The Tottenham coach Juande Ramos was well on the way to reconstructing his defence last night, with a £7m deal to sign Jonathan Woodgate from Middlesbrough believed to be imminent and Brazilian left-back Gilberto set to follow him, from Hertha Berlin. But the new blood did not arrive in time to save his side from two rearguard disasters which left the Spaniard's immaculate cup record in tatters.
Ramos concentrated on the chances his side had missed in his analysis of a game in which Spurs led on 24 minutes. "Maybe [there were] a few things defensively but we had three or four chances we didn't put away," he said.
But the sending-off of Michael Dawson for handling a ball Wayne Rooney was about to pounce on with the scores at 1-1 was undoubtedly the turning point. "This is not the time to be talking about perhaps reinforcing the squad," Ramos said, though the game he had just watched suggested the opposite.
The penalty Cristiano Ronaldo converted after Dawson's dismissal in the 68th minute and his subsequent shot under Radek Cerny to make it 3-1 left United on track for a treble and took the winger's tally this season to 25. "Fantastic," was how his manager described the feat, though it was not one of Ronaldo's more productive afternoons.
The Portuguese, who picked up his first silverware in England when United beat Millwall in the FA Cup final four years ago but has been on the losing side in two subsequent finals, made a confident declaration about his side's chances of progress – with United hoping for less challenging opposition next time around after meeting Premier League opposition 15 times in the last 18 FA Cup ties.
"It's important that we go on and win this Cup," said Ronaldo, who overcame any doubts created by his penalty miss at West Ham earlier this month by converting yesterday. "It's a competition that [we] want to win and I'm confident that we can."
Sir Alex Ferguson did not view the performance as one of United's best, coming on the 6-0 thrashing of Newcastle which so delighted him. "I thought we were a bit slack in the period before they scored," he said. "We were too relaxed to begin with and there was no intensity in the game.
"But the goal woke us up and at half-time we had some things to iron out. Although they did make some chances we played better in the second half.
"Overall perhaps we weren't at the top of our game all over the pitch and some players were a little quiet. But I thought that Ryan [Giggs], who always seems to do well against Spurs, and [Carlos] Tevez played very well. It was a very open match and I think it was a fantastic Cup tie where both teams contributed."
Ramos felt he deserved more. "The result is closer than the score suggests," he said. "I thought we coped well with the challenge of playing them on their own ground."Reuse content