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Tottenham 0 Manchester United 0: Rafael sees red as Spurs rue missed chances

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17 Jan 2011 00:55:26

Tottenham 0 Manchester United 0: Rafael sees red as Spurs rue missed chances

When Sir Alex Ferguson says the form of his Manchester United team has been 'wrongly assessed', he is responding to observations made by Harry Redknapp as well as countless others. But this was exactly the kind of performance that not only supports Redknapp's view, but underlines why United remain unbeaten as well as the favourites in this most intriguing of title races. Why they sit this morning back at the summit of the Barclays Premier League table. No way through: Spurs goalkeeper Gomes saves from United's Giggs This might not have been a demonstration of United's finest football and the Tottenham boss is correct in his observation that we have not seen too much of that so farthis season. But he would also agree with the assertion that they remain brilliantly organised. That they are a superb example of how players should graft for one other in the common pursuit of the big prizes. United encountered a terrific Spurs side here at White Hart Lane and Redknapp can take comfort in the fact that Ferguson was forced to change his formation to 4-5-1 after an hour.He moved Wayne Rooney to the right of midfield in response to the threat being posed by the roaming Rafael van der Vaart. Red-faced: Rafael Da Silva (centre) reacts as he is shown his second yellow card by referee Mike Dean Tottenham, with more than 60 per centof the possession, also put United under enough pressure to embarrass Ferguson when it came to his comments about Rafael Da Silva. On Friday he said his young full backhad matured, erasing rash tackles from his game. Another red card here suggested otherwise. For United, however, it was the only blot on an otherwise imperious defensive display. Tottenham also defended superbly, notleast their two centre backs and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. The sight of LukaModric tracking back time after time also impressed. Never mind how good he was going forward. But United were immense in the way they absorbed the pressure that was imposed by their hosts, with NemanjaVidic and Rio Ferdinand outstanding. Too close to call: Aaron Lennon attempts to cross the ball past Nemanja Vidic (right) If Ferguson regards Rooney's new contract as a major triumph, persuading Vidic to remain at Old Trafford must give him much the same satisfaction. Now United's captain, the Serbia centre back was brilliant. As commanding a defender as any in Europe. Ferguson being Ferguson, he won't be too interested in receiving such plaudits. His philosophy has long focused on attractive, attacking football, but Tottenham have beaten Inter Milan and Arsenal here already this season and holding them to a goalless draw when down to 10 men for the final 16 minutes is a fine achievement. As entertaining as it was, the high-octane football was not the highest quality from either side. But there were some fine moments. Not least when Peter Crouch went close inside the opening 10 minutes. A super ball from Modric invited Alan Hutton to drive in a cross and Crouch was inches wide with his low volley. Just prior to that, Rooney had also threatened. After a super ball from Dimitar Berbatov, Rooney failed to do it justice by dragging his shot across the face of goal. Wide boy: Peter Crouch missed the target with this effort when he might have done better There were other chances. The ubiquitous Rooney tested Heurelho Gomes while Van der Vaart forced Edwin van der Sar to make a save. Tottenham's Dutchman went closer still when he met a ball from Gareth Bale with a header that finished in the side-netting. There were some fascinating battles. Bale versus Rafael, Rafael versus Wilson Palacios, Rafael against pretty much anyone who went near him. He picked up his first booking for a reckless challenge on Palacios. He also got skinned by Bale when Van der Vaart had his header. Too often, though, there was not enough composure from either side. But Ferguson clearly addressed that in the interval because United started the second half attacking more effectively. While Michael Carrick saw a header drift just wide, Rooney made Gomes dive fullstretch to divert a powerful shot. In a bid to end the deadlock, Ferguson was first to react, bringing on Anderson as a replacement for Nani after only an hour. Nani is enjoying an excellent season but he struggled to make an impact here. Good to be Beck: Both sides could have done with the passing of David Beckham, who watched in the crowd Ferguson moved Rooney to the right flank to cover Nani's departure and enable Anderson to add solidity to United's midfield - not least because Van der Vaart was proving so dangerous in his role behind Crouch. With the dismissal of Rafael after 74 minutes, however, came another reshuffle. Darren Fletcher to right back and Javier Hernandez on for Berbatov. Did Rafael deserve to go? Well, he was a little unlucky because the contact, while enough to bring Assou-Ekotto down, was minimal. But he ran that risk when he opted to run across the back of him. Having flirted dangerously with Mike Dean's patience all afternoon, he had clearly lost the benefit of the doubt. The young Brazilian also lost his head and kicked a television microphone as he left the field. Not clever. Nor was the rant at Dean that earned Rooney a booking. Sensing his chance, Redknapp removed a midfielder in Palacios and sent on another striker in Jermain Defoe. It left Van der Vaart and Modric in midfield but you had to admire Redknapp's ambition. And he is right on one other thing. Tottenham are closer than ever to matching United. Even if they are still eight points behind.  MARTIN SAMUEL: Harry Redknapp's defence at Tottenham? 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