What made the contrast between the teams all the more dispiriting for Redknapp is that United, too, are engaged in a process of reconstruction. The difference being that Sir Alex Ferguson is managing transition while pursuing five trophies, using extra fixtures to blood the next generation.
United's future was in evidence all over the bobbled, pock-marked Old Trafford turf, in the leggy precocity of Danny Welbeck, in the assurance of Fabio, the second de Silva twin to grace the red shirt, in the darting runs of the newly signed Zoran Tosic. There was even a chance for what appeared to be a clone of Paul Scholes to get in on the act. The 19-year-old Richard Eckersley – a foursquare Lancastrian name in among the exotic monikers hailing from Brazil, Serbia and Portugal – is a neat, busy, flame-haired full-back from Salford. When he replaced Fabio on 57 minutes there was barely a shift in United's gears, he slotted in with the precision of a new cog in a beautifully engineered machine.
The reason the United refit is going so smoothly was there alongside the young debutant. As Ryan Giggs does whenever he plays, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville gave vivid definition to the newcomers of what being part of Ferguson's machine entails. After a sluggish start, Scholes settled to give a master class in midfield play, never hurried, always aware, treating possession as a sacred duty. Anyone wanting to understand from where Ferguson's success has sprung these past 15 years need only to have watched Scholes for 20 minutes in the first half as he utterly dictated the game. Lacking flamboyance or fluster, he simply unleashed danger with every intervention, including a shot from the edge of the area which – to his sheepish embarrassment – found its way into the Spurs net via a sharp deflection.
Unlike the increasingly petulant Cristiano Ronaldo, ever more prone to grumble if a pass does not meet his exacting demands, Scholes is not one to bully the next generation. Simply he reminds them of their requirements with his every vivid action.
How Redknapp must envy Ferguson his chance to fashion the future even as the present unfolds. Not that there is much chance of that at Spurs, a club where continuity is an alien concept. For Redknapp there is no Scholes bringing on rookies. Worse, two of the more elevated talents from Spurs' recent past were excelling in red. It was Michael Carrick, with a penetrating pass and Dimitar Berbatov, with a brisk finish, who fashioned United's winner. No wonder the Spurs fans booed the pair's every contribution: it was not just their club's past they were watching diminishing before their very eyes, it was their future too.