Young at heart of victory but it's same old story for Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester United 3

White Hart Lane

When asked to name his favourite English stadium other than Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson often answers that it is White Hart Lane. He politely praises the tradition and the atmosphere of the place but everyone knows what he really means: just about every time United have gone to Tottenham during the Ferguson years they have come away with a result.

Not since May 2001 have Spurs beaten United in the Premier League and even now, when they have their best team in about 30 years and players Ferguson would love to have in his side, the tale of these two clubs seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are chances, controversy, near-misses and then, as sure as there is rain in Manchester, United win the game. That they win important matches when they are supposedly playing poorly is a truth accepted by the English football nation as one of United's great enduring strengths. But when you stop to examine the truth of that old assumption, it does not quite stand up to scrutiny. Playing poorly? Certainly Spurs looked better for much of the game but it would be a stretch to describe United as poor.

There was nothing poor about Ashley Young's two decisive finishes in the second half that made all the difference after Wayne Rooney scored the first just before half-time. The England winger had struggled to get into the game until he scored his first goal on the hour and then his second, nine minutes later, was a breathtaking strike. It was another example of a United player finding that moment of skill which makes the difference in a game.

It keeps United within two points of the leaders, Manchester City, and takes them one step closer to making the match between the two teams on 30 April the closest thing the game has had to a genuine title decider in a long time. No one else, Spurs included, are in with a sniff of the title now.

As for the old United-Spurs hex, a familiar narrative unfolded as soon as United nicked a goal just before half-time with Rooney's header – suddenly it was as if the whole stadium knew what was going to happen. It mattered little that Harry Redknapp's side had been by far the better team and that United had barely had a sight of their opponent's goal.

Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, who both featured yesterday, also played in that last victory for Spurs over United almost 11 years ago. Otherwise, the line-ups from that day read like a history lesson. The goalscorers for Tottenham were the little-known Dutchman Willem Korsten, who scored twice, and Les Ferdinand. Redknapp said yesterday that he "really felt like they were there to be beat". Spurs teams have thought that before and failed.

Even without Gareth Bale, who developed an illness overnight, Spurs looked dangerous. They finished the game with 57 per cent of the possession and 16 attempts at goal compared to six from United. Unfortunately for them, they also finished with two fewer goals. Jermain Defoe's late strike was the first goal Spurs had scored since they went two up at Arsenal eight days ago and, in the meantime, they have conceded eight.

Without the suspended Scott Parker, Spurs simply lost their concentration at a corner before half-time and Rooney stole in to get his head to Young's ball. Rooney had not played for the previous two and a half weeks and yesterday was not one of his better performances but Spurs made it easy for him then. Even Ferguson admitted the Spurs players were "probably sitting in the dressing room [at half-time] wondering how it's 1-0 [to United]". He usually feels disposed to dispense those patronising pats on the head when the United team coach is rolling back out on to the Tottenham High Road with three precious points in the bag but this time it was an accurate appraisal of the first half.

Spurs had by far the best of it, especially Aaron Lennon, who looked like a constant threat to Patrice Evra and also when he cut inside to run at the United defence. Emmanuel Adebayor had a goal disallowed by Martin Atkinson, rightly it should be said, when he flicked the ball in after Louis Saha's shot had struck his hand.

Even in midfield, the relatively inexperienced pairing of Jake Livermore and Sandro held their own against Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick. Redknapp said that he was forced to play Luka Modric out on the left because his only other alternative, after Bale withdrew, was Niko Kranjcar and he too was also carrying an injury.

After half-time, Spurs came at United once again. David De Gea made a good save after Livermore's shot deflected off Saha. Benoit Assou-Ekotto struck another over the bar. Then Spurs were opened up again. This time by a simple throw-in that Luis Nani took down the byline and crossed for Rooney. Kyle Walker did well to get the ball off his toe but, at the back post, Young executed his volley perfectly to put the ball inside the far corner.

Young's second was a sensational curling shot beyond Brad Friedel from the left channel, although Young was allowed to get too close without being closed down. Defoe, on as a substitute, hit one of his trademark snapshots for Spurs' goal with De Gea partially unsighted. History repeated itself for Spurs who, as usual against United, seem to know what they should do but seemed paralysed by the prospect of doing it.

Match Facts

Spurs: FRIEDEL 5/10; WALKER 4 KABOUL 5; KING 5; ASSOU EKOTTO 6; LENNON 6; LIVERMORE 6; MODRIC 5; SAHA 5; ADEBAYOR 6

Man Utd: DE GEA 7; EVRA 6; EVANS 7; FERDINAND 8; JONES 6; YOUNG 8; CARRICK 7; SCHOLES 6; NANI 6; WELBECK 6; ROONEY 7

Substitutes: Tottenham Defoe (Saha, 80), Kranjcar (Sandro, 80), Rose (Lennon, 84). Manchester United Giggs (Scholes, 61), Park Ji-sung (Nani, 79).

Booked: Tottenham Sandro. Man United Jones, Evans.

Man of the match Ferdinand. Match rating 6/10.

Possession: Tottenham 56% Man United 44%.

Attempts on target: Tottenham 9 Man United 5.

Referee M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Attendance 36,034.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
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

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices