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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Manchester United Vs. Tottenham Match Report

United’s quest five major trophies continues apace in spite of a crippling injury list, as the Reds beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in the FA Cup fourth round.

Harry Redknapp’s men took a surprise early lead through Roman Pavlyuchenko, but United’s first half display was otherwise outstanding as goals from Paul Scholes (albeit via a wicked deflection off Tom Huddlestone) and Dimitar Berbatov against his former club secured the win.

Even with injuries limiting Sir Alex’s selections, the boss has the ability to surprise with his line-ups. Fabio, twin brother of Rafael who has impressed this season, was drafted in for his debut at left-back, with John O’Shea moving across the back four to right-back. Fellow teenager Danny Welbeck was asked to play in a wide-right position. While not his preferred position, it isn’t an altogether unfamiliar role for the 18-year-old forward who played there in his first season with the U18s. The six changes to United’s line-up from the midweek victory over Derby County are a sign of how injuries have hit the Reds, but Sir Alex could still boast nine internationals in his starting eleven.

Redknapp has also struggled with injuries. But, despite widespread reports that he would field his weakest available team, he made only three changes to the team that, despite losing 3-2 to Burnley on Wednesday, booked their place in the Carling Cup final against United on 1 March with a 6-4 aggregate victory.

With selection problems for both teams it was little surprise that the game was open from the start. But it was Tottenham who made the first coherent attack, and scored from it. Having penned United into the corner, Huddlestone's cross from the left saw Pavlyuchenko do what so few forwards have this season – beat Nemanja Vidic to a header. And the Russian’s glancing touch took the ball past the stranded Ben Foster.

The goal came after just five minutes and sparked the home crowd into life, while the away section fans sang, “…we’re going to Wem-ber-ley” – premature perhaps, unless they were stating mere fact at their impending visit in the other domestic cup competition. United upped a gear and soon asked serious questions of Tottenham’s resilience. Berbatov sent a low shot skimming wide on 10 minutes, while Tevez thundered a left-footed effort against the bar on 18. Welbeck was next up with a jinking run into the area. He was only denied a shot when Chris Gunter made a last-ditch intervention. Seconds later Tevez forced a fine save from Spurs keeper Ben Alnwick when he volleyed goalwards from Berbatov’s knockdown.

There was plenty more to be positive about – with Welbeck’s enthusiasm and skill on the right, and Fabio’s attacking intent on the left a welcome surprise. In fact, United had every reason to feel unlucky to be behind. But that was soon put right. The ceaseless pressure paid off on 34 minutes when Carrick’s corner found Scholes unmarked on the edge of the area – never a good idea for opponents – and his shot beat Alnwick via a hefty deflection off Huddlestone.

Two minutes later United had the lead when Carrick again provided the killer pass. His lofted ball put Berbatov through and the former Spurs man ruthlessly fired his shot into the bottom corner. The United fans gleefully turned to the away supporters and sang “que sera sera…”, scolding the Spurs fans’ for their earlier bragging, and shortly after added a “that’s why we’re champions” and “you’re going down with City” for good measure.

Fabio’s impressive debut unfortunately came to an end shortly after half time when he was forced off with an injury. The young Brazilian was replaced by another debutant, Richard Eckersley. The Salford-born right-back is a more traditional, defensive player compared to Fabio’s flair and penchant for creeping forward, but it was an equally proud day for the young defender.

The tempo dropped dramatically in the second half; perhaps the motivation to expend maximum energy in the midst of hectic fixture schedule wasn’t top priority. It was a shame because the first half had been so entertaining but, in the long run, was probably necessary for both teams. Redknapp offered one final attempt to inject vim and vigour into his side’s display by bringing on Jermain Defoe with 20 minutes left, while Sir Alex gave a third debut of the day to Zoran Tosic, who replaced Ronaldo. The changes – though good for United fans to see the latest sprightly addition to the first-team ranks – made no impact on the scoreline as the Reds booked a place in Sunday’s fifth round draw, and edged a step closer to another Wembley outing.

Manchester United Vs. Tottenham Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United [2 - 1] Tottenham
5' [0 - 1] R. Pavlyuchenko
35' [1 - 1] P. Scholes
36' [2 - 1] D. Berbatov

0-1 Pavlyuchenko 5'

1-1 Scholes 34'

2-1 Berbatov 36'