Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Manchester United Talking Points

Rafael sent off at Spurs

In what was the 148th match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur (United winning 74 and losing 35) finished in a goalless draw, with United ending the match with ten men following the dismissal of Rafael for two yellow cards. United were going into the match in second place, following Manchester City’s 4-3 win over Wolves yesterday (although City had played three games more than United), whilst Tottenham were in 5th place and looking to overtake Chelsea, who beat Blackburn Rovers at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. United last lost a Premier League clash at White Hart Lane back in the May of 2001 – when the League title had already been wrapped up.

There were many talking points today and we of course welcome comments from both United and Tottenham fans following the scoreless draw.

Talking Points

Rafael – Angel & Devil

Rafael made his debut for United in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United at the start of the 08/09 season, coming on as a substitute. Since that day he has become a firm favourite at Old Trafford for his committed and energetic displays. This commitment can get Rafael in trouble at times, with the best example being in the 3-2 victory over Bayern Munich back in April – where United were eliminated by the away goals rule.

We all know what happened in that game, with United demonstrating some excellent free flowing football in the first half, only to come undone, after being 3-0 up, from a Michael Carrick error – leading to Bayern’s first and a sublime volley from ex Chelsea and Madrid winger, Arjen Robben. In between Gibson’s opener and Robben’s volley – Rafael was sent off for two bookable offenses, which in turn ended the contest as United were resorted to long balls for Nani to chase on to. Today, Rafael was sent off again for two bookable offenses – with the second a very harsh dismissal indeed.

In my opinion, there was no arguments with the first booking – even if the young Brazilian won the ball. Things have changed in English football over the years and a challenge that may have been acceptable thirty years ago, isn’t today. Rafael did win the ball, but he was off the ground with studs showing and was rightfully shown the yellow card. With the second booking, from what I saw, Assou-Ekotto was clipped by Rafael’s legs as he ran across him. A definite foul, however a yellow card? The offense occurred just past the half way line and I guess your decision will be based on the fact whether Rafael was being cynical or not. I know Rafael is quick to put a challenge in, which most of the time are hard but fair – but did his challenge on Assou-Ekotto warrant a booking? I don’t think so.

Luka Modric – Superb

Obviously our main focus is to analyse events surrounding United, however I was extremely impressed (again might I add) with the performance of Luka Modric throughout the 90 minutes. I’m reading on Twitter from some Reds that they were shocked Modric won MOTM for the game ahead of Vidic (will get to Vidic later on) – and although I think our skipper was excellent throughout, Modric was a constant threat and at times had Carrick and Fletcher chasing shadows.

I blogged last year on what a superb signed Luka Modric would be for Manchester United following some transfer gossip doing the rounds. However, with Modric performing like he did today, there is as much chance Barcelona selling United Lionel Messi or Xavi (not comparing the Barca duo to Modric – but just in terms of importance to Spurs and how unlikely the transfer is!). His low centre of gravity allows the Croatian to free himself from his marker, whilst his vision and passing helps to open up play. A marvelous midfielder, who was outstanding today. Below are his passing stats in comparison to his teammate Wilson Palacious and the United duo of Fletcher and Carrick:

Luka Modric Passing Stats vs. Manchester United

Modric attempted 77 passes, which is 7 less than both Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher together. Of course its not about quantity, but his pass success rate was greater than both Carrick/Fletcher – and he made the majority of his passes in a more advanced position. A great display.

Vidic & Van Der Sar – Solid

Manchester United’s captain put in a solid display, which helped United to a point at White Hart Lane. Vidic’s was immense in the air against Peter Crouch, who of course has a distinct height advantage whilst making five interceptions throughout the match (which was the same as Ferdinand, Dawson and Gallas’ interceptions put together). As I mentioned, many were complaining that Vidic was the MOTM for his performance today and in my book was certainly inspirational in United obtaining a point at Spurs.

Fourteen years ago I used to think to myself “I don’t know what i’ll do when Eric retires” – and of course five months later Eric was no more as he quit the game aged 30 to pursue an acting career. I’ve only had that opinion with a few players over the years, but I wouldn’t say Edwin Van Der Sar is far off that. His experience, agility and distribution are an enormous asset to the club since he signed in the summer of 2005. Fergie stated that he should have signed him years ago, but obviously missed out when the Dutchman moved to Juventus from Ajax in 1999. We ran a poll earlier in the season on Van Der Sar’s inevitable replacement, with David De Gea coming out as favourite.

Today, Van Der Sar came and collected a number of crosses with ease, whilst punching and clearing his lines when necessary. The big Dutchman, schooled at the Ajax academy, is always willing to play quick football and his distribution to Rafael or Evra is often key in United’s counter attacking play.

Match Conclusion

Manchester United earned a good point at Tottenham today, through resilient defending even if their normal passing game wasn’t there. Tottenham demonstrated why they should be considered a top four side, with some slick passing and movement from Luka Modric – who orchestrated most of the play for the North London side today. United were forced, for the second time in two seasons, to play a quarter of the match with ten men following the dismissal of Brazilian fullback Rafael – who was rather harshly sent off for two bookable offenses. The first tackle was a yellow card, even if fullback did win the ball, as it was rash and off the ground. The second was a mere clash of legs, which nearer the halfway line than United’s goal. Rafael had been very impressive throughout the game as he continues to go from strength to strength.

This was no doubt a tough encounter for United, who remain unbeaten with seventeen games left till the end of the season. If you would have offered me a point before the game I would have taken it. Spurs are a very good footballing side and although United have had better performances and results in recent seasons – a team that contains the pace of Bale and Lennon combined with the artistry and guile of Luka Modric – I believe Fergie will be happy with a point. Birmingham City are next up for United next Saturday.

6 Comments on Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Manchester United Talking Points

  1. I’ve watched this fixture since the 2-2 in 57 at W/H/Lane, and they have always been half decent games and today was no exception. Utd was always my 2nd team after watching the Babes, so even now divided loyalties. We played some great football but your defense with Vidic was immense. Can’t see us winning it but just make make sure you beat the Arabs to it,

  2. Vidic was very lucky to not concede a penalty for his blatant shirt pull on VDV

    And Rafael should have been sent off earlier for his disgraceful imaginary card waving

  3. Anon – I agree with you with Rafael’s disgraceful waving of an imaginary card, and hopefully with experience this is something he will lose from his game. We all feel a sense of injustice at times, however you can’t take the laws into your own hands and tell the ref what to do.

    With Vidic shirt pulling – you’re right – it did look bad but refs need to be consistent across the board if they are going to start giving these fouls. I can see why a penalty would be given, however this happens in every game up and down the country with very little given. I’m not saying it is right, but it would be interesting to see refs clamp down on shirt pulling and see if it would make a difference of not.

  4. If someone would said to me three years ago that spurs would play Manchester united off the park have 65% of play make Rooney look average , have Manchester united bias andy grey lording us up I would told them wake and smell the coffee, win didn’t win today but more importantly win didn’t look like losing , we need second striker is Andy Carroll the one .. not sure all I know i8s that spurs are a lot stronger with king ,woodgate ,Huddleston and not forgetting defoe to come back to top form we may get either 4th or 3rd – let’s hope we do Chelsea what did to Manchester city and Liverpool last season

  5. I abhor card waving, but he shouldn’t have been sent off for it. Nobody gets carded for it. I’m all for a change in rules regarding that, not for referees making their own up.

    Rafael: P’raps a bit harsh, but we all know that once you’ve got that yellow any future indiscretions are liable to get you the second card if it’s deemed avoidable. Rafael’s done that before, running across a guy’s legs at the back. He’s a great player but he needs to avoid some of these needless cards.

    Modric: Had a cracking game.

    Vidic and VDS: Also had cracking games as part of a top drawer defensive performance. Though I was surprised that, especially when we went a man down, Spurs didn’t go for the jugular. Certainly not the way they have against Arsenal and Chelsea in recent times. A result of those being derbies or them being more wary of us exploiting them if they open up too much? Or just a good day from United and a careful performance from Spurs?

  6. Ian – funny you say that about Spurs not going for the jugular. I said on Twitter that I was actually pretty disappointed by Spurs. For all their possession and intensity they really created little. Cross after cross was headed away and the only two saves Edwin had to make were from tame free kicks. It was obvious how much Spurs were lacking a good striker as they were really short of options in the final 30 yards. For all their impressive midfield play Spurs disappointed me.

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