Manchester United vs Tottenham: Dominant Second Half Sinks Spurs

Luke TaylorCorrespondent IIAugust 23, 2011

Welbeck's Opener Sent United on their Way to Victory
Welbeck's Opener Sent United on their Way to Victory

A terrific second-half display helped lead Manchester United past Tottenham, as the champions made it two wins from two with a convincing 3-0 victory last night at Old Trafford.

Second-half goals from Danny Welbeck, Anderson and Wayne Rooney helped United maintain their 100 percent record, and put United level on points at the top of the table with Manchester rivals City.

An even first half ended goalless, before Danny Welbeck broke the deadlock on the hour mark, heading home a Tom Cleverley cross.

Welbeck then turned provider, delivering a neat backheel into the path of Anderson, who calmly finished a flowing move to double the champions’ advantage, and Wayne Rooney rounded off the night with a well-placed header from a Ryan Giggs’ cross.

Spurs have now gone 22 years without a win at Old Trafford, and their attempt to break that run was dealt a blow before the game even begun when Harry Redknapp ruled Luka Modric out of the contest.

The want-away midfielder was not deemed fit enough to feature in Manchester, but Redknapp’s concerns about his frame of mind dominated the press in the build-up to the game, as Chelsea continue to monitor his availability in the hope of striking a deal.

The Spurs boss selected Jake Livermore over Tom Huddlestone, while Niko Kranjcar replaced his compatriot Modric, but both struggled to get a real foothold in the game, with Rafael van der Vaart’s impact limited to a few long-range efforts.

Sir Alex Ferguson continued to turn to youth in the absence of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, with Jonny Evans and the very impressive Phil Jones deputising, while Chris Smalling continued in place of long-term absentee Rafael.

Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley were again given an opportunity to showcase their talents under the watchful eye of England coach Fabio Capello, and it was Cleverley who had the first meaningful opportunity in the game.

Ashley Young, who again excelled for his new club, led a counter-attack from which Cleverley’s curling effort brought an excellent fingertip save from Spurs debutant Brad Friedel. The 40-year-old keeper was twice the age of his opposite number, but shows no signs of regressing, starting in place of the unpredictable Heurelho Gomes.

The fast-paced opening showed no sign of letting up, and at the other end, David de Gea was quickly called upon, saving a Gareth Bale shot low to his right, as he continued in goal despite a rough start to his United career.

The young Spaniard was composed for the most part, dealing with long-range efforts before employing some fancy footwork to turn van der Vaart in a moment that brought back perhaps hair-raising memories of Fabien Barthez.

Harry Redknapp looked to have told his players to shoot on site in a bid to take advantage of de Gea’s early struggles, and Van der Vaart happily obliged, but De Gea, watched from the stands by his predecessor Edwin van der Sar, dealt with them comfortably.

Young, meanwhile, came close with a looping header which dropped just wide of the post, and shortly after, Rooney headed a cross from the winger straight at Friedel.

United enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the first period, but the game was evenly matched overall and the teams went into the break scoreless.

Just minutes into the second half, Spurs wasted a glorious opportunity to take the lead.

After Aaron Lennon got the better of Patrice Evra, the England winger failed to find a teammate with his wasteful cross, and van der Vaart showed his frustration by pulling his shirt over his head in anger.

The moment could have been a game-changer, but United then took control of the contest, with Cleverley and Anderson combining nicely in midfield as the home side began to dominate possession.

Friedel was called upon again, when he made an excellent double save from Anderson and Rooney, but the pressure began to build, and shortly afterwards, United broke the deadlock.

Tom Cleverley found space on the right, and delivered an inviting ball into the area, where Welbeck scored his first Premier League goal for United since 2008, glancing a header past Friedel into the Spurs’ net.

Suddenly, the champions looked rampant, and the American keeper was again called into action, making a fantastic save from Rooney’s goal-bound free-kick.

Danny Welbeck, with new-found confidence after his goal, began to look lively, and forced a save with a well-executed overhead kick, before playing a key role in United’s second goal just minutes later.

Anderson freed Welbeck inside the area, and the Ghanaian-born striker returned the ball into the midfielder’s path with a perfectly weighted backheel, allowing Anderson to score his first goal of the campaign.

It was no more than the Brazilian deserved either, as he kept United ticking over while on the ball, and displayed fantastic determination and endeavour when his team weren’t in possession. His increased goal-threat is also a bonus, as he is now consistently displaying the box-to-box characteristics which first attracted him to United.

Tottenham were looking for a way back into the match, and Jermain Defoe was given an opportunity when De Gea failed to hold a cross under pressure. The striker’s powerful effort struck the post, and with it, Spurs’ hopes of salvaging something from the game were put to bed.

United confirmed their dominance in the final minutes as Rooney headed home a third, before celebrating by patting his well-publicised new head of hair. The header came from a Ryan Giggs’ cross, as the Welshman, making a brief 10-minute cameo, reminded the Old Trafford faithful that it wasn’t just the youngsters who are capable of making an impact.

The final score was a reflection of United’s second-half dominance, even if it seemed a little harsh on a Tottenham side that was equal to the champions for nearly an hour.

Spurs lacked creativity and guile in attack, two characteristics of their play which are regularly provided by the notably absent Modric.

Van der Vaart was often wasteful in possession, Kranjcar failed to make an impact, and Defoe was largely isolated in attack, struggling to create chances against the dominant Phil Jones.

United’s youthful lineup again impressed though, with de Gea finally achieving a morale-boosting clean sheet. Cleverley and Anderson looked a formidable partnership in midfield, particularly in the second period, while Young has made to transition to United’s style with consummate ease.

Welbeck showed he can be the perfect foil for Rooney in attack, and grew in confidence after his goal before being replaced by the returning Javier Hernandez, who will now look to usurp him from his current starting spot.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted with the way his side has begun the season, having built a squad with a terrific blend of youth and experience, which will stand them in good stead as the season progresses. If they can continue their second-half form over the coming weeks, then they will be a very hard team to beat.

An injury, and suspension, hit Arsenal side visit Old Trafford on Sunday, and United will hope that they can pile more misery on Arsene Wenger’s depleted squad. Based on the early season showings, it is difficult to bet against them.

Player Ratings

Manchester United

De Gea (6), Smalling (7), Jones (8), Evans (7), Evra (6), Nani (6), Cleverley (7), Anderson (8), Young (7), Rooney (8), Welbeck (8); Subs: Park Ji-Sung (6), Giggs (7), Hernandez (6)

Tottenham Hotspur

Friedel (8), Walker (6), Kaboul (7), Dawson (7), Assou-Ekotto (7), Lennon (6), van der Vaart (6), Kranjcar (6), Livermore (6), Bale (5), Defoe (6); Subs: Corluka (6), Pavlyuchenko (5), Huddlestone (6).

Man of the Match: Phil Jones (Man Utd) - Outstanding throughout, and although there were a number of candidates, most notably Rooney, Jones didn’t put a foot wrong all game, even starting a number of attacking moves after breaking up play. Looks like an inspired signing, and a more than worthy replacement for Vidic and Ferdinand.

Referee: Lee Probert (7)

Attendance: 75,498