The surreal nature of watching your team at midnight on a hotel TV in Laos – complete with the electricity cutting out every 15 minutes – was one thing but watching Tottenham collapse in 25 second-half minutes alongside my Manchester United supporting brother was another. Painful? What do you think? It has been 20 years since the last Spurs victory at Old Trafford and frankly a defeat like this probably means at least 20 more years till we get the next chance.
The main talking point after the game was a penalty decision given by Howard Webb that helped to bring United back into the game. According to Tottenham players and coaching staff the referee’s incorrect decision after an hour turned the game United’s way which may have been so but other factors lead to Tottenham’s 25 minutes of madness:
1. The controversial penalty only made it 1-2. Tottenham were still winning at that stage. Where was the mental strength? The nous? The ability? Would another team have laid down so quickly in similar circumstances? We are what we are – a mentally weak team in 10th place in the Premier League.
2. Spurs player Jermaine Jenas reckoned that the referee collapsed under the Old Trafford pressure when awarding that penalty decision. That is brilliant coming from a player that formed part of a midfield that collectively collapsed under the same Old Trafford pressure.
3. Manager Harry Rednapp complained that he could see no way back into the game for United until the penalty incident with Spurs 2-0 up. Has he never watched football before? United always turn up the heat in the second half of matches at Old Trafford towards the end of the season, particularly when they are chasing a game. Indeed, before the penalty itself, the home side had already started to pepper the Tottenham goal.
4. Rednapp did nothing to counter the tactical changes that United made at half-time. It was clear that Spurs full-back Corluka was being drawn inside to cover a deep-lying Berbatov, which then allowed an on-fire Rooney to be free on an Aaron Lennon-less left-wing. React Harry, react! Take off one of your central defenders, have the other one pick up Tevez, send on one of the holding midfielders (Zokora or Huddlestone) to mark Berbatov and replace Corluka with a full back who can defend ( Alan Hutton), one who Alex Ferguson, no less, wanted to sign.
5. The whining over the referee’s performance also covers up the fact that by selecting Heurelio Gomes in goal we have thrown away 6 points in the last two away games (United and Blackburn). Infuriating enough when we were playing badly (e.g. Fulham (a), Stoke (a), Villa (h)) but recently when we have been playing well it is even more so. Not your signing Harry but Cudicini is and you still do not play him.
6. Blaming the referee is, of course, a ridiculous exercise but here goes anyway. Howard Webb is an appalling referee, not so much because he makes mistakes – hey, we all do – but that he loves the limelight. Good luck to Everton fans and players in the FA Cup final against Chelsea.
7. And finally not forgetting Alex Ferguson. The ‘great’ man suggests that the penalty was indeed lucky but since they did not get one the week before against Everton it kind of evens things out. Ferguson is referring to the possible penalty that should have been given for a foul on Wellbeck in the FA Cup semi-final. Forgetting the fact that Everton also had a strong penalty claim turned down (on Steven Pienaar) and thus evening out matters means nothing to Sir Alex. In addition, the logic behind his latest comment simply makes no sense. If I punch someone for no reason that person then cannot complain as someone else had previously hit me. Ridiculous of course but unsurprising from the most graceless of managers – some feat when you include Rafa Benitez and the myopic Wenger.
Still, at least I am not a Newcastle United fan!