Football: Bruce breezes in

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 0

Manchester United 1

Bruce 49

Attendance: 24,502

LIKE patriarchs putting down precocious but sometimes indisciplined pretenders, Manchester United quelled Klins- mania and White Hart Lane's ardour yesterday with a performance of patience and resilience that might have been practice for the European Cup this season.

It was a close-run thing, however, as might be expected against a team full of such expansive attacking instincts as Jurgen Klinsmann and the increasingly attractive Ilie Dumitrescu. United had to withstand fierce pressure from breezy Tottenham at either end of the game, gusting home with a goal by their captain Steve Bruce in between. They were indebted to Peter Schmeichel for splendid saves at important moments.

The most notable came from a penalty 14 minutes from time when he dived to his right to turn aside Teddy Sheringham's kick - the striker's second penalty miss of the week - after Dumitrescu had tricked Bruce into bringing him down. Schmeichel also distinguished himself with two parries later from Klinsmann, whose poor shot was the culmination of a wasteful afternoon, and Nick Barmby, who had been put through by the German.

The fixture is always an evocative one with its images of platinum players, golden eras and silverware past. Even more so this time following Tottenham's signing of Klinsmann and Dumitrescu, a bold response to having six points deducted by the FA, and one that seemed to have paid off with two promising wins erasing the deficit.

It never quite lived up to its anticipation, however, being rendered more an hors d'oeuvre to the embryonic season than a satisfying meal by the absence of two ingredients in Eric Cantona, enduring the last of his three matches suspended, and the Park Lane end, a building site still replacing the once-reverberating stand.

Still, as entertainment it wasn't bad. 'All good stuff out there. It was refreshing,' said the United manager, Alex Ferguson - an illustration of the Premiership's promise this season. It also showed that Tottenham have a present to savour again, if not one to match the past. It is now 33 years since they won the championship as part of the Double that United emulated last season. However if they are to return to former glories they must bolster a defence still vulnerable because of the accommodation of so many forward talents, though Sol Campbell is developing well.

They did defend with reasonable resolve yesterday, the team appearing to heed the words of their manager, Ossie Ardiles, in his programme notes when he called for a lead from the front; an echo of Kenny Dalglish who used to call Ian Rush his best defender at Liverpool. But Ardiles confirmed after the match that he is pursuing another signing, perhaps to fill the holding role in front of the back four that Colin Calderwood seeks manfully to fill but in which he does not look comfortable. Spurs still look equally capable of winning or losing any match 4-3.

United did what they had to - no more, no less. Initially they struggled to contain the interchanging of Tottenham's five-man forward line while integrating Lee Sharpe both as Cantona's replacement supporting Hughes as well as augmenting the midfield. Tottenham cut sharply through a United defence that can be vulnerable early on before they can bring their experience to bear on more inventive teams.

Sheringham drove in a cross-shot from the left which Schmeichel tipped hurriedly over, then after Darren Anderton had beaten three men, Sheringham headed his cross into the path of Klinsmann and Barmby, neither of whom could touch home. Anderton created another chance, this time for Sheringham, flicking up a free- kick for the striker to volley but Schmeichel was alert to the shot. Klinsmann's contribution to the flurry was a header over the bar; Dumitrescu's a low shot which Schmeichel handled capably.

Gradually, though, Paul Ince began to assert his authority in midfield and United built some momentum of their own. Denis Irwin's low shot had Ian Walker diving to save and Andrei Kanchelskis began to get the better of the peripatetic left-back Justin Edinburgh to drive across goal twice. Sharpe then wasted a good chance heading a Hughes cross over.

Klinsmann did have the ball in the net just before the interval, but must have sensed he was offside - he merely slid to celebrate rather than sprawling.

But four minutes into the second half United had a goal that did count. Ryan Giggs curled in a teasing corner from the right which eluded the Tottenham defence and their goalkeeper Ian Walker, who slipped as he back-pedalled frantically along his line. At the far post Bruce therefore had a simple task in nodding the ball home.

United might have sealed the game in their own purple patch thereafter. Hughes allowed Walker to make partial amends with a save from his volley and Ince twice drove the ball over the bar from the edge of the area. As it was, they had to endure Spurs' fevered finale.

Ardiles felt that his side had done enough to earn a point, a familiar plea a decade ago when Liverpool eked out such results on their way to a hat-trick of championships.

(Photograph omitted)