A point gained, or two dropped?

Michael Regan

Evaluating the 2-2 draw with Tottenham

"But we will try to go down there and win the game, as we always do", David Moyes said ahead of Sunday's trip to White Hart Lane. Manchester United didn't win the game. They drew 2-2 and allowed rivals Arsenal and Chelsea to stretch their lead on the Red Devils to five and nine points respectively. Can they be satisfied with the point?

In a sense, yes. Despite the absence of Robin Van Persie, Manchester United twice came from behind on the road against a talented Tottenham side desperate to win one for their beleaguered manager--and this at a ground at which last year's title-winning bunch could only battle to a 3-2 defeat. Most sides would be content to escape this fixture with a point. Danny Welbeck and Chris Smalling certainly are. So yes, United only managed a draw while the other contenders won, but that's no great worry in light of the different quality of opposition they faced. Right?

That traditional view--that it's acceptable to draw difficult matches--only holds true if you are winning the matches you are supposed to win. At the moment, United aren't. That's why they sit in eighth place. It's worth nothing that the two smaller clubs Chelsea and Arsenal beat this weekend, Southampton and Cardiff, both scored late goals to take points off United earlier in the season. This result, while a fair one, is as much a missed opportunity as it is a filip to United's title chances. David Moyes knows as much, admitting afterwards "I think the way we are the moment, we have to win all of our games."

Of course, this season is only 13 games gone, and United can take solace in the knowledge that every side bar Arsenal is well within striking distance. A summer that saw the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson (and his trusted man upstairs, David Gill) was always going to kick off a transitional period.

Just remember, all the points count the same, whether the match is played in November or April. And Manchester City and Chelsea are just as likely to kick on after Christmas as United are. These minor setbacks are becoming worrying easy to rationalize. Finally, there's the elephant in the room: a fair number of Manchester United fans would snatch your hand off for a guaranteed spot in the Champions League; say, third place and a strong run in Europe and the FA Cup. For a team that just won the title in record time, that's the biggest change of all.

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