Manchester United picked up 3 vital points at home against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday night. The win puts keeps pace with Chelsea who needed a late Ivanovic strike to beat Blackburn.
As been the theme of the last few matches, United started out with a fury, pushing possession deep into the Tottenham end for the first 5 minutes or so, after that the game moved to the midfield, with Spurs (usually Bale) occasionally getting forward and getting a cross off. That would really be the theme for Spurs all game, as Keane was really the only player to have a major impact on the United central defenders.
In the 31st minute, Javier Hernandez was taken down by Younes Kaboul and referee Mark Clattenburg awarded United a penalty near the top right corner of the box. Nani took the free kick and found Nemanja Vidic who headed the ball past Heurelho Gomes for his first of the season.
In the 36th minute, Spurs won a throw-in and quickly took it and Rafael Van der Vaart fired a hard ball across the box, it would have likely been a goal if Robbie Keane were a step quicker.
Coming out of the halftime break, Park Ji-Sung opened up a couple of opportunities for United, his give-and-go with Hernandez led to a tight shot from the latter and a minute later, he sprung Berbatov, who was unable to get a quality shot off.
From there, the game became pretty lethargic and frankly somewhat boring, United would get the ball deep and take a shot, but Gomes was always in the area to make a save.
Chaos nearly ensued following Nani's run into the box in the 83rd minute. He was taken down in the box as he came forward on his run, but Clattenburg didn'taward a foul, much less a penalty. At some point, Nani touched the ball with his hand and Clattenburg STILL kept his whistle in his pocket. Meanwhile, the linesman was waving his flag, either because of the Nani foul or the handball, and Gomes apparently thought Spurs were being awarded a free kick. He set the ball down and took a couple steps away, but an alert Nani realized the whistle never blew and took a shot into the empty net. Following a conversation between Clattenburg and the side judge, Nani was awarded the goal.
While this will dominate the headlines for the next couple of days, it should be noted that you ALWAYS PLAY TO THE WHISTLE. You are coached that in nearly every sport from day one. Gomes should have never assumed he was being given the free kick and in any case should have never set the ball on the ground with an opponent behind him.
But more to the point, what the hell was Clattenburg looking at when he didn't award the penalty? I'm not sure, but maybe he wasn't going to be fooled by Nani seeing as how Nani had fallen down a few times throughout the game, feigning pain in efforts to win free kicks...starting just 15 seconds into the match. Perhaps if he wasn't trying to be such an actor all game, Clattenburg would have (rightly) awarded the penalty in the first place.
The final result was 2-0 and perhaps that is the result that it should have been...there was some of that "spark" that I keep talking about and they were able to hold their 2-0 lead, for a few minutes anyway....maybe things are starting to turn around for the squad. It's about time. I guess we'll find out for sure in next weekends derby, huh?