The chants of "Keano, Keano" reverberated around the Theatre of Dreams tonight. A touch of nostalgia from the Manchester United fans as they paid tribute to a former club legend.
However, United’s 2-0 victory over the Tottenham Hotspur will be remembered for the contributions of another man hailing from the island of Ireland. Darren Gibson stole the headlines as he produced two finishes that easily rivalled Roy Keane’s finest strikes for the Red Devils.
The Republic of Ireland international broke the deadlock in the 16th minute. With tenacious work from his midfield partner, the Brazilian Anderson eventually rolled the ball into the path of Gibson. Gibson then unleashed a low drive which arrowed like a missile into the bottom left hand corner of Hector Gomez’s goal.
It was harsh punishment on a stylish Spurs side that dominated proceedings for large parts of the first half. Wilson Palacios bossed the centre of the park with his dogged attitude breaking up any infrequent home side assaults in the Tottenham half.
Indeed the Spurs spawned a host of opportunities. Clive Allen appeared to have forgotten to remind Jermaine Defoe to bring his lucky pink boots to Old Trafford.
The English forward, who has been in sensational form this season, missed the best chance of the first half for the away side. Gareth Bale, who looked impressive surging down the left wing, curled in a delicious cross which was expertly controlled by Defoe.
Unfortunately for the travelling contingent, his left footed volley was blocked courageously by the young full back DeLaet.
Nemanja Vidic proved once again indispensable for United. He led the United defense with unerring ruthlessness, commanding headers, thumping tackles, and last ditch blocks.
The Spurs failed to capitalize from dead ball situations as well. David Bentley’s final ball proved disappointing throughout the duration of the match with the exception of one decent corner. It is quite alarming how far the right midfielder has regressed.
Harry Redknapp was dealt a severe and ultimately decisive blow a mere six minutes before the break.
Gibson and Danny Welbeck exchanged a quick one-two, with the Irish midfielder promptly presented with a sufficient break to curl a wonderfully driven shot high into the right corner. The finish was emphatic.
It was difficult to see how the Spurs could navigate a path back into the match. Their first half performance didn’t warrant the two goal deficit which faced them as they departed for the intermission. The players looked suitably mugged as they trudged off towards the dressing room.
Tom Huddlestone was introduced for Palacios as Redknapp presumably looked to introduce more creativity into his midfield. However, the real obstacle preventing his team from manufacturing a goal was the ever present Serbian rock at the heart of Sir Alex Ferguson’s defence.
Bale continued to embark on meandering runs as the Welsh international earnestly tried to impress his manager. His performance would have left Assou-Ekotto sweating on the bench.
With half an hour left to play, Robbie Keane was withdrawn and the gangly Peter Crouch appeared as the Red contemplated the long ball approach. But the Spurs’ fortunes failed to improve.
Bentley wasted the best opportunity of the match. Bale eluded the attentions of Gary Neville, dashing to the byline and squaring his pass to the Bentley. The former Arsenal youth player, who was once groomed as the predecessor to David Beckham on the right of England’s midfield, failed to emulate the iconic number seven at OT, driving his shot straight at the thankful Tomas Kuszczak.
Michael Carrick was delegated the role of ensuring that United comfortably ran out the remaining 20 odd minutes of the match while Macheda replaced Berbatov and injected some pace into the United front line.
Manchester United once again, has proceeded to the semi-final stages of the Carling Cup. Tottenham were left disappointed and empty handed as they make the long trip back to London and prepare for their important trek to Merseyside at the weekend.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Neville, Brown, Vidic, De Laet; Park, Gibson, Anderson (Tosic 81), Obertan (Carrick 62); Welbeck, Berbatov (Macheda 62).
Subs: Amos (g), Owen, Giggs, Fletcher.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Hutton, Dawson, Bassong, Bale; Bentley, Palacios (Huddlestone h-t), Jenas, Lennon; Keane (Crouch 65), Defoe.
Subs: Walker (g), Pavlyuchenko, Naughton, Corluka, Rose. Booked: Hutton
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
Man of the Match: Nemanja Vidic—The Serbian looked solid at the heart of United’s defence. His reading of the game was exceptional; he afforded the lethal Defoe little time to settle and was United’s best player on the night, despite Darren Gibson’s brace. However, the Irish midfielder will almost certainly beat Vidic to the Wednesdays back pages thanks to his two divine strikes (The midfielder warrants an honourable mention).