Man United traveled into White Hart Lane against Tottenham with more at stake than at least Spurs were accustomed. For neutrals, unfortunately, the added pressure resulted in a less carefree affair.
The game started openly, though, with some of the glorious back-and-forth attacks everyone expected. However, the tempo and atmosphere changed as neither side could manage a crucial opener. Only Rooney was on target for his team in the first half while Spurs were ultimately muted by, essentially, just Vidic whenever they feigned threatening United's box.
The second half saw more technical and attractive midfield play from especially Modric and Giggs as they each ran the offense for their sides, but a final ball was always lacking. United began time-wasting around the 60th minute. Rafael then done got off for a second questionably bookable offense after 74 minutes had quickly passed.
Predictably Spurs began relishing possession but were mostly stymied by United's then five-man midfield. Vidic again was a swirling black hole for all of Spurs' attacks into the penalty box. The London club went for the jugular with a gross attacking spread to see out the game but United were mature.
And so the match ended anticlimactically at nils apiece. A lot of interesting football was ultimately unexciting since neither side could manage an opener.
Gomez: 7: Had to save nicely from Rooney on two occasions. Didn't gaffe greatly but punted askew at times.
Assou-Ekotto: 7: At worst, got beaten for a few corners. Didn't do anything special going forward nor anything especially bad on the back foot.
Dawson: 7: Got the better of Berbatov. Contained Rooney and kept him at range and on the wrong foot. . Defended corners needfully.
Gallas: 6: Quiet game, which isn't always bad for a defender. Contributed to Berbatov's poor game directly and matched up well against United's slow forwards.
Hutton: 7: Looked well up for this big match. Joy going forward opposite Giggs and did enough shackling the Welshman and Evra to feel confident after his display.
Bale: 5.5: Able to get behind Rafael on a couple occasions but having his reputation precede him today means his rating isn't as high as a lesser-known-player's would have been.
Palacios: 7.5: Combative like a De Jong or his opposite Fletcher. A couple wayward distance shots but credit for trying. Crucial to the midfield battle.
Modric: 8.5: Creative sparkplug. Classy over the ball. Turns were impeccable. Brilliant vision and technique. Outstanding pilot as his side cruised to complacence.
Lennon: 7: Has shown in matchups past he's able to get past Evra and even skin Vidic. Did less of the former today and none of the latter. Still got in crosses but ultimately you'd say he was muffed out by the two aforementioned defenders on the whole.
van der Vaart: 5.5: Looked slow and not at the races. Fitness issues perhaps for Spurs' new talisman.
Crouch: 5: Probably had as little success as he'll have all season winning headers and knocking down balls for all the brilliant attackers around him. Why? Vida. Crouch had a sitter early in the first half but inexplicably put it wide.
van der Sar: 6: Had less to do than his opposite number. His punts don't contribute much but the tenured Dutchman showed good feet at times and made a few above-standard saves.
Rafael: 5.5: Matched up well with Bale but when the young Brazilian was carded early he was always going off. Such is his plight. Luckily his silliness was not tragically detrimental to the result as it was against Bayern last March (it still stings). Rafael was United's best attacker on occasions.
Ferdinand: 6: Happy to be playing next to Vidic and tweeting bollocks.
Vidic: 9.5: Utterly imperious. Totally awesome. Sick-doggin' nadass. The best defender in the world. Bunkered down in his penalty box with real spit in his eye. Went horizontal on several occasions bending reality to his whim. Owned everyone. And I don't care if he tugs shirts, it's artful and good defense. If Vidic had scored he'd have a ten.
Evra: 6: Went forward craftily at times but still overly-reliant on his left foot. Lennon tears about lesser defenders, but the little Englishman still had some joy today against this Frenchman.
Nani: 6.5: Better technique and decision-making but didn't stamp any authority on the match.
Carrick: 5.5: Essentially his mandate was to stay back and don't mess anything up egregiously. He did that. He even contested for some 50/50 headers. But Carrick has never been United quality. He must have an outstanding game to even be on par with both his teammates and potential replacements, yet the bloke is ever-happy to remain anonymous on the field, hoping no one realizes he does not belong.
Fletcher: 7.5: Did a lot on each side of the ball. United's most active midfielder during the first half and much of the game. Covered more ground than any other player.
Giggs: 7: Pulled the strings in the second half after getting warmed up in the first. Sole creative source going forward for United through much of the game.
Berbatov: 5: Offsides lazily several times, a feature of his game. Everyone knows Berbatov has class, but everyone also knows he'd be better if he just tried harder. Hell he probably knows it. But having the potential to be awesome only goes so far when most time is spent unfulfilled. Too slow.
Rooney: 5: His limitations were again evident today. Not many people saying he's the best striker in the world anymore. Had a few open looks at goal but sent all his shots low. Shooting is the easy part, but getting the right angle and space is always troubling for him because everyone including Steven Hawking's football boots and Count Wankenstein know Rooney is going onto his bloody right foot. I don't care where his shots go, because they even out over time. Just wish he was an improving footballer. He looked completely disinterested once he was moved to right midfield, though I still fancy him as a central attacking midfielder in the future; if only Alex agreed.
Subs: Hernandez (fast and awesome), Anderson (chip on shoulder).