Tottenham 1-1 Manchester United: A 6-Part Synopsis
Would it be the lilywhite of Spurs' kits and the seemingly endless amount of snow that fell? Or would it be red like their own shirts after seeing a penalty turned down and allowing a late equalizer?
Regardless, Tottenham's effort in breaching a stubborn United defense was the final twist in a plot filled with intriguing matchups, tactical ramifications and a Robin van Persie goal, which, oddly, has become so constant that it almost induced a yawn from the visiting section of the ground.
By the time the match concluded, it was easy to break the 90 minutes down into six central points that shaped the snow-covered draw.
United Put Bale on Hold for 90 Minutes...
As Sam Tighe explained well in Bleacher Report's "Set Piece" blog, Zonal Marking breaks down and I made comment of during Max Towle's live updates of the match, Sir Alex Ferguson made a point to put Gareth Bale under wraps.
By effectively creating a wall on United's right side, Spurs looked lost for a large chunk of the match as they tried to figure out a way to get the Welshman involved in proceedings.
Bale never went to the right side but did drift into the center of the park from time to time, but he often found himself front and center in the attention of red-shirted defenders no matter what part of the pitch he drifted to.
Such is Tottenham's reliance on Bale, however, that they continually wasted away a great deal of their attacking efforts down a flank they were getting nothing out of.
...But Might Want to Remember Not to Leave Aaron Lennon Alone Next Time
Whereas Bale was anonymous for large stretches of the match, Aaron Lennon was not sought after by his own squad, which must have been the biggest mistake Tottenham made all match.
Patrice Evra was given almost zero help, aside from the odd bit of work by Michael Carrick, in dealing with the pint-sized winger and was often on an island with Lennon—one Evra should have sent an SOS message from.
Lennon's willingness to dribble at the United defence was instrumental in two of the better chances of the match, the first being Lennon's shot back across De Gea that the goalkeeper saved.
The other was a bit more memorable, as he supplied the final ball for Clint Dempsey to knock in the winner.
Lennon's work down the right was the most dynamic offensive threat on the pitch, and it was rewarded very late on.
Yes, That Was a Penalty on Wayne Rooney...
Wayne Rooney's introduction seemed somewhat counterintuitive to Manchester United's cause in the end due to the lack of possession the Red Devils had throughout the match.
His passing did not quite match the man he replaced, Shinji Kagawa, but his workrate off the ball was as good as ever.
It was the non-penalty, however, that became one of the main talking points of the match and one that might come back around in April or May if things were to get sticky at the top of the table.
If you missed it, Steven Caulker arrived late as Rooney was dribbling into the penalty area, and though the contact was less than a Tom Brady boot, it certainly was enough to merit a spot-kick.
Chris Foy, as noted by Graham Poll in Sportsmail, has not given a penalty yet this term, and if he is not willing to give that, you might be allowed to chop someone down with an axe and get away with it.
...But United Owe David De Gea for Some Crazy Saves
There may be some debate about the sequence at the end of the match and David De Gea's handling of that situation, but given the saves he pulled out during the match, it's hard to give him too much schtick.
Early on, he smothered Lennon's shot and Jermain Defoe's (offside) effort on the double. He then pulled out crazy legs save No. 1 after denying Bale's slightly deflected hit in the area near the end of the first half.
Even better was his save of Dempsey early in the second half with crazy legs save No. 2, with the goalkeeper denying what surely should have been a goal for the American.
He also turned out a Defoe strike from a tight angle that was goal-bound and another Dempsey effort early in the second half.
Had De Gea not been on song, Spurs might have been on the board earlier and more often than they were.
United Rememberd Where Spurs Were Weak...
If anything about van Persie's goal was notable, it was that the Red Devils hit exactly where Tottenham are at their weakest: in behind Kyle Walker.
Walker, in a straight pace battle, is going to do well against 85 percent of the league. It is, however, when forced into more of a central defensive mindset that Walker goes walkabout.
In the first meeting, Kagawa tormented Walker in the second half until he was pulled—in particular when he ghosted past the Spurs full-back for United's second.
What was interesting about the setup was not that it was a cross that undid Walker, who was looking about blindly for a red shirt, but that all the United attackers were lined up behind him.
No one looked to make an inside run. Van Persie simply had space on Walker and was not bothered by the defender when he blasted his header into the net.
While Manchester United had only five shots total, it's telling that four came from the side Walker was defending.
...But Spurs Knuckled Up in the Clutch
It looked as though, as the seconds ticked away, United had continued the hoodoo on Spurs that carries back to 2001.
Tottenham have had trouble getting points against packed defenses, and United were but a minute away from continuing that trend as well.
But, for once, the home side ground out a result that looked to have eluded them and sealed a vital point that other challengers in the race for the Champions League spots would love to have.
All the huffing and puffing means that it is likely that the men will be one of only a hatful of teams to take more points off Manchester United than the other way around in a campaign.
Only 17 times in the last decade has a club gotten the better of United in a campaign, while only two other clubs have a chance to do that this term.
In comparison, Spurs have that many blots on their record...in half the time.
In the end, it proved a good result for the hosts, possibly a good result for the visitors and potentially a good result for anyone still harboring an inkling of getting back into the title picture.