On very greasy Old Trafford surface, Manchester United extended their unbeaten streaks with a 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Barclays Premier League.
Nemanja Vidic gave United the lead in the first-half, but a very controversial goal from Nani six minutes from time sealed all three points for the resurgent Red Devils.
The not only extends United’s current unbeaten streak to 22 matches, but also their impressive 20-year voodoo jinx over Tottenham at the Theater of Dreams (19 matches in total).
Sir Alex Ferguson went for his best available line-up to cope with a very potent Spurs’ attack, but the surprising and welcoming addition was Rafael at right-back to match up with their left winger, Gareth Bale.
The only concerning part is that Ferguson had no recognized forwards on his substitute’s bench for the match, but thankfully they were not needed.
Surprisingly, Harry Redknapp, who has never shied away from attacking, opted for a 4-5-1 with out-of-favor Robbie Keane making a rare start for the visitors.
Ahead of the match, the Red Devils learned their opponent for the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup, and they will face West Ham United at Upton Park as they attempt to go for a third consecutive title.
In just the second minute of the match, Ji-Sung Park collected the ball, and fired in a fierce drive, which smacked the foot of Gomes’ right post.
Two minutes later Nani tried his luck from distance, but his left footed effort was easily claimed by the Tottenham goalkeeper to his left.
The same two players combined well for United’s next half-chance, but the Portuguese winger dragged his effort horribly wide of the far post.
Tottenham, themselves, struck the post and it was their summer signing, Rafael van der Vaart, who struck Edwin van der Sar’s right-hand stick with his powerful left-footed shot.
The Dutchman had another go, but on his right foot this time, he blasted a few years over his fellow countryman’s crossbar.
Following a very good passing movement, Park did well to cut inside on his left foot, but his shot could not find the top corner he was aiming for as it went high wide of the target.
The first caution of the match went to former Arsenal skipper, William Gallas, who cynically went through the back of Chicharito.
A lot of the United attack came down the right-hand side, and with the Tottenham defenders allowing Rafael to drive at them, the young right-back decided to shoot with his weaker foot and he pulled it harmlessly wide of Gomes’ near post.
Former Spurs midfielder, Michael Carrick, received a neat pass from Nani and with a bid of space, he drove his shot directly into the midriff of Gomes, but the goalkeeper spilled it, but unfortunately Hernandez was not quick enough to punish Tottenham.
The young Mexican had some space in the defensive-third of Tottenham, but his long-range shot went about 20 yards wide and high of the goal.
The second Spurs defender, Younes Kaboul, made his way into Mark Clattenburg’s notebook with a very hard challenge on Hernandez, and from the ensuing free-kick United were in front.
Nani’s very tempting set-piece delivery was meaningfully met by a powerful, well-placed header from Nemanja Vidic, who was being mistakenly marked by a much smaller Benoit Assou-Ekotto, which ended up in the far corner of the Spurs’ goal to give United a one-nil lead.
The goal opened up and already wide open match as Spurs pressed forward in search of getting level, and it took a very good block from van der Sar to keep them out.
van der Vaart expertly picked out Luka Modric, and the tiny Croatian smashed the ball first-time, which was destined for the upper corner of the net, but the timely punch by van der Sar cleared it from danger.
Gomes was again tested, and it was Dimitar Berbatov who had a go, but the Tottenham ‘keeper did well to stand tall and hold onto the shot from the Spurs’ talisman.
Berbatov was again denied by his former teammate as Gomes did well to get down and block his near post effort, and Spurs eventually cleared their lines.
There were some fireworks on the pitch during the interval and both sets of supporters were hoping that their respective clubs continued with those fireworks throughout the second-half.
Like they did at the start of the match, United had a chance to get a goal inside two minutes of the restart, but Chicharito’s could not manage to a get a decisive touch on Park’s perfectly-placed through ball.
With the game losing some of its pace, Nani did well to keep the ball and he audaciously tested Gomes with his accuracy rather power from an acute angle, but the very long arms of the goalkeeper did well to claim the United’s winger attempt on goal.
Bale received the ball on the halfway line, and his power and pace got him into a good position in behind the United defenders, but he was unable to steer his weaker right-footed chance on target to test van der Sar.
Redknapp made the first change of the match replacing his stand-in captain, Robbie Keane, with taller, more nimble Roman Pavlyuchenko.
With loads of space to operate in, Patrice Evra cut in on his right, but was chopped down by Alan Hutton in a very good area for a free-kick.
it allowed to make a couple of changes as he brought on Paul Scholes and Wes Brown for Berbatov and Rafael, respectively.
From the ensuing free-kick, Nani bent the ball around the Spurs wall, but it went straight into the waiting arms of Gomes.
Redknapp then made his second swap as he brought on Wilson Palacios for Jermaine Jenas, which was a like-for-like change.
Nani sprung Chicharito with a wonderful pass, but his first-time effort was was dealt with by Gomes.
Pavlyuchenko made a good chance for himself, but he could only direct his shot into the side netting of van der Sar’s goal.
With pace to burn, Nani got passed a few defenders, but unfortunately his shot did match his run, and pulled it well-wide of the near post.
Then van der Sar was called into action as van der Vaart had another go with his left foot, but the United shot-stopper did well to get down at his near post and handle the shot.
Spurs could have very easily been level but thankfully Pavlyuchenko’s shot, which took a nasty deflection off of Vidic and left van der Sar left for dead, went on wide of van der Sar’s left-hand post.
A hamstring injury to van der Vaart forced Redknapp’s to make his last roll of the dice bringing on the tall, lanky Peter Crouch to replace his newly-found play-maker.
Then there was controversy that boiled over, which the referee denied United a clear penalty, after Nani was dragged down by Kabul.
However, the bizarre circumstances that unfolded after that will be in the news for quite sometime after Gomes thought that Tottenham had a free-kick and the goalkeeper set the ball down.
There was no whistle indicating a foul from Clattenburg, despite Nani handling the ball, and the Portuguese winger placed the ball into the unguarded net.
In stoppage time, Nani teased and tormented the Tottenham defenders, but his left-footed drive smacked the top of Gomes’ crossbar and out of play.
Manchester United did well to see off the stern challenge from Tottenham Hotspur to keep pace at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Nani was involved throughout the match, and in spite of the controversy surrounding his, goal he deserved him converting the decisive
E. van der Sar – 7; Rafael – 6 (W. Brown – 6), R. Ferdinand – 7, N. Vidic – 7, P. Evra – 7; Nani – 8, D. Fletcher – 7, M. Carrick – 7, J. S. Park – 7, J. Hernandez – 7 (G. Obertan – X), D. Berbatov – 6 (P. Scholes – 7)
N. Vidic (31′), Nani (84′)
Shots (On Target): 19 (10)
Fouls Conceded (Suffered): 12 (11)