Manchester United Display Champion Gene as Tottenham's Title Hopes Go BustMarch 5, 2012
Manchester United's clinical 3-1 win at Tottenham on Sunday confirmed what we have known all along—the Premier League title race has but two runners and they wear the red and blue of Manchester.
Tottenham have never been realistic contenders, just a romantic vision that was always destined to go the way of most other romantic visions. Never for a moment have they looked possessors of the champion gene.
United on the other hand have it sewn into their DNA so deep they can look like champions even when they're playing badly—which is exactly what transpired at a wet White Hart Lane.
Sir Alex Ferguson's team were inferior and completely innocuous as an attacking force for the first 45 minutes, yet still they managed to go into the break with a 1-0 lead—courtesy of Wayne Rooney's header on the stroke of halftime.
And no sooner had Spurs reasserted their dominance in the second half, pushing United back on their haunches to threaten what felt like an inevitable equalizer, than Ashley Young appeared at the back post to volley emphatically home and play undertaker to their collective crushed spirit.
Tottenham had truly been "Fergie-ed," and to hammer home the point, Young produced a rasping curler from 20 yards soon after to make the score a wholly farcical 3-0 in United's favor, effectively ending the match as a contest.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, perhaps understandably, was left flabbergasted.
"I thought we were outstanding, how we came in 1-0 down at halftime, I couldn't believe it, it was soul destroying," Redknapp told BBC Sport. "First half we made them look ordinary."
But any sympathy for Spurs should be tempered by the two pieces of buffet defending that gifted United their opening goals—Kyle Walker allowing Rooney to head home from a corner and Luka Modric forgetting he was in a game at all in the build-up to Young's volley.
They were also done in by the fact that they managed 18 shots at goal, but just six found their target and only one found the net. By contrast, United scored three from six attempts in total.
Such fallibility in defense and wastefulness in attack is a long way from the stuff of champions. So is a record against heavyweight opposition that has seen Spurs lose 3-0 and 3-1 to United, and 5-1 and 3-2 to City this season.
None of those results hurt as much as the recent 5-2 loss to Arsenal, of course. In that defeat, Redknapp's team revealed itself to be truly vulnerable, and the reverberations from it may yet cost Spurs a place in the top four.
How quickly things change. One minute Redknapp's team are would-be champions, the next they're facing up to losing their manager to England and the possibility of ending the season with nothing but a Europa League spot to go on.
You wouldn't rule out Arsenal catching them now. And you can't rule out Chelsea either, what with their brat pack duly appeased by the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas and back in control again.
How terribly predictable for Spurs fans if they were to miss out on the Champions League? How cliched an end for the fluttering butterflies of English football if all their joyous, free-flowing brilliance culminated in massive anticlimax?
There are no such fears, however, for fans of Ferguson's United.
The old master was celebrating his 986th league game in charge at White Hart Lane, eclipsing the record of Sir Matt Busby—the man he once aspired to and whose achievements he has long since surpassed.
"We'll take each game as it comes but today's performance tells you we're up for it," Ferguson said afterwards.
We didn't need telling. Ferguson's teams have won 12 of 19 titles in the Premier League era and won't be found wanting mentally in the run-in against their Manchester enemy in blue.
What they lacked in inspiration and possession against Spurs, they found in their fight and finishing. As Ferguson's teams have done so often through the years, they found a way.
And now—having negotiated a testing run of Premier League games that took in Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs with just two dropped points—United have the chance to build some serious momentum ahead of their potential title showdown with City on April 30.
Wrote Daniel Taylor in the Guardian:
Seven of United's eight games before then are against teams from the bottom half of the league and Ferguson's men increasingly offer the sense of a side who have been here before, are building momentum and know exactly what has to be done.
And there you have it. Just as Spurs have played to type in their recent failings, so United will be expected to with another looming success on the horizon and a manager who retains the Premier League Midas touch.
City have all the money in the world and a cast of unmatched talent. But they don't have Ferguson, and they don't have the know-how that comes with prolific experience of getting it done.