It’s easy to forget how good a defender Jonathon Woodgate is, which is no surprise since his injuries mean we rarely see him play, but Manchester United were handed a stark reminder Saturday afternoon in their hard fought 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane.
In perhaps the gutsiest move of the January transfer window, Juande Ramos brought the Man of Glass over from Middlesborough to bolster his defence in the seemingly perpetual absence of Ledley King.
Perhaps bringing an always injured center back in to cover for another always injured center back isn’t the wisest idea, but it looked like a stroke of genius against Manchester United.
Woodgate wasn’t just exceptional in his position, his presence elevated the entire defence.
And none of his fellows benefited so much as Michael Dawson.
When Dawson is asked to play a lead role in the Spurs defence, he falls apart. But put Dawson in with a great partner—King or now Woodgate—and he looks like a world beater. He won the man of the match against United, and deservedly so.
He and Woodgate nullified Manchester United’s attack from start to finish, and Dawson’s poise and strength against Cristiano Ronaldo were first rate.
With the center of the Spurs defence rock solid, the wings of the Spurs defence could also excel, and Pascal Chimbonda and Alan Hutton did just that.
Both men menaced the Red Devils on the attack, and both men were back to clean up anything that needed cleaning.
Put all four Tottenham defenders together and they may very well have been the best defence in the Premiership this Saturday—an even more amazing feat considering that Alan Hutton is as new to the Spurs as Woodgate—having just completed his transfer from Glasgow Rangers—and want-away Pascal Chimbonda’s replacement, the other Gilberto, is on his way from Hertha Berlin.
And the fifth man in Spurs’ defence, Radek Cerny, wasn’t half-bad either. He made two fine saves and proved himself, again, to be a solid replacement for error prone Paul Robinson.
In the end, Manchester United’s only goal cannot be blamed on anyone in Tottenham’s defence. It was attacking midfielder Jamie O’Hara’s mistake. Some slack marking on his part, Carlos Tevas took advantage, and Manchester United stole a point.
It was a cruel blow to a defensive unit whose performance should have earned not only a victory but a clean sheet.
But Manchester United aren’t favoured to win the Premiership for nothing, and any mistake anywhere on the pitch can lead to a United goal.
Still, Tottenham won an important point for themselves and stole two important points from Manchester United—putting their North London rivals, Arsenal, back on top of the Premiership (thanks for that, by the way).
It was undoubtedly a bitter sweet draw for Tottenham, but it is a draw for which they can be truly proud.
But before I wrap it up, I need to say one last thing about the Spurs defence.
Imagine how good they’ll be if Woodgate and King manage to stay healthy at the same time.
They'll be scary good.
Moreover, if that happens, Tottenham Hotspur will be one midfielder away from truly breaking into the top four.
And as an Arsenal fan I am okay with that, just as long as they stay at the bottom the top four.