Ferguson's fighters still standing
White Hart Lane
Harry Redknapp evoked memories of the notorious 1984 Olympics clash between Mary Decker and Zola Budd to describe the most contentious moment of the stalemate between Tottenham and Manchester United.
He likened Rafael's tangle with Benoit Assou-Ekotto that brought United's defender a harsh red card to the moment Los Angeles stopped as Budd, a South African athlete running for Great Britain, unwittingly brought the American sweetheart to the floor in the 3,000m final to became a nation's villain.
Nice line from Harry - and delivered after his maturing Spurs became the latest side to try and fail to make the Premier League's own frontrunners stumble and fall.
This meeting fell short of its pre-match billing and expectations but there was still much to provide satisfaction for two of the game's managerial elder statesmen.
The story of United's season is now a familiar one. Still we wait for signs that the old sparkle and flourish is returning. Yet - and with greater significance - still we wait for their first defeat after 21 games.
Rooney lost control of his emotions when Rafael was sent off. Photo: PA
If United, reaching out in vain for their best form, can lead the Premier League table with two games in hand, it sounds an ominous note for those hoping to emerge from what is effectively a five-club pack to claim the title.
Spurs may have found their variety of attacking avenues closed off at every turn by a red wall of resistance built by the outstanding Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. But Redknapp refuses to waver in his belief that Spurs can be title challengers, taking this encounter as fresh evidence that he is assembling a squad that is closing the gap on those at the top.
"This game tells me we are not a million miles behind all these other teams," he said. "We went to Arsenal and won. We have played Chelsea and Manchester United here and there has been nothing between us and we battered Manchester City here on the opening day of the season and should have got more than a draw. We believe we are not inferior to any of them. There is not a lot in this league any more."
Hundreds of Spurs fans gathered outside White Hart Lane before kick-off to protest against any potential move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, while more dissenters chanted noisily at half-time. At least they know they are watching a team that is going places even if they wish to stay firmly put.
Another firm conclusion that can be drawn from a day of Premier League draws is that United, while not currently the flamboyant attacking force of old, are showing a resilience and a defensive solidity that wins titles.
If Ferguson can somehow coax Wayne Rooney back to somewhere near his real self, it will surely be a potent enough cocktail to take them ever closer to that record 19th title.
Rooney showed flashes of his best at White Hart Lane, dragging a shot wide early on and seeing a low drive turned away by Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes just after half-time, but too often he was on the margins as his touch deserted him.
He was shunted to a right-flank role when Ferguson made a tactical reshuffle on the hour and boiled over pointlessly when Rafael saw red, haranguing referee Mike Dean to such an extent that a booking was the least he deserved.
Rooney will surely return to his world-class best at some point but, for now, his toils continue. Ferguson will keep faith and hope that the switch can be flicked because Rooney-watching is currently a frustrating occupation.
The reliables are Ferdinand and Vidic. Peter Crouch and Rafael van der Vaart came close to piercing the shield they provided in front of Edwin van der Sar but otherwise it was an imperious performance from the pair.
William Gallas and Michael Dawson were almost as impressive for Spurs but one player stood head and shoulders - in skill if not in stature - above all others as a creative force. And that was tiny Croatian Luka Modric.
On an operational note, the close proximity to the pitch of the Spurs press box gives the media an almost unique view of the pace of a Premier League game and how minds must be as agile and swift as limbs in the midfield area.
Modric oozed class against Manchester United. Photo: Getty Images
Modric, at such close quarters, is a marvel to watch. As bodies move in a blur, he finds time and space to pick out colleagues, switch the direction of play and display a rare vision. If he has been overshadowed to an extent by the deeds of Gareth Bale and Van der Vaart this season, he was his side's main driving force on Sunday - a fact readily acknowledged by Redknapp.
"An amazing player, an amazing footballer and a great boy," said the manager. "There was talk about a lack of space and time out there but he kept finding it. His touch and awareness is fantastic. He could play in any team in the world."
It was a masterclass no doubt appreciated by the watching David Beckham as he kept an eye on the team he wants to play for, a prospect receding by the day it seems.
Spurs and United may have ultimately cancelled each other out but it was not for the want of trying. Even after Rafael's sending-off, Ferguson sent Paul Scholes back to the dug-out as he was preparing to emerge as a substitute and instead sent on striker Javier Hernandez for the subdued Dimitar Berbatov.
Redknapp's response was to send on Jermain Defoe to partner Crouch, removing Wilson Palacios and leaving the unlikely duo of Modric and Van der Vaart as his central midfield duo.
If there is such thing as a moral victory, it could be claimed by United. White Hart Lane was the place where many expected their unbeaten run to end but Spurs could barely lay a glove on them.
Redknapp later insisted it would be "a miracle" if United maintained the sequence until season's end and became the new 'Invincibles'.
Ferguson will probably believe such an achievement it is not beyond the capabilities of a side showing equal measures of toughness and talent.