Tottenham vs. Manchester United: 6 Tactical Moves That Defined the Match

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Tottenham vs. Manchester United: 6 Tactical Moves That Defined the Match
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Manchester United's Phil Jones (L) battles with Tottenham Hotspur's Jake Livermore (R).

It was a topsy-turvy weekend for the London clubs in the Premier League.

While Arsenal defied all the odds to come out on top at Anfield against Liverpool—via two goals from the talismanic Robin van Persie—after clearly being the second-best side on the pitch, Russian oil magnate and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich said ta-da to his eighth manager in as many years. The West Londoners' neighbours Fulham, meanwhile, put five goals past a sorry Wolves.

So when second-placed Manchester United turned up at White Hart Lane to play third-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday evening, the 36,000-plus capacity crowd was expecting nothing less than a page-turner.

Manchester United (on 61 points) knew that anything less than three points would put them dangerously behind neighbours and table-toppers Manchester City (on 66 points) with just over 10 games to go. The Spurs (on 53 points), too, were well aware of the fact that their North London rivals Arsenal (on 49 points) were reaching for their ankles after their victory over Liverpool.

This fixture had always thrown up a belter over the last decade or so, but annoyingly so for Spurs supporters, the result had never flattered them. Their side had never beaten Manchester United since 2001. Their overall Premier League record against the Red Devils was even more dismal: P39 W3 D8 L28 Pts 17.

What's worse, they were without their match-winning trio of Gareth Bale (hamstring), Rafael van der Vaart (ankle) and new England captain Scott Parker (suspended).

Manchester United, who are on a terrific away-run this season (having won nine and lost only one out of their twelve away games prior to this fixture), started positively and dominated possession for about five minutes.

But slowly and steadily, the Spurs got into the game and pushed United on the back foot. United never looked like recovering in the opening 45. 

Thus, not a single person in White Hart Lane could believe it when Wayne Rooney, in stoppage time of the first half, headed a curling Ashley Young cross past Brad Friedel from six yards.

United boss Alex Ferguson later described it as "a miracle" that his side were ahead at the break.

The Spurs were determined to set things right in the second half—especially after Emmanuel Adebayor's back-heel goal had been disallowed earlier for handball—and continued to press United.

However, at the stroke of the hour, the Reds made the most of a defensive lapse as Ashley Young scissor-volleyed past the traffic from a tight angle just outside the six-yard box.

Young, who had scored twice in United's 8-2 mauling of Arsenal earlier this season, carried on his love affair with the North London clubs as he curled one past a helpless Friedel from 20 yards nine minutes later.

It was nothing less than a scandal, as the Spurs might have felt after dominating the majority of the game. Substitute Jermain Defoe got a consolation goal three minutes from time, but it was too late for Harry Redknapp's side, who saw their title dreams take a cruel, crushing blow.

After witnessing such a baffling game, it's hard to point out the tactics that won or lost the match. However, here are a bunch of tactics that I thought were relevant.

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