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Friday Flashback: The comeback - Tottenham Hotspur 3 - 5 Manchester United (September 2001)

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This week’s Friday Flashback takes us back to September 2001, as we relive Manchester United’s epic comeback against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

David Beckham

Three-nil down at half-time; you can only imagine the rollicking Sir Alex Ferguson must’ve dished out to his faltering players.

Tottenham Hotspur lead at the break thanks to goals from Dean Richards — making his debut after an £8.1 million transfer from Southampton — Christian Zeige and Les Ferdinand, to the jubilation of the White Hart Lane crowd.

Spurs v Man Utd

Manchester United were absolutely not at the races in the first-half. Disjointed, limp and completely clueless, it was a distaster of a display.

United boss Ferguson was famous for his ‘hairdryer’ — the euphemysm given to the terrifying rage that the legendary Scot would unleash upon under-performing players. And boy were these guys under-performing.

You can question Fergie’s motivational methods — imagine your boss screaming at you, an inch from your face, because you’d made a mistake at work — but you can’t dispute the efficacy of his ways.

The United players looked sheepish as they entered the tunnel at half-time, but by the time they’d re-emerged, by hook or by crook, they had found their purpose.

On came Mikael Silvestre in place of Dennis Irwin to add some pace down the left-flank, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Nicky Butt to form a front-three with Ruud van Nistelrooy and Andy Cole.

This was not a subtle tactical shift from Ferguson, it was an effort to pack fast, attacking players into the line-up and hope to overwhelm the home side.

Within a minute of the restart, Cole headed in a Gary Neville cross to get United up and running.

When Laurent Blanc powered home a header from David Beckham’s corner, Spurs began to look visibly shaken — maybe we could nick a draw here.

Spurs v Man Utd

With 18 minutes to play, van Nistelrooy draws the Red Devils level, another header.

Then four minutes later the turn-around is complete as Juan Sebastian Veron, who had been excellent as the creative force in midfield during this second-half, latches onto a Solskjaer lay-off to fire in a left-footed effort.

Spurs v Man Utd

Then, in the 87th minute, the icing on the cake: David Beckham chests down a pass from Solskjaer on the edge of the penalty area and rifles a shot past Spurs’ goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.

The epic comeback from 3-0 down to win 5-3 epitomised the never-say-die attitude that had become the hallmark of United under Ferguson.