Tottenham Hotspur 2 Manchester United 2 match report: Wayne Rooney double salvages draw as Andre Villas-Boas gets stuck into all of his critics...except the home crowd

Spurs had twice taken the lead before Rooney levelled

There were boos from the home fans at White Hart Lane on the hour when the substitute’s board went up and an incredulous Aaron Lennon was hauled off to be replaced by Andros Townsend. It was not the replacement that the home crowd were angry about - more that it was Lennon, excellent in the first half, who was beckoned to the sidelines.

Asked afterwards if he had a problem with the verdict of the crowd, manager Andre Villas-Boas answered simply, “No” and moved on. But if that was truly the case then the home support at White Hart Lane were among the few critics whom Villas-Boas was not getting stuck into by the end of the day.

He attacked Alan Sugar, a recent critic, and referenced two pieces in a newspaper as having an “agenda” against him because they had questioned the “integrity” of his achievements at Porto, which of course landed him his job at Chelsea. This was the 36-year-old manager moving from his usual earnest analysis of the match to a more unfamiliar territory and while it was hard at times to divine the point he was making, there is nothing wrong with standing up for one’s self.

Villas-Boas is learning that English football is not a game that can always be won or lost with hours on the training pitch, or time spent trawling through data and scouting reports. Occasionally a manager needs to impose himself when he feels that the criticism might be overwhelming him. He needs to walk a little taller and talk a little louder. While Villas-Boas is not a natural when it comes to clashing with the press, it was evident that he believes his attitude in that regard has to change.

Most of all, however, he needed his team not to let him down in the way that they did against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium the previous Sunday, and on that score they came through. Twice Spurs took the lead in a wonderful football match that was in the balance until the very end. Twice United came back through the best player on the pitch, Wayne Rooney, whose second equaliser came from the penalty spot on 55 minutes.

There was just about enough in this Spurs performance to ease the pressure on a young manager who is, naturally, feeling the pressure. A win against free-falling Fulham on Wednesday remains a basic requirement and with that then some breathing space will come before the away trip to Sunderland on Saturday.

What will concern Villas-Boas is that this still does not look like a Spurs team that is about to click, in spite of the the chances they created in the first half. In midfield, Paulinho was pushed up to play a more creative role behind Roberto Soldado, with mixed results. The £26m forward did not like he had found his groove either. The goals came from a Kyle Walker free-kick and a brilliant shot from Sandro - neither are among the players Spurs expect to score their goals.

As Villas-Boas fights his battles, however, it can be easy to forget that life does not seem to get much easier for David Moyes either. After that 5-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday his team were unable to improve on last week’s draw away at Cardiff City. The defending champions are nine points behind leaders Arsenal and their reliance on Rooney in the absence of the injured Robin Van Persie is startling.

Moyes conceded that his midfield had lacked the creativity to carve open Spurs. One has to admire Tom Cleverley’s willingness to take possession, the problem is that once that is the case he often seems to have little idea what to do with it. Too many times at White Hart Lane, with the ball at his feet Cleverley raised his palms, imploring his team mates to indicate where they wanted it. That part is supposed to be his job.

Phil Jones did the hard work alongside him well. In the No 10 role, Shinji Kagawa faded away as he so often does. No wonder Moyes ignored him for so long. Returning from injury, it was expected Danny Welbeck might be at half-pace and he was. Antonio Valencia’s excuse was not so obvious. In the end, it was all about Rooney whose two goals took him above Robbie Fowler to fifth in the all-time Premier League goalscorers’ list.

Spurs took the lead when Jonny Evans’ clumsy foul on Paulinho gave the home side a free-kick on the edge of United’s box on 18 minutes. The wall jumped to block Walker’s shot and the ball went underneath. Around that time Aaron Lennon was having another one of his dominant games against Patrice Evra. Soldado and Paulinho exchanged passes and the former shot over the bar. Lennon forced a crucial save from David De Gea on the left.

It was a bad error that let United back in. Jones won the ball from Mousa Dembele and crossed from the right, the ball clearing Rooney. Unfortunately for Walker, his cushioned lay-off into the path of the United striker could not have been more perfect if he had been asked to do it ten more times. Rooney stuck the ball away and an awkward quiet fell over White Hart Lane.

Eight minutes into the second half, Sandro turned away from Cleverley, switched the ball onto his right foot and hit a shot so true into the top right corner of De Gea’s goal that the United man did not waste his time moving to stop it.

Spurs had barely got used to the idea of regaining the lead when United equalised two minutes later. Welbeck pushed the ball wide of Hugo Lloris and went down over the goalkeeper’s hands. There was contact although that alone did not necessarily require Mike Dean to make the decision. Villas-Boas described the incident as “difficult” but a “decision we have to accept”, which seemed like a fair assessment.

Rooney dispatched the penalty and shortly afterwards came the moment when the Spurs fans protested at Lennon’s substitution. Jermain Defoe, on as a replacement for Soldado, was the pick of the substitutes. It was notable how little effect the three United players that came on - Javier Hernandez, Nani and Ashley Young - had on the game. Neither manager looked happy at the final whistle. Just quietly relieved not to have lost.

Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris 6; Walker 6, Dawson 5, Chiriches 6, Vertonghen 6; Sandro 7, Dembele 6; Lennon 7 (Townsend 6, 60); Paulinho 6, Chadli 5 (Sigurdsson, 86); Soldado 6 (Defoe, 72).

Substitutes not used: Friedel (gk), Kaboul, Holtby, Capoue.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Smalling 6, Evans 6, Vidic 6, Evra 5; Jones 6, Cleverley 6; Valencia 5 (Nani, 83), Kagawa 5 (Young, 83), Welbeck 6 (Hernandez, 73); Rooney 8.

Substitutes not used: Rafael, Anderson, Lindegaard (gk), Fellaini.

Referee: M Dean

Rating: 8

Man of the match: Rooney

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links