dodgy seafood' - I don't know whether it was the warm weather or what, but in fact quite a few players took the opportunity when there were breaks in play to take on some water; sign of the emerging British summertime perhaps? Incidentally when Evra eventually left the pitch, he got a standing ovation from the Stretford End as he approached the tunnel.
    I thought Berbatov was trying to show willing throughout and he made one or two tackles and serious efforts to win the ball early in the game -but its just not his style! However it was Berbatov's vision and skill which created the passage of play leading up to the first penalty -which it definitely was! I think Berbatov is 'living on his nerves' at the moment (its hard to tell sometimes given his languid style) and it takes time for him to attempt anything exceptional in the early stages of a game; its only when he has made a few good movements, passes, or 'assists' that his confidence starts to return. We are however still only seeing his 'second game', we need to see much more of his 'hitting the back of the net', but I'm afraid its unlikely to happen this season!

  • Comment number 18.

    To Webb of Deceit...sorry, both penalties merited in my opinion. Ask yourself this question - if it had happened at the other end would you have wanted a penalty for your team? I suspect you would.

    And sorry, Spurs not the best team today. Harry Redknapp was asked the question afterwards and he had no complaints about either the results, or the penalties.

    Manchester United deserved the win.

  • Comment number 19.

    berbatov played quality today and mad a major contribution to our first goal. once again rafael made a massive mistake, first against bayern munich and nw against tottenham for ledley kings goal.

  • Comment number 20.

    Nice article Phil - as always, as for the question is it getting boring watching Chelsea and Man U this is the best premiership for a long time - wait until next year when Man C really start buying and Arsenal get a decent keeper to make it 4 horse race.

    nothing to do with the article but well done to Eddie Howe today getting Bournemouth promoted!!!

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm a united fan but have always rated Ledley King, it's such a shame he's suffered with injuries because I remember one time when he got a run in the England squad he looked such a fine player, it didn't surprise me that he was a one time Inter Milan target.

    A real pity, but I don't think he should make the World Cup - however good he is.

  • Comment number 22.

    Just one thing wrong there, Phil - Spurs have failed to win in 67 *away* games against the "Big Four". Quite obviously they've now only gone one game without beating one of the Big Four...

    Determined stuff from United again. This season we've rarely approached our best, but we've shown amazing resolve to keep at it, recover from defeats and keep up the pressure on Chelsea. Even if we don't win the title, I believe we can still be pleased with the grit we've shown in pushing it all the way.

  • Comment number 23.

    Webb, Spurs created maybe one clear cut chance in the second half apart from the goal that I can remember and United has upwards of 60% second half possession and for the first 10 minutes of the second half this was 70% perhaps take your rose tinted specs off.

    The first penalty was absolutely undeniably a penalty. Perhaps the fact that not even the spurs players complained about it (in a sport where everyone complains about pretty much everything) tells you as much. The second penalty whilst not as clear cut was a pretty blatant penalty given that nani was past him and he bumped him over.

    Dodgier was your goal mate, king has both hands on Carrick's shoulders and is using him as a support and arguably stopping him jumping. Oh and need I mention Lennon's audition to compete with Tom Daly in the Olympic high dive competition in 2012. Take your rose tinted specs off and show some humility.

    Oh and the good old man u get more penalties at old trafford than they concede. I'll point you towards possession stats again, and point out that if u dont get into the United box you cant hope to get a penalty and for the most part spurs didn't and the opposition dont get there nearly as much as United do into their box. Deal with it

  • Comment number 24.

    What idiot coined the term "stonewall penalty"? It was either Alan Hansen or, most likely, that shining beacon of useless punditry, Chris Kamara....and now every dope uses it.

    It makes no sense whatsoever. A "stone cold certainty of a penalty" would be about the closest thing that actually makes any sense.

    Stonewall is a verb. To stonewall is to engage in delaying tactics. The only way in which it can and should be used in a sporting context is to describe defensive batting in cricket.

    People are so stupid at times it defies belief.

  • Comment number 25.

    The title is United's because they show perspiration even when inspiration is missing, their attitude is spot on, that is what is missing from the rest, I mean lets be honest, should United win the title, it will be as much by default as Chelsea should have wrapped it up on several occasions (and Liverpool should have won it last year).

    Yes, the United fans will say "ah but all that counts is crossing that line in 1st place" and you cant argue but the fact is that in the last 2 seasons, they were shown up bigtime in Europe (cut the whingeing about Fletcher being the difference in Rome - Fletcher epitomises perspiration not inspiration) and also you were unlucky against Bayern (when the draw was made, you could not have had an easier path but still messed up).

    United's likely crowning should be applauded in terms of their attitude but lets not kid ourselves, it will be symptomatic of the decline in the Premier League in quality terms.

    One final point, Lampard was quoted in a rag last week as saying the last min Scholes goal had an affect on Chelsea later on against Spurs. That comment tells you why United will win the title, they have the right attitude when the going gets tough and dont give in, you get the feeling that Chelsea were hoping to win the title on the back of other's failings, the irony will be United will win the title on the back of their failings.

  • Comment number 26.

    Good fight back against a good team today.
    Both penalties were.

    Surprised (but then not I suppose given it's Mancini) that City didn't go more attacking against Arsenal. I reckon a point at Eastlands is all you need Spurs (and you may not even need that)

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    25. At 10:03pm on 24 Apr 2010, John wrote:

    The title is United's because they show perspiration even when inspiration is missing, their attitude is spot on, that is what is missing from the rest, I mean lets be honest, should United win the title, it will be as much by default as Chelsea should have wrapped it up on several occasions (and Liverpool should have won it last year).

    Yes, the United fans will say "ah but all that counts is crossing that line in 1st place" and you cant argue but the fact is that in the last 2 seasons, they were shown up bigtime in Europe (cut the whingeing about Fletcher being the difference in Rome - Fletcher epitomises perspiration not inspiration) and also you were unlucky against Bayern (when the draw was made, you could not have had an easier path but still messed up).

    United's likely crowning should be applauded in terms of their attitude but lets not kid ourselves, it will be symptomatic of the decline in the Premier League in quality terms.

    One final point, Lampard was quoted in a rag last week as saying the last min Scholes goal had an affect on Chelsea later on against Spurs. That comment tells you why United will win the title, they have the right attitude when the going gets tough and dont give in, you get the feeling that Chelsea were hoping to win the title on the back of other's failings, the irony will be United will win the title on the back of their failings.


    Hope you're right about a United win
    Defiantly spot on about the decline of the Premier League.

  • Comment number 29.

    Well played United, definitely deserved the victory. However I'm confused over Harry's changes - why put Bale into defence when he has literally destroyed Chelsea and Arsenal when put on the left wing? Assou Ekkoto was hopeless at right back, clearly only likes playing as a left back (and a great one at that).

    However, well played United. I said I'd be happy with 5 points from these games, so 6 points is really respectable.

    I'm still confident for 4th, and I reckon United will get the title. Gosh, haven't we helped you the past 7 days? ;)

  • Comment number 30.

    Stone wall penos, we still need Chelsea to drop points. When that happens only then can you really justify waxing lyrical about United.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    UTD away to Sunderland - tough game! Only that Steve Bruce is ex-Utd, I think, so that is 3 points for Fergie. What is wrong if Rafa sends out a second-string against Chelsea presumably for them to gain experience (a la Wenger in Carling Cup)?
    Spurs can never be trusted. Remember 1999? Last day of the season and they capitulated to ManU leading 1-0. Ginola taken off for no apparent reason. Perhaps the reason was that Arsenal will have won the league if Spurs had even drawn on the final day.

  • Comment number 33.

    I was shocked watching this game, amd I don't shock easily.

    NANI LOOKED LIKE A FOOTBALLER.

    It'a the second time in a month. Last time I put it down to the fact that if anyone can have an off day, the converse must be true and anyone can have an on day ,,, but two in a month.

    What happened to the Nani we know and have grown to be exasperated by ? Running round in circles or into blind alleys with all the composure of a stressed out tourettes sufferer. (I am not a United fan but how could someone with that kind of talent consistently deliver so little).

    If United win the title it will be because the likes of Nani, Fletcher, Park, Scholes, Giggs etc have produced the goods in the absence of Wazza.

  • Comment number 34.

    Another decent show from utd to keep ticking over waiting for a chelsea slip up, hopefully on its way from anfield next week. Don't think anyone can argue with the penaltys, although a few here make a good job at it.

    Nani's game 2day reminded me of the way ronaldo used to play for us, losts of moments of frustration, only to turn on the class and win the game. (note im not comparing him to ronaldo etc, im just saying it reminded me of his usual form)

    Berbatov, another so so performance, enough today maybe not against a top class back four (the two full backs 2day had shockers). Looks like a man totally shot of confidence at the moment, we need to realise he'll never be wayne rooney and get behind him to play the best he can.... his way. Still a great player, needs that break to get his confidence back. Though even then does he fit into utd's system?

    Oh and EmergingFromGorse, this is totally unrelated to football much like your comment. You may be right about stonewall not being used correctly when coined by someone originally. But to call every football fan who uses an idiot? Generally when a word or phrase is used to a degree where it is common place it is accepted as part of the english language, see the oxford english dictionary for new additions at each publication. So if it is now commonly used by football fans to describe a certain penalty and the description is fully understood and accepted by another, then the phrase has now undertaken a new context and so is being appropriatley used??? I'm no english teacher, im not even english, but im sure you'll agree i have a point?

  • Comment number 35.

    Good blog Phil. No arguments about the penalties, either of them.

    Can anyone shed any light on the Evra / Nani sickness problem? Would be interesting to know if there's some sort of bug going around - I seem to remember that happening to Spurs a few years back.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    A better blog Phil. Your previous blogs about Utd, to me, seem to be written with gritted teeth. But this one seemed abit more genuine and unbiased.

    Utd deserved it and as you and others have already said they were both penaltys.

    #24 - spot on mate, just what I was thinking.

    And Phil, caught you on MOTD2 I think, last week at the derby. You look nothing like your picture up above!!
    Is that an old pic?
    Journolism hard work, is it?

  • Comment number 38.

    35, you must be talking about the Case of the Poisoned Lasagna before the last game of the season again West Ham a few years back. Any excuse will do for the Lilyswites.

  • Comment number 39.

    Re: Nani

    I don't know why people are surprised about this guy. The problem is in media/football-speak a player is either rubbish or brilliant. There's never any in-between.

    Nani has taken an absolute slating in the past that has been completely over the top. Three crosses cut out, he can't play football etc. Berbatov's taking the same criticism at the moment as well but that's another debate.

    So because Nani has been written off you all act surprised when he has a good game. How about getting off the bandwagons and realising that wingers/flair players can often be inconsistent and reliant on confidence and inspiration. If you start grasping that, you might not be so surprised about football and footballers.

  • Comment number 40.

    I was disappointed by the tactical changes made by 'Arry today. I thought we would have been better with Assou-Ekotto at LB and Bale LM, with Modric and Huddlestone in central midfield. We look so much better after we reverted to that in the second half.

    The first penalty was blatant. For the second penalty, technically the contact began outside the box, but it continued inside it and so it was a penalty. I'm unhappy with Assou-Ekotto and Palacios, and not the ref. I only caught the second half, but I thought the referee was doing very well. I can't remember any decisions I disagreed with.

    Regarding the 67 AWAY games without a win, it's a bit of an unfair stat. Firstly, please remember the Pedro Mendes goal in the 90th minute of a game that finished 0-0. The number would be 23 at most, not 67, if it wasn't for that shocker of a decision.

    You also have to put that stat in context. The Top Four don't lose many at home, and when they do it is most commonly to another Top Four side:

    2009/10:
    United = 2 losses (Chelsea, Villa)
    Chelsea = 1 loss (Man City)
    Arsenal = 2 losses (United, Chelsea)
    Liverpool = 2 losses (Arsenal, Villa)

    2008/9:
    United = 1 loss (Liverpool)
    Chelsea = 2 losses (Arsenal and Liverpool)
    Arsenal = 3 losses (Chelsea, Villa and Hull)
    Liverpool = 0 losses

    2007/8:
    United = 1 loss (Man City)
    Chelsea = 0 losses
    Arsenal = 0 losses
    Liverpool = 1 loss (United)

    2006/7:
    United = 2 losses (Arsenal, West Ham)
    Chelsea = 0 losses
    Arsenal = 1 loss (West Ham)
    Liverpool = 1 loss (United)

    2005/6:
    United = 1 loss (Blackburn)
    Chelsea = 0 losses (and only one draw!)
    Arsenal = 2 losses (Chelsea, West Ham)
    Liverpool = 1 loss (Chelsea)

    2004/5:
    United = 1 loss (Chelsea)
    Chelsea = 0 losses
    Arsenal = 1 loss (United)
    Liverpool = 3 losses (United, Chelsea, Birmingham)

    So over the past six seasons, in 456 games, the Top Four have lost a grand total of 28 games at home, and 17 of these were to other members of the Top Four. The rest of us have won 11 of our 360 matches; a frequency of about 3%, or 1 win every 33 games.

    So, if that Pedro Mendes goal hadn't been 'missed' by some dubious refereeing, our record away to the Top Four would not be something to write about.

  • Comment number 41.

    To 'EmergingFromGorse', a "stone wall" is also a descriptive noun: a wall made of stone. Something most people would accept as an illustration of something very solid and undeniable.

  • Comment number 42.

    Seriously, I have a few questions for anyone who thinks spurs were the better team.
    1. what side of your t.v were you watching?
    2. what did you smoke before watching the match?
    3. Are you a chelsea fan?

    BTW, thumbs up to berbatov, this is the first time i've actually seen him work his socks off in a match. And I also think that while ferguson is making good use of our old guards (scholes, giggs and neville who are delivering the goods anyway) he shouldn't rely on them too much lest he becomes another arsene wenger. its a good thing he's signed two new players in chris smalling and hernandez.

  • Comment number 43.

    Maybe it was a symbolic gesture when to stopped to roll his sleeves up in the first few minutes, and there was more than enough passion on show to please Ferguson.

    proof reading? on a mcnulty blog? just for once... please?!

  • Comment number 44.

    United deserved to win, though in my opinion the game was pretty poor. spurs looked half asleep and united missed rooney. Good to see lennon back though!

  • Comment number 45.

    Phil I've noticed that most of your blogs are about Manchester United and their players .. Yes you go to Old Trafford for most of the games and cover their games but i would appreciate it if you also feature other in form teams in your blogs like West Ham who are doing a great job and their victory over Wigan courtest a Scotty Parker screamer was one to be mentioned plus a birmingham city side who has impressed everyone this season are in a bit of a worry at the moment as they have only gained 3 points out of a possible 18 in the last 6 matches .. Yes I know the league race is heating up and its one of the best in so many years but theres more in Premier league than just a Manchester united side ..
    Thanks ...........
    Ahad Shaukat Gooner ..........

  • Comment number 46.

    1. At 8:09pm on 24 Apr 2010, Webb of Deceit wrote:

    A few questions

    (a) Can Man U beat Spurs without the ref giving dodgy free kicks/penalties
    (b) How many penalties have been conceded by Man U at Old Trafford
    (c) Does anyone seriously believe that decisions even themselves out

    Spurs were the better team by the way

    -----------------------
    What match were you watching?

    dodgy penatlies? you must be having a laugh and to say Spurs were the better team is the view of a sore loser of the highest order...

  • Comment number 47.

    People can whine and crib about the penalties and that United didn't deserve to win but wait a second !! the game finished and United won , Tottenham had 90 minutes to win the game , so it was an equal chance !! Am not saying this because am a United fan only , am saying that because am a football fan. United showed great spirit this season and even if we don't win the league i won't be upset at all m you know why?
    (1) at the mid of the season we were without any center defenders, but we survived it and still in the hunt.
    (2) When Ronaldo and Tevez left in the summer everyone wrote United off but Sir Alex proved it again that it is not about the players, it is the spirit of United and the desire to win that carries this club.

    I believe that a true football fan will show respect to United and at least appreciate the guts United shows over and over again to win. So proud to be a united fan since 1997 until now.

    Today am gonna be a Stoke city fan for a change :)

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    We were excellent against Spurs. Real Champions stuff. If Chelsea slip up, then for me, we've got it in the bag. They've got two very tricky games against Stoke and Liverpool, and we can beat Sunderland by a few if we play well on the day.

  • Comment number 50.

    @ 24. At 9:53pm on 24 Apr 2010, EmergingFromGorse wrote:
    What idiot coined the term "stonewall penalty"? It was either Alan Hansen or, most likely, that shining beacon of useless punditry, Chris Kamara....and now every dope uses it.

    It makes no sense whatsoever. A "stone cold certainty of a penalty" would be about the closest thing that actually makes any sense.

    Stonewall is a verb. To stonewall is to engage in delaying tactics. The only way in which it can and should be used in a sporting context is to describe defensive batting in cricket.

    People are so stupid at times it defies belief.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Since when have you become the protector of the language?

    1.A word adopted into use in a context that is clearly understood and accepted is exactly how the language evolves and/or how colloquialisms come about.

    2. Jackson, Stonewall (Thomas Jonathan Jackson), 1824–63, Confederate general:
    "At the first battle of Bull Run, he and his brigade earned their sobriquet by standing (in the words of Gen. Barnard Bee) "like a stone wall."

    Not a verb in that context I think you'll agree and by extension, describing a penalty as 'stonewall' suggests that it stands solid on its own merits....beyond dispute in other words.

    'Idiot', 'useless', 'Dope', 'so stupid'???????

    Do you really find it necessary to use these words just to make a simple point.......albeit one that is misfounded? Are you a school teacher by any chance?

    But I suppose that in some circumstances those words are appropriate.

    If the cap fits..................

  • Comment number 51.

    Webb of deceit hang your head in shame! How can you honestly say Spurs were the better team? Palacios gave the ball away at every chance...your team was overan in midfield and only Ledley King looked like a real defender back there. If anything the score could've been worse. And yes those penalties were real nothing dodgy...blame your rush of the blood to the head schoolboy type defending of the spurs players..they didn't even contest the decisions because they were both obvious. The better team won by the way. Top of the table!

  • Comment number 52.

    just prior to going to bed i really enjoyed the tirade regarding good and correct uses of the english language...made me chuckle hehe B-)

  • Comment number 53.

    Another Man united article by phil. I thought we had one last week? At this rate, this blog would feature only stories about man united. I support united but reading about your club every week starts to get boring after a while. Phil I know you blog about the games you've actually seen but there were two teams in action at old trafford. Instead of writing about united again, you could have shifted the focus to spurs who looked very poor yesterday after their heroics against arsenal and chelsea.

  • Comment number 54.

    Question Phil - why are the "thinking man's" press (the broadsheets, BBC etc) so keen to defend Berbatov's ability every time he has even a reasonable game for Man Utd? I agree that much of what is being said about him is unfair - to suggest he doesn't care is just demonstrating one's own ignorance. And yes, leading the line alone is a thankless task, made even harder by Rooney's remarkable ability to do it and score freely. However, let's call a spade a spade here - overall, Berbatov's value for money has been poor and even a man as proud as SAF would jump at the chance of recouping even 75% of the original fee could they find a buyer. He is just about good enough to justify being in the United squad, but realistically would be struggling for games if there was any other alternative to play up front in Rooney's absence. He's getting close to 100 appearances for Man Utd and I'm struggling to remember many Man of the Match performances. So why the attitude of "He's actually much better than you lot think and one day you'll believe us" every time he rates 7/10 or better in a game?

  • Comment number 55.

    I seriously think people are getting too carried away that United will win the league. Are you forgetting that the only games Chelsea have left are Stoke, Wigan & Liverpool. Two of the most inconsistant teams of the season and Stoke whose survival is gained through their home form. Coincedently like Chelsea who have a brilliant home form in where two of these games will be played. I was ecstatic last week to beat City, not because our title charge was back on but because we dented their Champions League place & I wouldn't be suprised if that's what the United players celebrations were for either. We stuffed it up against Blackburn because of a poor performance or Burnley, or Villa, the list is endless this season. Furthermore, all these comments about Chelsea feeling pressure, do you not think Stoke will buckle under the pressure that they are a tough match for Chelsea and could stop them winning the league? I'm a season ticket holder so deserve my view before i'm vilified but frankly from what I have watched this season and what I know about football, we will not win the title. A good year though, despite the injuries.

  • Comment number 56.

    "History tells us this is the sort of chance they make a habit of missing, given their wretched record of 67 matches without a win against the so-called "Big Four.""

    You’re right. It’s history. What you should have focussed on is that Spurs had not lost a game against the “big four” for two matches before this game and they beat Liverpool last season, so how far back in history are you referring to? Are we including the match at Old Trafford in which Pedro Mendes scored the only game of the match several years back and yet THFC had to contend with a draw?

    If you want to be taken seriously as an impartial writer, before publishing your piece you need to re-read it as though you were a MUFC supporter and then again as though you were a THFC supporter. If what you have written might be perceived as fawning to the one side or unfairly chastising the other, your piece is prejudiced and unworthy of the BBC’s high standards.

    If MUFC supporters’ comments, slapping you on the back, makes you feel good about yourself, more fool you. Don’t believe it. This wasn’t a “good blog, Phil”. It was flawed.

    Describing Ledley King as “imperious” is hardly ground-breaking. Every MUFC supporter would grant you that, and it doesn’t redress the balance of your blog. You might have made the point that in a very evenly contested match, THFC bossed the first half against a team who like to bully their opponents, but were never able to do this. The proof is in the statistics - when were MUFC previously prevented from having a shot on goal for nearly half an hour? I trust you are not making the same mistake as the referee who gives a decision based upon earlier errors. Last week Spurs were awarded a dubious penalty against Chelsea for the possible reason that two earlier penalties had been turned down.

    Perhaps you are a THFC supporter who attempts to deflect attention from yourself by unfairly criticising your team. If this is so, give up your job and stand on the terrace in support. You owe it to yourself and THFC.

    I don’t expect this piece to appear on your blog. It breaks too many of your rules, although I am not sure whether criticising the writer is one of them. I have registered simply to make contact with you and to tell you how disappointed I am with your blog. I have only read one other blog of yours which also criticised THFC with the same old tired history of games against the big four. Even if you don’t include it, I hope you’re a ‘big enough man’ to accept criticism where it is due.

  • Comment number 57.

    On the subject of going 67 away matches (of course I meant away and apologies) without a win against what many regard as the "Big Four" - any theories from Spurs fans as to why this is?

    I recall watching Spurs lose at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup earlier this season against an under-strength Manchester United side. They arrived on the back of some decent form and just didn't perform.

    Yesterday was a similar situation. Spurs' performances against Arsenal and Chelsea at White Hart Lane were both outstanding, showing they can easily eclipse the top sides on their travels. They are certainly not scared of these opponents.

    So why the difference away? Remember how poor they were in defeat at Liverpool too?

    I don't buy the old "Soft Spurs" line. My own theory, and it is only that, is that there is a lack of self-belief that they can get these results away from home. It just needs one win to allow them to kick on, but they won't get it if they play like they did yesterday.

    So I'm going for lack of self-belief...what's your answer?

  • Comment number 58.

    To me it just seems like fate is decreeing that Liverpool will have a hand in the destiny of this title. They would hate to win to give United the 19th, but their own needs might have to take precedence in trying to grab that last champions league spot (esp. if Villa lose today and they win, they have a snifter of an opportunity).

    I thought Scholes was fantastic yesterday, really showed what 15 years of experience at the top level was like. He hounded Palacios (who i actually think is a very good player) every time he could in to giving the ball away and he was always there created space to spray the ball around and calm down any jitters from the rest of the team. Also, credit to Giggs on the pens - having had hardly any experience of taking them to stand up and place them both into the corners like he did took some guts.

    I would like to go back a few weeks though to people who were comparing the fixture lists and touting Arsenal as they had the easier run-in. This was a classic example of "easy on paper, not in reality". In contrast, Manchester United were ruled out because they had tricky games to negotiate, yet we are still there, challenging.

  • Comment number 59.

    United were not great, but resilient. The two penalties one could argue were a stroke of luck, a stroke of luck brought on by stupid Spurs defending. You could see in the reaction of the Spurs players and Harry Redknapp that they were stone wall penalties, but still needed to be put away.
    Still, an interesting game to watch, and as always between United and Spurs, a good clean bout.

  • Comment number 60.

    Yesterday, Manchester United beat Tottenham, taking advantage of the old guard and maturing prospects of 2-3 seasons ago. It speaks volumes of the club's precarious situation when it comes to acquiring top talent at will. Spurs had a better bench than United and this was unheard in prior seasons.

    Spurs were always likely to lose yesterday. Manchester United have a long history of having big teams succumb to their needs, at Old Trafford, in a long history in European football. Still, the manner was a bit surprising. It was Spurs with the better attacking line, in paper, yet they seemed to be toothless upfront.

    Ledley King, for all his troubles, was imperial in Spurs' defence. Words are not enough to praise him for yesterday's performance. What surprised me, personally, after the match at City, was the space afforded to Scholes by Spurs. He was allowed all the space to orchestrate Man Utd's attacks.

    I think, yesterday was a day when a thought about top premiership clubs became evident: Tottenham Hotspair and Manchester City are seriously knocking the elite clubs' door. Manchester City weren't really in danger at The Emirates, while Spurs looked scary at Old Trafford, after their equaliser. It makes you think of next season: Spurs don't need really many additions, but with a few key additions, in squad building and Manchester City continuing on the latter stages of their rebuilding project, could make the next season as unpredictable if not better than this one.

    To me, the strange thing is at the bottom of the table.
    This instability at the top, brought down the landmark of points accumulation for premiership survival. The top and bottom ends of the premiership table have become more polarised, if I could put it that way. Nobody can predict anymore how many points are required for both title winning and survival. And this has to be a nice attribute to next' season's unpredictability.

    We used to think of the top contenders in terms of how they'll perform against each other and against some key sides, at the past.
    The key sides are there and they appear stably strong. Stoke City, Fulham, Birmingham City, Sunderland, do feed these thoughts. Everton and Aston Villa are positive enigmas, in terms of how high they can end a season. But, further up: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool... Who can predict what for next seasson? :)

    If this is a declining premiership, as some football gurus have stated, it is declining in magnificent, glittering ways! :)

  • Comment number 61.

    "Spurs were the better team by the way"

    That's a strange assumption.
    Spurs looked the better team in paper.
    But do take some pointers:

    a) United's defence was solid, for the duration of the match.
    b) Spurs allowed Scholes to be the anchor of every United attack, also for the duration of the match.
    c) Spurs were toothless in the last third of the pitch, as they were attacking.

    Spurs the better side?
    No.

  • Comment number 62.

    not the best united performance but still good for the win. and both were definately penners.
    just to annoy EmergingFromGorse i would say that they were stonewall penalties....don't care if its not proper grammar......anyone who complains about the use of the word stonewall on a football chatroom is the idiot...a stonewall idiot

  • Comment number 63.

    Should i support stoke today??? I supported Arsenal against Chelsea and was disappointed. I think i will give the game a miss.

  • Comment number 64.

    53. At 07:47am on 25 Apr 2010, Jayhova wrote:
    Another Man united article by phil. I thought we had one last week? At this rate, this blog would feature only stories about man united. I support united but reading about your club every week starts to get boring after a while. Phil I know you blog about the games you've actually seen but there were two teams in action at old trafford. Instead of writing about united again, you could have shifted the focus to spurs who looked very poor yesterday after their heroics against arsenal and chelsea.

    ====================================================

    Have to agree with you, it feels like you have been redirected to the Man U website when you come onto phil's blogs now. Boring! I would have thought that the discussion could have moved around to how poor in terms of overall quality the premier league has been this season.

  • Comment number 65.

    1. At 8:09pm on 24 Apr 2010, Webb of Deceit wrote:
    A few questions

    (a) Can Man U beat Spurs without the ref giving dodgy free kicks/penalties
    (b) How many penalties have been conceded by Man U at Old Trafford
    (c) Does anyone seriously believe that decisions even themselves out

    Spurs were the better team by the way
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Lol bitter much!

    a) Yes, they did so yesterday for example
    b) Prob not that many because in order to win a pen you need to be attacking, most teams are defending alot of the time.
    c) yes

  • Comment number 66.

    well i do belive that the young lad Nani had an abserloute smasher, that was to rival the days of Georgie Best himself. I remember the days when you could sit at the Stretford End and feel to cool breeze pound against your face but today it is all this lager and shouting.....what ever happened to quit applauding of one's talent none of this diving rubbish. The footballers of today are nothing compared to those of my day who played the game in a kind and friendly spirit, the closest to this today is Ryan Giggs, who is a fine man of spectacular talent and composure. I belive that football has taken many steps back over the las forty years, and i know many will say it hasnt, but i ask you this have we won the world cup since 66, the answer my friends is no we havent and are unlikely to do so in the near future bucause our league contains very few englishmen. And the argument "well there being tested against the best", is utter drivel, look at Italy in 2006 every single squad member played in the italian league and that contributed to their win, they didnt need "testing against the best", they were the best. Now if you would please excuse me i have a custard cream and a cup of tea waiting. Good day to you all.

  • Comment number 67.

    walter thomas....what a comment lol

    im astounded

  • Comment number 68.

    My fellow Manchester United fans will be wishing and hoping today, looking at what Pullis's team can do at Stanford Bridge.

    Before yesterday, I had accepted that Manchester United can, either with ease or difficulty, win their last three matches. But so can Chelsea. I am expecting them to find a winner against Stoke. Liverpool without Torres can be difficult for lesser teams, but Chelsea will be aiming for the title, in next weekend's match. I can imagine Liverpool fans not wanting to shout for their side winning and I wouldn't blame them, as this would appear like handing the title to Old Trafford, having us showing off the 'one more title than you' bit of blantering. I don't think it will feel so much of an away match for Chelsea and they'll manage to find the cutting edge. Last day of premiership should be simple procedings.

    Maybe, I am putting myself in this frame of mind, in order to stop nervousness (smiles around) about what happens when another team plays. The title is still in Chelsea's hands to lose.
    Also, I still remember that match at Stanford Bridge where Bolton got a memorable draw, handing the title to Manchester United.
    Nevertheless, football history shows that teams eventually overcome their demons. The logical assumption is that Chelsea, with an experienced manager at their helm, will overcome their nervousness jinx and win it.

    A Chelsea premiership wouldn't do damage to United. Last time they won it, it indicated the need for rebuilding at Old Trafford and Manchester United responded. If we lose it this season, it would be an opportunity for the green light for strengthening - something that Manchester Unided need.

  • Comment number 69.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 70.


    I like most of your blogs Phil, just wanted to say though that I saw Evra being sick once (Sky coverage) and I think you should pay Perth a visit in January to acquaint yourself with stifling heat.

    By the way United were the better team, Mr. Webb (ABU)of Deceit.

  • Comment number 71.

    Carrick is useless, he always loses the ball and costs us goals with his pathetic defending and because he is so weak and bad in the air. This brilliant passing of his that I hear about doesnt exist, it is just because he is English playing for us. He never passes forward and if he is put under pressure he can never pass, thats why he is so bad against teams that put pressure on us, Bayern, Barca, Liverpool. He is the weak link and I was glad to see Hargreaves on the bench and I think he might be leaving in the summer.

    Also, Rafael looked brilliant and apart from one mistake did not put a foot wrong, remember he is young and inexperienced and if he plays more next season he will be brilliant.

    Berba had a good game by the way.

  • Comment number 72.

    Really enjoyed the game yesterday, especially the second half when the game opened up. When Spurs equalised I really thought they would kick on and get the winner, but I was very impressed that Nani came up with a moment of brillance to win the tie for us.

    On another note, I have been getting a bit miffed recently about all these football commentaters stating that the likes of Man Utd and Chelsea have dropped a level this year. I really don't agree. I think that assumption is an insult to the progress of teams like everton, villa, spurs, city, and even fulham (who have taken points of the top four teams!). The standard of the premier league is getting better every year, therefore making it harder for one team to dominant the league. It has also made for a better league this year, very unpredictable! And is that not what everyone wants? Anyway Man Utd have scored more goals this year that with Ronaldo last year?! So how have they got worse?!!!

  • Comment number 73.

    33. At 11:22pm on 24 Apr 2010, johnny-b-good wrote:
    I was shocked watching this game, amd I don't shock easily.

    NANI LOOKED LIKE A FOOTBALLER.

    It'a the second time in a month. Last time I put it down to the fact that if anyone can have an off day, the converse must be true and anyone can have an on day ,,, but two in a month.

    What happened to the Nani we know and have grown to be exasperated by ? Running round in circles or into blind alleys with all the composure of a stressed out tourettes sufferer. (I am not a United fan but how could someone with that kind of talent consistently deliver so little).

    Thank god somebody else has finally woken up to the fact nani is a very average player. Yes he can produce moments of brilliance, similar to the one against spurs, but he really is hit and miss at the best of times. He will be good, otherwise i doubt fergie would have splashed the cash on him, but man u are crying out for someone to plug the gap while he develops and matures as a player. Any claims that the pens weren't pen are a joke right?? Evra was killed for the first one and palacios should really know better but to make 'shove' with nani in the box. Only gonna result in one thing. Soft yes, but was a pen.

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    54. At 08:19am on 25 Apr 2010, lawros_moustache wrote:
    Question Phil - why are the "thinking man's" press (the broadsheets, BBC etc) so keen to defend Berbatov's ability every time he has even a reasonable game for Man Utd? I agree that much of what is being said about him is unfair - to suggest he doesn't care is just demonstrating one's own ignorance. And yes, leading the line alone is a thankless task, made even harder by Rooney's remarkable ability to do it and score freely. However, let's call a spade a spade here - overall, Berbatov's value for money has been poor and even a man as proud as SAF would jump at the chance of recouping even 75% of the original fee could they find a buyer. He is just about good enough to justify being in the United squad, but realistically would be struggling for games if there was any other alternative to play up front in Rooney's absence. He's getting close to 100 appearances for Man Utd and I'm struggling to remember many Man of the Match performances. So why the attitude of "He's actually much better than you lot think and one day you'll believe us" every time he rates 7/10 or better in a game?

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The issue with Berbatov is that he is being judged by the £30m fee, not by his actual performances and class on the field.

    There are several issues- I think with Berbatov you get more than goals, his game is about more than being a poacher. The criticism you can level at him is that when he loses confidence, instead of getting into the box and trying to get more chances he drops deeper and creates for others to try and boost his confidence. He is a very creative player, but because he's a striker and when he doesn't score in a game, he attracts criticism.

    I think when Man Utd play 4-4-2 and he does play with Rooney, he does play well. Another issue is that he's been dropped so many times when Man Utd play the 4-5-1. That's a tactical decision from the manager, nothing to do with his form. It seems odd to me to pay £30m for a player that you do not build your team around. This Man Utd team this season has been built around Rooney, and has finally brought consistent form and lots of goals through a season from Wayne Rooney. In the two seasons he has been there, Ferguson has never built the team around Berbatov. In the first season, it was all about Ronaldo and this season it's about Rooney. Again, I think this makes some of the criticism of Berbatov unfair.

    For £30m, you might expect a striker like Torres, and one Man Utd supporting friend suggested a partnership of Torres and Rooney would be unbelievable. I'm not so sure. Just because Torres gets 30 goals a season and you have a 30 goal a season striker in Rooney, doesn't mean they would get 60 goals a season playing together. The Liverpool attack is built around Torres, just as Man Utd's is around Rooney.

    Maybe people have forgotten, but Van Nistelrooy and Rooney never really hit it off, and they had Ronaldo in the team as well, Man Utd were not scoring over 100 goals a season with them all the team. It didn't actually work.

    Berbatov is an unselfish player, a technical version of Heskey if you like, and he is the best type of partner for Rooney. The proof has been this season- judge Berbatov on what he has brought out in others around him, look at the service that the likes of Nani, Valencia and Rooney have had.

    I honestly think that McNulty is right and Berbatov has had a lot of unjust criticism from people who want him to be a 30 goal a season striker because he cost £30m, we can argue about what he 'should' be until we're blue in the face but I think when Ferguson plays the Berbatov/Rooney partnership it's successful, as successful as any partnership Rooney has had with a striking colleague. Food for thought.

  • Comment number 76.

    Well, it's amusing, to say the least, to read all this talk about premiership declinging. We are on the verge of having two English teams in the Europa Cup final. Doesn't this imply that the premiership has strength in depth, as a league? :)

    It's no secret that English clubs can reach the quarter finals, with ease. It's also no secret that Chelsea fell due to some poor refereeing decisions, Manchester United to some bad luck and Arsenal to the best team in the world, today. Also, it is safe to presume that all top English clubs will strengthen next season.

    Premiership in decline?
    An amusing amateur assumption.
    The premiership is becoming the most exciting championship in the world.

  • Comment number 77.

    '...six points is a respectable return from three games in swift succession against the top three.'

    Merely respectable? Had you offered Redknapp the situation of remaining in the top four after those three games, having beaten their fierce North London rivals and the Premier League champions back-to-back, he would have bitten your hand off. Respectable would have been four, maybe even three points. If Chelsea themselves had beaten Arsenal and United in consecutive matches within four days of each other, it would not have been hailed as respectable, but as form worthy of winning the title.

    Coming off the back of a devastating FA Cup semi-final defeat by Portsmouth, the courage shown by Spurs is nothing short of exceptional, so don't belittle their recent achievements because a game away at Old Trafford against a very focussed United is the hardest fixture for any side in the division.

  • Comment number 78.

    Well... wine, we navigated the match fine, didnt we? I hope the young lad gets better with his defending. I hope he sees what his actions does to the team and suit up for next season.

    It was obvious both sides were not at their best but Man U was just a little bit better and a little more adventurous, i guess they had to be. Kudos to Giggsy for putting away 2 penalties especially after Gomes got a hand to the first one. I have always maintained Man U will win this season, especially lookin at the run in when there were about 11 matches to play for the top three. I had predicted that contrary to widely held beliefs, Arsenal had the hardest of run ins (because of their penchant for losing to rugged teams), followed by Chelsea and then United. The team havent made it easy, have they? But i am heavily tilting for a result for Stoke today at the Bridge (cos of Chelsea's loss of confidence) and definitely believe Liverpool will take some sort of points off Chelsea at Anfield (forget Champions League, Liverpool might actually need it to get into the Europa League!!!)

    I believe for us, it will be a tough game at Sunderland but very winnable and against Stoke should be a measured win(we could actually ave it in the bag before then with Chelsea drawing with Stoke and losin at Liverpool). But over all even without being biased towards United, i believe United will end the season with their 12th Premiership Title,their fourth in a row, and 19th over all.

    Ciao...

  • Comment number 79.

    Let's have a bit more debate on one or two of the issues coming out of yesterday's game.

    I was a bit defensive of Berbatov recently, and it is good to hear him getting some praise. I will criticise players, but the one thing I am very reluctant to suggest is that professional footballers are not trying or do not care. I simply refuse to believe that.

    I thought he was an important part of United's win yesterday and Ferguson was very upbeat about him afterwards. Do you think he was talking him up because Rooney may miss the rest of the season or does he have a long-term future at Old Trafford?

    And what about Nani? There are consistent signs that his promise is being fulfilled now. How good is he and how good can he become?

    I recall him being hauled off at Stoke earlier this season and felt Ferguson was nearing the end of his tether with him. He substituted him after he sent a cross yards behind goal, clearly losing patience. He has kept faith with him, however, and is being rewarded.

    And Spurs fans. Were you surprised Harry Redknapp used Gareth Bale as a defender yesterday? He has been virtually unstoppable in an advanced position recently and looked nowhere near as comfortable in defence, especially when Nani scored United's crucial second goal.

    All thoughts on this, and any other issue, welcome.

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    United fan here, I watched Spurs against Chelsea last week and to say they played well is an understatement, they were brilliant! Even with 11 v 11 they were by far the better side and Chelsea were fortunate not to be 'destroyed'. Yesterday's performance by Man United was average at best. That said I believe Spurs came to OT with a draw in mind. They only started posing a REAL THREAT after going behind and after their equaliser I honestly feared for Man United. My view is that Spurs lack the belief. Had they continued to press and harass Man United who knows what may have happened. Perhaps a 2nd Spurs goal? We'll never know.

    In fairness to the Man United lads they did show resilience and character by getting the second goal. Wonderful FIRST TIME pass by Macheda, who although in a decent position went for the better option ie playing in Nani. Valencia & even Berbatov should learn from this! Why shoot when you have a '10%' chance and a team mate has a '90%' chance. Both were guilty of not releasing timeously or shooting when passing would have been the better option.

    Win or lose this title, Man United are still a great team! Champions figth until the end and that's what every true Man United fan wants, regardless of the final outcome.

  • Comment number 82.

    Phil, it is all right to praise Utd's resilience, determination, and, occasionally, skill. They will push us to the final day (or us them, as it stands now). Wonderful season, isn't it?

    However, it is nearly delusional to say that this match was playing on Chelsea's nerves. Our nerves may be frayed (certainly last week showed that), but this match won't make them any worse. No football fan or pundit with even a shred of common sense could have expected Spurs taking even a point from OT. They didn't, they didn't even play well, they actually hardly turned up, and Harry was all too happy to admit it, quickly adding how horrible is the pressure on Chelsea, meaning of course how close his pal now was to the title. I am not claiming he does it on purpose, but it happens nevertheless. His guys lose and he talks about Utd's title. Boring, foreseen, not disturbing. That is just how things are.

    I do not think Berbatov has much of a future at OT, but sir Alex knows he may need him yet, he knows he may want to sell him, and he would be pretty daft to talk him down now. Sir Alex may be many things, but he isn't daft. His team are pushing for the title and doing well. Why talk any of your players down? You need cohesion, team spirit, resilience. I would't read this praise as a commitment to keep Berba at OT just now.

  • Comment number 83.

    Berbatov is a player who can do things others can't.
    I do feel though that he can't mix it well with United's way of playing, saddly. I believe SAF will sell him in the summer and replace him.

    When it comes to Nani, it's a different story.
    If he was English, everybody would be talking about a young talent.
    He's still young and he's improved so much that there have been occasions when he's been our match-winner. A bit more improving and he's going to be devastating. I strongly believe he has a great future at Manchester United.

    A young player not mentioned in this addition by Phil McNulty is young Rafael. He does make some massive errors, due to inexperience (referring to the naive, gentle pulling to Ribery and leaving his post on the Spurs corner). However, he shines in the matches he plays, no matter how difficult they are. With some more experience, he's going to have a glorious future. And when one thinks that, Rafael himself, speaks of his brother as a better overall player, it has to leave Manchester United fans with smiles in their faces, when they envisage the future of the club.

  • Comment number 84.

    Phil, I agree with you barring one comment; the attitude and work ethic surrounding United's blue Bulgarian...

    Dimitar cut a perplexed figure after squandering half-chance after next in a match that undoubtedly defined Manchester United's season. Indeed, United have both the class and experience that can match any team home and abroad but its their never-say-die attitude that has been their 'Fergie' trademark.

    Ultimately, Dimitar Berbatov is an excellent player, albeit at the wrong but undoubtedly great club. He does not epitomise the work ethic that burdens all Manchester United players. The clever flick and the odd lethargic and sometimes fruitful runs still does not make the grade and from his overall performance this season, it seems his talents can be better exploited at a club fashioned to his style.

    For once, Fergie got it wrong. His line of thinking was obvious, a towering, skillful centre forward for United's talisman to play off. Similar players like Van Nistelrooy and Sheringham have performed brilliantly in the past but when Berbatov's on the ball, I cut a more dejected figure than an expectant one.

    So, come what may, a reasonable season for the new-look Manchester United. Looking ahead, I would love to see the following acquisitions:
    - Fabiano
    - Villa
    - Ribery
    - Gareth Bale.

  • Comment number 85.

    Second attempt!!!!!! What a precious bunch of mods we have!!!!
    The pens were soft, not because of the ref but because of needless tackles. The performance was flat but we we kick on again like we did after the poor performace in the semi then I will be happy. As for no away wins in 67 against the top 4. We have been on the wrong end of some very pivotal decisions e.g the phantom pen and the bizzare dissallowed goal are the most glaring of many.
    Once again a good balanced blog, makes a change.

  • Comment number 86.

    Why do some people name players they would like to see their club sign thinking its that easy?

    Villa doesn't want to come to England. And if he did he wants to live in London. Arsenal can't afford him, he won't go to Spurs so that leaves Chelski if, IF, he changes his mind.

    Same with Ribery.

    Fabiano - maybe.

    Bale? 20m plus? Because hes had a couple of good games? To play left mid? He won't replace Evra, who is currently the best left-back in the world!

    Being abit more realistic - I'd say we only need a striker and maybe a centre half. Benzema has not settled at Madrid so maybe him. As for centre half? No idea.

    With Hargreaves back our midfield is ok.

  • Comment number 87.

    I wouldn't like Ribery and Villa at Manchester United.
    They have a combined price-tag close to £80m-£100m and an age total close to 60. Need I say more?

    Manchester United definitely need more firepower up front.
    If Hargreaves is fit (difficult to believe), Manchester United are almost OK in midfield, given that our other long absentee in midfield is fit - perhaps one addittion there too.

    Bale is a talented player, but, for football's sake I prefer him at Spurs. Manchester United have two good wingers and Evra on the left side of defence. He would be a squad player at United.

  • Comment number 88.

    As a neutral I am frankly bored to death with the Premier League.
    Doesn't anyone else get sick of Fergie pulling it off at the last minute while others lose their nerve? There should be 2 or 3 strong competitiors in our oh so wonderful league but the name of the game is de ja vous.I'm bored with it all and welcome distractions like the the World Cup and on a lesser scale the Europa League where the boring fickle, passionless zombies that are Old Trafford spectators are not involved.
    I have the greatest respect for Mr.Ferguson and his achievements but I'm fed up of hearing about it, reading about it etc.Let someone else with some guts, nerve and luck make themselves known and make the Prem exciting again please! Ancelotti and Mancini are not up to the task.

  • Comment number 89.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 90.

    Web of Deceit... LOL
    Are you Stevie Wonder in disquise..?
    Spurs were the better team..?
    Do me a favour , The result on the ninety minutes was probably a FAIR reflection of the game.
    The penalties [that are getting boring Regarding United] were two 'Unquestionable' penalties.. I did not see a single Spurs player complain about anyone of them.. You have this paranoia like most fans[Jealousy I call it] about Manchester United.. We are successful because we are the best team in the land.. People say that the League doesn't lie..!
    If Chelsea do manage to win the League I'll hold my hands up and congratulate them, They WILL OF EARNED IT.. No question.
    Great end to the season... Makes a change to have a bit of competition.. ;P ;-)

  • Comment number 91.

    Re Phil's comment - "United will track Chelsea all the way to the final day of the season, accompanied by the rich irony that any sort of result for Liverpool against Carlo Ancelotti's side could actually send the title to Old Trafford for a record 19th time. How will The Kop feel about that unpalatable prospect?"

    Liverpool won't have to get a result now, will they? Thanks to Portsmouth not being allowed into Europe, Liverpool only have to finish seventh. So much for having to have a go against Chelsea. They won't bother.

  • Comment number 92.

    Re: 75. At 11:45am on 25 Apr 2010, Subterranean wrote...

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Some very valid points made. Yes three 30-goal-a-season strikers in the same team won't score 90-goals a season. Yes Berbatov's primary role is as a lone-striker for Rooney/Nani/Valencia etc to play off/run past/score goals from. Yes he hasn't had a long run as first choice and Rooney's form is making it difficult for him. Yes the price tag is a burden that is not his fault. Yes as long as the team is winning you can say he is doing is job.

    All fair, relevant points. My problem is that he just hasn't shown enough influence on the game in the bigger and more difficult matches. Were he grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, creating chances against the run of play and if not scoring, then at least creating goals for the team, SAF would be forced to play him more and start building the team more around him (as Ronaldo did last year). Had Rooney, as many predicted, been a disappointment as lone striker this season, then SAF would have changed the formation to find someone else to play up front. This is not building the team around Rooney, this is building a team and formation that works for the players your have. This will sometimes involve one player becoming the prolific goal-scorer, though we have seen United teams before RVN where 4-5 players came in at 20 goals a season. We saw this with Cantona, RVN, Ronaldo and this season Rooney. The common denominator was 1 outstanding player taking the opportunity given to them and making themselves "un-droppable". Berbatov has never got close to that.

    Sadly I feel Berbatov will fall into the Veron category as an overpriced shiny new toy that didn't quite deliver on expectation. I hope I am wrong, and wouldn't be surprised to see him move on and do fairly well somewhere else - maybe in Italy. But United are about speed, effort, passion, precision and of course outstanding skill and Berbatov only ticks one, maybe two of those boxes.

  • Comment number 93.

    Webb of Deceit must have been at a different game to me, if he was at the game at all. If you think Spurs were the better you disagree with the stats (United twice as many shots) and, perhaps more importantly from your point of view, with Harry R himself! Listening to BBC Radio 5 on ther way home he conceded that both penalties were, well, penalties, and that his team did not play well enough. After the equaliser Spurs changed tactics and started to defend deeply, inviting United on to them, and they duly obliged with two goals. It's ok to be one eyed if you must, but do it with some subtelty. and better still, just accept that you did not deserve to win today.

  • Comment number 94.

    " 1. At 8:09pm on 24 Apr 2010, Webb of Deceit wrote:

    A few questions

    (a) Can Man U beat Spurs without the ref giving dodgy free kicks/penalties
    (b) How many penalties have been conceded by Man U at Old Trafford
    (c) Does anyone seriously believe that decisions even themselves out

    Spurs were the better team by the way"


    (a) Yes, they did yesterday. They were two stone wall penalties, you are literally the first person I have encountered that suggests otherwise.

    (b)http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/A56651132

    (c)No they do not. We have been screwed over by the officials twice against Chelsea this season, and it may well cost us the title.

  • Comment number 95.

    Web of deceit is correct, not just for this game but over the season & several seasons. You would have to be a die-hard United fan (like Phil) or SAF or been in holiday in outer space to not see this.
    I predicted this outcome before Christmas, when we had already seen United gain more than 10 points through dubious decisions, penalties, free kicks on edge of the area, few penalties to opposing teams very few yellow or red cards to United for persistent fouls & lack of deserved suspensions & of course Fergie time.
    It seems that even diplomats dont get as much immunity as wearing the United shirt.
    Lets face it if any of the top 4 teams (or even 7 or 8 this season) gained so many undeserved points over the season they would have had United's success.
    As for guts dont make me laugh, though maybe we need to laugh after watching the dross that our "Champions" produce week after week.
    Oh and by the way will Sunderland defence part for another special United goal aka Ryan Giggs v Wigan (Steve Bruce)???

  • Comment number 96.

    73. At 11:36am on 25 Apr 2010, CulturedLeftPeg wrote:
    33. At 11:22pm on 24 Apr 2010, johnny-b-good wrote:
    I was shocked watching this game, amd I don't shock easily.

    NANI LOOKED LIKE A FOOTBALLER.

    It'a the second time in a month. Last time I put it down to the fact that if anyone can have an off day, the converse must be true and anyone can have an on day ,,, but two in a month.

    What happened to the Nani we know and have grown to be exasperated by ? Running round in circles or into blind alleys with all the composure of a stressed out tourettes sufferer. (I am not a United fan but how could someone with that kind of talent consistently deliver so little).

    Thank god somebody else has finally woken up to the fact nani is a very average player. Yes he can produce moments of brilliance, similar to the one against spurs, but he really is hit and miss at the best of times. He will be good, otherwise i doubt fergie would have splashed the cash on him, but man u are crying out for someone to plug the gap while he develops and matures as a player. Any claims that the pens weren't pen are a joke right?? Evra was killed for the first one and palacios should really know better but to make 'shove' with nani in the box. Only gonna result in one thing. Soft yes, but was a pen.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Im a united fan and I totally agree with your opinion.
    For 2 seasons now I have been crying at his inability to improve at the biggest club.
    Finally, I think he's starting to learn to use his head. To be honest he's one of a few players (rooney) in the squad who dares to attack a player giving us another dimension. Unfortunately valencia although he can cross a ball can only do so with his right foot and can only work openings by running in straight lines to the right hence his ineffectiveness in attack (e.g. Bayern game).
    Come on united!

  • Comment number 97.

    I am grateful to you for your partial climb-down, Mr McNulty. Can we all take it that from this point onward you will refer to THFC's record against the big four as, "Not won home or away for one game?"

    Much to my surprise, several MUFC supporters on your blog have hinted that you too are a supporter of the club. One even moaned of being 'bored' by constant blogs featuring MUFC. If you want bloggers to take you seriously when referring to MUFC in the future, it is my belief that you should categorically refute that suggestion in print.

    The BBC's political correspondent, Nick Robinson, announced recently that he voted Conservative. Although he would have been better off keeping this to himself I have never been able to discern his political affiliation from his broadcasts. I invite you to do the same.

    To other bloggers: Apologies for the return to this subject so late in the day. My first offering was 'pulled' without reason(s) being offered. No offensive comments, no bad language. A conspiracy? From the BBC? Naaaah.


  • Comment number 98.

    Spurs fan here:

    No complaints about the first penalty decision, Assou-Ekotto put in a hopelessly optimistic attempt at a tackle which he got very wrong. Old Trafford is not the place for the visiting side to be making risky challenges in the box. The defender being played out of position didn't help, Redknapp trying to deploy both Bale and Assou-Ekotto as wing backs, going for the best of both worlds, was a gamble that didn't pay off. The formation that finished the game worked much better.

    The Palacious challenge? Yes it was clumsy, yes he made contact and didn't get anywhere near the ball, yes it was a penalty, although it took a bit of gamesmanship from Nani to sell it to the referee (for which he was bizarrely applauded by the commentary team). Shows it is possible for a challenge to result in both a foul and a dive. United fans would probably point to O'Shea's challenge on Lennon as another example but as a completely unbiased Spurs fan ;-) I'd argue that Lennon was brought down (as opposed to Nani who dropped to the floor) and the only question would be over whether the added mini somersault was warranted (possibly as he would've wanted to avoid getting injured again).

    As for Ledley King's equaliser, with the view I had of the TV screen it was very difficult to see if there was or wasn't an infringement and as such you have to give the attacking side the benefit of the doubt. I don't like seeing goals like that disallowed as it always seems like a huge let off for the defending side. Even when Spurs benefit from those kind of goals being ruled out I always feel a little embarrased.

    Bottom Line: Not convinced by claims that we were the better side overall although there was a period after the equaliser when Spurs looked the likelier to score the next goal. The Nani goal totally changed things. Ferguson won the tactical battle over Redknapp even if there may not have been much in it in terms of the overall quality of football being played.

    Two wins out of three against the big three is ok though, good even. If Spurs beat Bolton at the Lane and City get held by Villa next weekend then we're 3 points clear of City in 4th place and 2 clear of Villa who'll then only have 1 game left. Burnley have been relegated today so they'll only be playing for pride in our final game at Turf Moor. Of course we can still mess it all up but why should we? Here's hoping the bookies are correct.

  • Comment number 99.

    Sorry to disappoint Spurs fans who believe ManU can't beaten, especially at Old Trafford. Chelsea, for instance, enjoys playing ManU. If we could play all 38 games against ManU and some of them against Arsenal, we would already by champions by January! :)
    It's pity that teams try to put out their best performance against Chelsea and then turn around and field second team against ManU. Ah well, we will be champions this season anyway!

  • Comment number 100.

    My my! Why am i not surprised? Mr McNulty and another Man utd fan article.
    I listened to BBC commentators giggling with excitement when Man Utd went back in front. I have seen ITV and Sky pundits/commentators show this blatant love of Man Utd. It really is amazing that the British media can be so madly in love with Man Utd like this.
    I do wonder if in order to become a sports journalist in the UK, you need to state you are a Man UTD fan on your CV?

 

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