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

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.