On a snowy evening in North London, Manchester United and Tottenham played an absolutely cracking match, finishing the game with a 1-1 draw that was exciting throughout.
United looked sure to win this one, holding a 1-0 lead for much of the match. But with a minute left in stoppage time, Clint Dempsey—who played poorly throughout, honestly—would score the game-tying goal after Aaron Lennon would survive chaos in front of the net and send a pass across the face of the goal to Dempsey.
Robin van Persie opened the scoring—of course he did—with a lovely header into the left of the net, as Tom Cleverley found the red-hot striker with a brilliant cross. That's now 11 goals in Van Persie's last 11 games, a goal-scoring streak that everyone outside of Lionel Messi would be thrilled to own.
At that juncture, it seemed as though United had withstood the early Tottenham pressure and were wrestling away control of the game. But Spurs kept pressing, and David de Gea made an excellent kick-save on a Gareth Bale ripper that deflected off Phil Jones at the last moment and nearly flew into the net.
United took a 1-0 lead into the half.
Tottenham had a brilliant scoring chance early in the second half, as Mousa Dembele played a magnificent pass in to Clint Dempsey, who had split the defense and found himself in front of goal. But once again, De Gea was up to the challenge, making another nice kick-save and sending Dempsey's attempt careening out of play for a corner, which United would handle.
Thus began a second half of laments for Dempsey, at least until his late goal, as the United States star had a dismal showing on several attempts in the second half and looked out of sorts on the attack (though, to his credit, he did put himself in promising positions).
The Spurs attacks would keep on coming. Jermain Defoe would find himself with a very nice chance, as Aaron Lennon would play a perfect ball to a streaking Defoe to the left of the net. But the wily Rio Ferdinand would spoil any thoughts of a Spurs equalizer, as his sliding tackle would deflect Defoe's shot out of play.
For much of the second half, the Red Devils defense blocked shots and generally frustrated the Tottenham attackers. But Spurs kept pressing forward and were rewarded in the 92nd minute with Dempsey's game-tying strike.
United now stand five points clear of Manchester City atop the Premier League table, while Spurs sit in fourth place.
Gareth Bale, Tottenham: C+
Bale was largely invisible in the first half, save a blistering shot that nearly made its way into the goal off a deflection. While he would be more of a factor in the second half, his main contribution was two shots that didn't quite reach the net.
Not quite enough of a showing from Spurs' biggest star.
Robin van Persie, Manchester United: B
At this point, we grade Van Persie against himself. He got the goal, so we can't kill him, but there were better players for United on this day.
Clint Dempsey, Tottenham: B
On one hand, Dempsey regularly put himself in good positions and did score the game-tying goal.
On the other hand, he regularly lacked the cutting edge in the final third for the majority of this game.
He had a brilliant opportunity to score in front of goal but couldn't sneak it past De Gea.
He weakly attempted a shot from outside of the box after the ball fell to him, then immediately botched another pass after stealing the ball back for Tottenham.
He had a nice attempt from the left side of the box but sent a shot screaming into the side netting.
But Dempsey never hung his head, never quit putting himself in good positions, and he found a way to score a vital goal for Spurs. Certainly not his finest performance, but in the end, Dempsey made sure he atoned for his earlier disappointments.
David de Gea and the Manchester United Defense: A-
I was about to give United's keeper and its defensive unit an A-plus for this game before Dempsey tied things up. But don't get it twisted—despite the Red Devils attack gaining most of the praise this season, it was the defense that deserves the most praise for United on this day.
De Gea made several brilliant saves. The United defense continuously blocked shots and withstood a barrage of Tottenham attacks, namely in the second half. While the game was justifiably a draw, the United defense and keeper nearly stole three points. In the end, they were a minute short of doing just that.
Aaron Lennon, Tottenham: A
What didn't he do on this afternoon? His pace down the right side stretched United all day long. He cut in, he took shots, he played brilliant passes through the middle, he sent regular crosses into the box and, for good measure, he even crossed up Wayne Rooney and forced a yellow card.
He was, in a word, magnificent.