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Tottenham 1 Manchester Utd 3: Rooney rips the heart out of Spurs
Published : 13 Sep 2009 00:04:06
The finest player in all of England delivered a goal to match the grandeur of his talent. And in that single, exhilarating instant, Manchester United declared that it will take a truly extraordinary football team to tear the title from their grasp. The goal, 13 minutes from the end of a breathlessly absorbing match, combined the best of Wayne Rooney with the very best of the side which he graces. It gave the champions a crucial win and persuaded Spurs to reassess some of their early-season optimism. Like all the best goals, it bore the hallmark of simplicity. Breaking swiftly and running selflessly, Rooney was picked out by a gem of a ball from Darren Fletcher. He collected it in a stride, set off on a slaloming incursion, bemused a couple of defenders and rolled in the shot through the keeper’s legs. Dazzling instinct combined with rare football intelligence. The match was over as the ball hit the net. Ryan Giggs Rocket Ryan: Giggs fires a free kick into the top corner And this from a side which had seen the eternally irresponsible Paul Scholes dismissed with half an hour remaining. No matter. United kept faith with their football and their points were as deserved as they were welcome. Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp had predicted that the evening would tell him much about his team’s chance of finishing in the top four. He will not be comforted by the message he received. For the chasm which separates the sides could not be disguised. Despite falling behind inside 52 seconds, United always knew how to win this match. Ronaldo may remain a vivid memory but still they can turn to performers like Dimitar Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand, the evergreen Ryan Giggs and Rooney. That opening goal had set the tone, for its preparations were impeccable and its execution sublime, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto chipping a succulent cross to the far post, Peter Crouch winning the header from Nemanja Vidic and Jermain Defoe bringing off a spectacular bicycle kick. Spurs striker Jermain Defoe Deadly Defoe: Spurs striker holds off United's Rio Ferdinand to score a stunning overhead kick United looked appropriately shocked, but they set to their work and gradually their pace and energy took effect. Berbatov started to shape events to his own ends. His game has always been a thing of feints and idle fancies, and he went through his repertoire on his old turf. t his best, he is almost impossible to suppress, and last night he was close to his best. Aaron Lennon tried hard to exert the influence he had so recently wielded at Wembley. He surely wished he could carry that supine Croatia defence around with him. Patrice Evra is a quite different proposition, and the duel was absorbing. In the 16th minute there was a spat between Evra and Vedran Corluka, which a sterner referee than Andre Marriner might have punished. Eighteen minutes brought a coming together of Robbie Keane and Anderson, while in the 24th minute Wilson Palacios, who had been gratuitously kicking Berbatov, was finally booked for his latest assault. It was a costly indiscretion. The free-kick was in the middle of the goal, at 20-yard range. Paul Scholes Seeing red: Paul Scholes is sent off by referee Andre Marriner after a foul on Tom Huddlestone (floor) Giggs lined it up, swung his left boot and dumped it into the top corner, like a man laying a sand-wedge stone dead. United had earned equality, while Giggs had won himself the distinction of having scored in every season since the birth of the Premier League. By now, United were passing and moving with impressive assurance. The lead should have arrived on half an hour when Rooney, played in by Evra, saw his shot saved by Carlo Cudicini. Berbatov swatted the rebound and had it taken off the line by Sebastien Bassong, and from yet another rebound the same player lifted the chance hopelessly high. Sir Alex Ferguson cursed. The goal was delayed by just 10 minutes. A United corner was cleared and Scholes took a speculative whack from distance. Bassong blocked, but it ran to Anderson, who scored with impunity. Redknapp sent on Jermaine Jenas for Palacios at the start of the second half, but the game’s temper did not improve. Soon Scholes was being booked for a typically inept tackle on Defoe, then, in the 59th minute, he plunged untidily into Tom Huddlestone. It was an absurd way to be sent off but with Scholes, absurdity has gone hand in hand with burning talent down the years. He had left United to defend their lead for half an hour and handed Spurs an escape route which their football had scarcely deserved. Ferguson removed Berbatov and brought on Michael Carrick to shore things up. Rooney was asked to work still harder, while United threw a blanket across midfield. Yet still they contrived to be the more resourceful side. Rooney seemed in the mood to do something memorable. And he did not disappoint.