Premier League: Will Clint Dempsey's Equalizer Cost Manchester Utd the Title?

Ryan BaileyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 20:  Clint Dempsey of Tottenham Hotspur takes a shot at goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on January 20, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Despite the snow and the biting conditions, Sir Alex Ferguson was very keen for Manchester Utd's visit to White Hart Lane to go ahead as planned on Sunday.

The 71-year-old Scot was so keen, in fact, that he included himself in the officials' pre-match discussion about the weather conditions on the field.

Fergie had plenty of reasons to see a match played against Tottenham: Man Utd were looking to maintain a seven-point lead at the top of the table, continuing their hot streak with a fifth consecutive win at a stadium they haven't lost at since May 2001.

But the action didn't follow Sir Alex's script.

After Robin van Persie made it 1-0 in the first half, Wayne Rooney was denied a stonewall penalty that may have extended the lead. Instead, the match continued until three minutes of extra time were awarded. "Fergie Time" became "AVB time", and Clint Dempsey struck in the dying moments to rescue a point for Spurs.

Thanks to Deuce, and Spurs' surprise win at Old Trafford in September, this is the first season Manchester Utd have failed to beat Tottenham in the league since 1989/90.

Sir Alex will certainly see this trip to London as two points lost rather than one point gained, while his noisy neighbours at City will celebrate the fact that the gap at the top has now been reduced to five points.

So, when we look back at the season in May, will the draw at White Hart Lane be cited as the turning point in the title race? Is this the point where the Red Devils begin to surrender their lead to their oil-rich rivals across town?

A five point lead may seem like a relatively comfortable cushion, but that is the exact margin Utd held over City in April 2012 with just four games left to play. The Reds' draw at Everton and loss in the Manchester derby was enough to give the Citizens their first Premier League title.

This season, City have an extra 11 games to close that gap.

However, those extra 11 games look to be a more difficult challenge for the blue side of Manchester. Five of Man City's next 11 opponents are in the top half (Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton, Manchester Utd and Tottenham) and three of those five are away fixtures.

By contrast, Manchester Utd will only have to deal with two top-half opponents in their next 11 games—Everton and Manchester City—and both of them will be held at Old Trafford.

Based on the run-in, Manchester Utd fans may feel confident of maintaining, or even extending, their five-point lead.

Additionally, fans of statistical patterns will note that both Manchester sides dropped nine points in their final 15 matches last season. If the same happens again, Utd could win the league before the final day of the season.

In conclusion, Clint Dempsey's strike looks statistically unlikely to be the turning point of Manchester Utd's season (and in reality, Fergie would probably lament the losses to Everton, Norwich and Spurs at Old Trafford before considering his trip to White Hart Lane).

However, by reducing Utd's lead to five points, Tottenham have breathed like back into a title race that looked dead and buried in December.

Manchester City have caught the Red Devils by the tail once before, and Dempsey may have played his part in history repeating itself.