Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Final score 2-3, Spurs hold on for shock win

Shaun Botterill - Getty Images

That was fun. Slash insane. I can't imagine being a fan of Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur for this game -- it was edge-of-the-seat stuff for the neutral, and I'd probably have had at least three heart attacks if I were at all emotionally invested.

It started out straightforwardly enough, even though the scoreline for United versus Spurs at Old Trafford was a little bit out of the ordinary. The hosts have been patchy defensively all season, but their complete indifference to Jan Vertonghen's third-minute run was something to behold. The left back burst through the midfield and defensive lines and saw Johnny Evans deflect his shot past Anders Lindegaard for a surprise 1-0 lead.

Tottenham were the better side and doubled their advantage half an hour later. Again, a run from deep went unchallenged, with Gareth Bale latching onto a pass from Moussa Dembele and breezing past, well, everyone before slotting home a right-footed effort. United were slow, poor on the ball, and a complete mess at the back, and the visitors were full value for their lead.

Sir Alex Ferguson responded by yanking off Ryan Giggs at halftime, replacing him with Wayne Rooney and pushing Shinji Kagawa to the wings. It worked more or less immediately, and Nani's 51st minute goal was no less than United deserved for a very strong start to the second half. And then things got crazy.

Because no sooner than United had gotten a foothold in the match than Clint Dempsey stuck the killer blow, pushing an unfortunate rebound into the empty net. Except, as it turned out, it wasn't a killer blow because United walked straight back down the pitch and scored via Kagawa less than a minute later. Wayne Rooney hit the post. No fewer than three United penalty appeals were turned down. Twice, Robin van Persie had a clear sight of goal only to make a complete mess of everything.

By this point, Spurs supporters were hiding behind whatever they could find. They're not used to being in the lead at Old Trafford, and it felt as though United were destined to win the game. Even as the clock ticked down, the equaliser seemed inevitable.

Most of the action was taking place in and around Brad Friedel's penalty box. The veteran goalkeeper was called into action several times, beating away a Paul Scholes shot here, catching a Patrice Evra header there. Michael Carrick flicked a header off the crossbar in the 84th minute. The Tottenham goal was leading a charmed life, even if one had the sense that its luck was going to run out before the end of the match.

Gylfi Sigurdsson gave the visitors a momentary respite when his enterprising run ate some valuable time and drew a leg-sweep from Rooney, and Jermain Defoe might have done better on the few times he was able to break out and drive at the United defence. But still it felt like the equaliser was coming.

Four minutes of injury time later, and it hadn't. United were dealt their second defeat of the season, and Tottenham had secured -- that's almost certainly the wrong word -- a hugely valuable 3-2 victory. It was their first in the league at Old Trafford for 23 years.


The Busby Babe


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