The problem against Tottenham was inside our heads, claims Manchester United's Patrice Evra

Manchester United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3

Once, when he was asked why Sir Alex Ferguson was suddenly so nice about him, Arsène Wenger replied wistfully that he was no longer seen as a threat at Old Trafford.

Manchester United's great helmsman invariably lavishes praise on those he regularly beats. Usually, when they play Newcastle, Ferguson will highlight their open football, their readiness to make a game of it. Newcastle have not won at Old Trafford since 1972.

Tottenham Hotspur had not won there since 1989. In his programme notes, Ferguson was gushing: "Managers and coaches come and go but it seems to be in the genes at Tottenham that they will play with a quality and style that is good to watch."

He was not quite so complimentary after the final whistle, attacking Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel for time-wasting and claiming it was "an insult to the game" that referee Chris Foy had added only four minutes of stoppage time. Today, preparing for the Champions League fixture with Cluj, Ferguson finds himself in Transylvania, a place where you can expect to be bitten.

On Saturday, however, it was the match that had bite. Tottenham, displaying all the flair that Ferguson had talked about, had glided into a two-goal lead before facing the full brunt of a hurricane, inspired by an electrified Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes.

Playing United in this kind of mood must be like being on the other side of the door as Jack Nicholson starts smashing it down with an axe and a cry of "Here's Johnny!" in The Shining. Clint Dempsey, the scorer of Spurs' precious third goal, was on the bench in the desperate, final moments "just praying we would see it out."

Steven Caulker, who was not born when Gary Lineker scored Tottenham's last winner at Old Trafford, was in the thick of things in a defence that, under enormous pressure, buckled but did not break. "When it got to 2-1 and 3-2, there were times when you have to stand strong and hold the line," said the 20-year-old graduate of the Tottenham academy. "There were times when United came close but people were prepared to put their bodies on the line – the main example being when William Gallas collided with a post to get the ball out for a corner."

United's defence had proved rather more brittle. Rio Ferdinand was at fault for all three Tottenham goals. His game, reliant on positioning and timing, should outlast that of John Terry which depends on muscle and work-rate – but perhaps it won't.

This may have been a blip or it may have been the start of a champion's twilight. United have kept two clean sheets in seven matches – and in one of those Galatasaray struck the frame of their goal three times.

"We put on the Manchester United face only in the second half and that is not enough, if you want the title," said the Old Trafford left-back Patrice Evra.

"You could say that in the second half we maybe deserved to win because we created a lot of chances but we were not good enough in the first half and that is what is really painful.

"If you want to talk about positives, let's make sure we play the way we did in the second half. If we do, it will be difficult for any team to beat us. But we have to play like that from the first minute. That's why I say the problem was inside our heads. It was not tactics, it was not tiredness. You don't play a second half like that and make the excuse that you are tired."

Romanians get back on track

Romanian champions CFR Cluj warmed up for their tie with Manchester United with a 5-1 thrashing of Gloria Bistrita, pushing them up to fifth in the table after an indifferent start to the season.

Pantelis Kapetanos put the Transylvanian side ahead after just five minutes with a towering header before a Gabriel Stelian brace, a goal either side of half-time, demonstrated their superiority.

Sasa Bjelanovic and Brazilian Luis Alberton scored late on to round off a resounding win as Alin Minteuan's side look to build on their 2-0 win at Braga in the opening round of group stage fixtures.

Match facts

Man Utd: LINDEGAARD 6/10; RAFAEL 5; FERDINAND 4; EVANS 5; EVRA 6; NANI 7; CARRICK 7; SCHOLES 8; GIGGS 5; KAGAWA 6; VAN PERSIE

Spurs: FRIEDEL 7; VERTONGHEN 8; CAULKER 7; GALLAS 7; WALKER 7; BALE 8; DEMBELE 7; DEMPSEY 7; SANDRO 8; LENNON 7; DEFOE 7

Goals: Man Utd Nani 51, Kagawa 53. Tottenham Vertonghen 2, Bale 32, Dempsey 52. Subs: Man U Rooney 8 (Giggs, 45), Welbeck (Kagawa, 79), Hernandez (Ferdinand, 90). TH Sigurdsson 5 (Dempsey, 70), Huddlestone (Dembélé, 84), Dawson (Defoe, 90). Man of match Bale. Match rating 9/10. Poss Man U 74%. TH 26%. Attempts on target Man U 7. TH 4. Ref C Foy (Merseyside). Att 75,566.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there