Saturday, January 24, 2009

Manchester United 2-1 Tottenham: United Progress to Fifth Round of FA Cup

Two ex-Tottenham Hotspur players combined to put Manchester United through to the fifth round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford tonight. Michael Carrick put Dimitar Berbatov through to score the winner after Roman Pavlyuchenko had given Spurs an early lead.

Tottenham travelled to Old Trafford to take on a depleted Manchester United with a very much depleted team of their own for a match that would be the fore runner of The Carling Cup Final in March.

Both managers had less than full strength teams on show for the FA Cup match that coincided with the 100 year anniversery of United winning the Cup for the first time.

With the Old Trafford pitch looking less than it's usual best both teams started uncomfortably. Paul Scholes giving the ball away cheaply with stray passes more than once in the opening exchanges.

Tom Huddlestone was probably the only player on the pitch who started well, and a brilliant pass in behind John O'Shea at right full forced the Irish man to scramble the ball out for a throw.

From the resulting throw, Huddlestone picked the ball up again and chipped in a beautiful near post cross for the on rushing Pavlyuchenko who glanced the ball past a stranded Ben Foster to give Tottenham an unlikely early lead.

With the centre of the pitch looking quite boggy, United began to utilise their wide players as they strived to get on top of Spurs. Danny Wellbeck filling in on the right side of midfield caused a lot of problems for Gareth Bale with his pace. And Fabio making his first start of the season at left full began bombing up and down past a bewildered David Bentley as United began to carve out chances.

Everything that was good about United started with Fabio and he instigated United's best move of the half. Passing to Schole who picked out Tevez on the edge of the box. The Argentinian controlled it perfectly and fired on goal only for Corluka to block, when the ball came down, Tevez again took control and blasted an unstoppble shot that cannoned off Ben Alnwick's crossbar.

Tevez was again denied in the 21st minute after another mazy Fabio run and cross had found the Argentinian on the edge of the box after a knock down by Berbatov. This time the Spurs keeper was equal to the shot, clawing the goal bound effort around his post. Spurs narrowly holding on to their slender lead.

With United looking like a goal was only a matter of time, they duely responded with a training ground routine from a corner. Tevez forced his way past three defenders with a powerful run before Bale knocked it out for a corner.

And the set piece was beautiful in it's simplicity. Passed out to the edge of the box where an unmarked Paul Scholes lay lurking. His shot took a deflection off Tom Huddlestone to give United a deserved goal.

Spurs needed to take the sting of out of the game as United stormed forward. But giving the ball away cheaply comes far too easy to Spurs this year and it came as no surprise to see them surrender the ball to Michael Carrick.

His pin point pass picked out Berbatov who finished into the bottom corner to give United the lead with their second goal in two minutes and the advantage going into the second half.

For Spurs to come back into this game changes would have to be made. There is a distinct lack of pace throughout the team, so the only real chance they have of scoring is through a set piece, and with United dominating and playing with great discipline that looked like a distant probability. Harry would have to work some magic. Unfortunately Gandalf couldn't even conjure a performance from this team so the second half looked a formality for United.

Luka Modric made way for Giovani Dos Santos who had not featured under Redknapp before today. The summer signing from Barcelona has not featured for Spurs since September after ankle ligament damage and Redknapp brought him on to add some pace to Spurs' midfield, Bentley moving inside to add bite to the middle.

Modric has been hugely dissapointing for Tottenham this season and one would wonder if he has a future at White Hart Lane. His pedigree is undoubted but he does not fit the bill of a Premiership player, he lacks pace, is very light, and is poor in the tackle. A move to Spain or Italy beckons.

With Redknapp having re-shuffled Spurs started the second half brightly. Bale making a number of runs down the left creating chances for both himself and David Bentley who hit the side netting from the edge of the box as Foster scrambled to cover.

Giovani settled very well, and Vidic received an early yellow card after he unceremonisly dumped the Mexican on end after he had dispossessed the United centre half.

As the game wore on Redknapp signalled his intentions by taking off Gareth Bale for Adel Taarabt. The young french man has been at White Hart Lane for a couple of years now and is"blessed with mercurial talent, but not the discipline to match it." Juande Ramos had lost all his faith in him that he refused to issue him with a squad number. Redknapp had given him a chance, so now it's up to him.

In a flurry of substitutions Defoe replaced Bentley and Zoran Tosic made his United debut in place of Cristiano Ronaldo. The Serbian was signed for next season but Ferguson has spoken recently of his need to integrate him into his squad for the title run in.

The second was a largely even affair. Both sides best efforts on goal were half chances at best, Berbatov and Tevez with United's best. Both managers will be happy with their teams performances in the second part of the match.

Ferguson will be pleased at the kind of performance that Spurs should have put in against Burnley on Wednesday, professional 'til the end.

Redknapp will be pleased as United were rampant in the first half and a cricket score looked likely before Harry rang in the changes and he will be happy with Giovani and Taarabt in particular who might have secured another season in white.

In the end it was a defeat with dignity and both managers can now look forward to locking horns again in March, this time with stronger teams.


Man Utd: Foster (6), O'Shea (6), Neville (7), Vidic (6), Da Silva (6), Welbeck (6), Carrick (7), Scholes (7), Ronaldo (5), Berbatov (6), Tevez (7).

Subs: Kuszczak, Giggs, Tosic (5), Fletcher, Possebon, Chester, Eckersley.

Tottenham: Alnwick (6), Gunter (6), Corluka (7), Dawson (7), Assou-Ekotto (6), Bentley (6), Huddlestone (6), Zokora (6), Bale (6), Modric (4), Pavlyuchenko (6).

Subs: Gomes, Gilberto, Giovani (6),Taarabt (6), Defoe (5), Rocha, Dervite.

twitter / WillieGannon