Sunday, October 23, 2005

[manchesterunited_rulez] Digest Number 307

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1. Old Trafford's Curse Strikes Again As Spurs Claim Draw
From: Larry Cai <>


Message: 1
Date: Sun, 23 Oct 2005 00:59:14 +0800 (CST)
From: Larry Cai <>
Subject: Old Trafford's Curse Strikes Again As Spurs Claim Draw

Report: United 1 Tottenham 1

22/10/05 4:04 PM

Old Trafford's Curse Strikes Again As Spurs Claim Draw

FA Barclays Premier League
Manchester United 1
Tottenham Hotspur 1
Old Trafford, Saturday 22 October

Four goals, four points, four league games at Old Trafford this season. The statistics say it all as once again the inability to find a second goal at home cost United victory.

Sir Alex's side squandered a first-half performance vastly improved on the stagnant display against Lille on Tuesday. Mikael Silvestre's scrambled first-half effort from a corner was cancelled out by a Jermaine Jenas free kick after an hour as second-placed Spurs secured a deserved 1-1 draw.

The four goals United have scored in four Premiership home games this term pales into comparison with the ten in five the Reds have notched on the road. It is an alarming statistic that must be corrected or the already strained title ambitions will slip further from United's grasp.

The biggest disappointment was that the first half had promised so much. Rooney, his verve and skill so sorely missed against Lille, was back after serving out his two-match European suspension. Sir Alex said Rooney's absence wasn't the only difference against the French club in the 0-0 draw, but he immediately showed the impact he can make on games against Spurs.

From the first minute he was hustling defenders for the ball in the corner where most other players would settle back into position. And when he received the ball midway in United's half with just seven minutes on the clock, he transformed a defensive position into what turned out to be a goalscoring one.

His powerful, surging run saw him knock the ball past Michael Dawson, whilst in full flow the young Spurs defender had little choice but to clip the Reds striker on his way past and concede the free kick.

From the resulting set-piece Paul Scholes found Ruud van Nistelrooy, who headed the ball downwards for Mikael Silvestre to bravely slide in and poke the ball past Paul Robinson.

It was the kind of start United have lacked so far this season. And they almost built on it immediately. Three minutes after going in front, Alan Smith could have doubled the lead. Scholes, again one of the move's architects, drilled the ball out to Darren Fletcher on the right. Smith received Fletcher's deft pass and flicked the ball over the defender's head and forced an instinctive save from Robinson.

Tottenham, who remain second after this result, were peripheral in their attacks in the opening 45 minutes. But they had a penalty claim turned down after 16 minutes. Young-Pyo Lee's exaggerated dive following Bardsley's desperate lunge counted against him, although television replays showed no contact from the young United full-back.

There was a hunger about United as the Reds hunted in pairs for the ball. First Rooney and Park harried Jermaine Jenas, then Ruud and Alan Smith hassled Ledley King before Fletcher and Bardsley harangued Lee for possession. It ended in a Spurs free kick, but the intent of United's play and their determination was infectious stuff to the fans.

Spurs were limited to rare openings in front of goal. Mido, the Tottenham forward built like an ox but possessing an elegant touch, latched onto a Jermain Defo cross with three first-half minutes remaining. Fortunately for United, his first-time volley was more ox-like than elegant.

It was United's strikeforce, however, that threatened with purpose. Before the game, Rooney and Ruud had scored 12 of United's 13 league goals this season. The pair have also shown a growing understanding of each other's movement. Rooney's well-disguised pass ten minutes into the second half found the Dutchman on the edge of the box, and a cute turn past Dawson and King put him through on goal. United's 1000th Premiership goal beckoned, but the Spurs defenders combined to block the van Nistelrooy's shot.

Ten minutes later the 29-year-old striker almost scored his eighth goal in as many matches against Spurs when he headed just wide from Paul Scholes' deep free-kick.

But too often at Old Trafford this season, United have rested on a lead or not capitalised on their domination of games. A 1-0 lead is a slender advantage, and it was reduced on 77 minutes by a quick free-kick from Jermaine Jenas. And it could have got worse. Michael Carrick had Edwin van der Sar scrambling to his far post as the former West Ham playmaker's free kick hit the bar.

Benfica, Blackburn and Manchester City - to varying degrees of success - are all examples of where a second goal has not been forthcoming. Discounting the Champions League qualifier against Debreceni, only against Benfica have United scored more than one goal at Old Trafford this season. They have failed to do so in the league at all.

Acknowledging the need for goals, Cristiano Ronaldo, on the bench after a difficult week with his name in the news, and Giuseppe Rossi were introduced late on.

The Portuguese winger went desperately close with a header from Scholes' 90th-minute corner, but the second goal, and a chance to move above Tottenham into second place proved elusive as it has all season. Another disappointing day at the Old Trafford office.

Team Line-Ups

United: Van der Sar, Bardsley (Rossi, 82), Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea, Fletcher (Ronaldo, 77), Smith, Scholes (c), Rooney, van Nistelrooy, Park.
Subs not used: Howard (GK), Miller, Pique.

Tottenham: Robinson, Lee, Dawson, King (c), Stalteri, Lennon (Keane, 65), Jenas, Davids, Carrick, Mido, Defoe (Mendes, 85).
Subs not used: Cerny (GK), Naybet, Kelly.

Att: 67,856

Report by Ben Hibbs, at Old Trafford.

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