By Rasheed Abu Bakar
Now I know how it feels like to be at the receiving end of a Manchester United comeback.
When Clint Dempsey tapped in the equalizer with just minutes to go, my heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. I felt numb, robbed even.
United left White Hart Lane with a point, but it surely felt like defeat. Having led via a Robin van Persie (who else?) header in the 25th minute, United showed grit and resolute defending as the fended off wave after wave of Spurs attacks.
I thought Rafael did very well to keep Gareth Bale in his back pocket for most of the game. The Brazilian matched the Welshman for speed and often forced the latter to cut inside to find an alternative route to goal.
Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand stood strong against twinkle-toed Jermaine Defoe and the Spurs attacking midfielders. Ferdinand, in particular, produced two timely interceptions that could have otherwise put Andre Villas-Boas’s men way ahead in the game.
Often ridiculed for his lack of confidence and proneness to conceding silly goals, David de Gea also played an instrumental role in making sure United left North London with at least a point. Twice he used his legs to deny Bale and Dempsey, but predictably the tabloids will only talk about his weak punch that resulted in the Spurs equalizer.
The Spanish custodian needs time and I’m sure Ferguson is patient enough, having seen glimpses of his talent – he’s just another raw diamond that needs polishing.
Phil Jones: The new Darren Fletcher?
I’ve always been intrigued by defensive midfield players like Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Steven Gerard. In the modern game, these sort of players are a rarity and very often under the limelight.
Keane was our very own hard man, our captain and was that very important line of defense protecting the back four. Vieira and Gerrard did the same at their respective clubs. Players in this position have to be skillful enough to break up opposition play, keep calm and quickly move the ball forward.
Up until his illness, Darren Fletcher had been superb in this role. The disciplined Scotsman provided a protective film in front of the back four and even chipped in with goals at the other end. His defensive capabilities meant Michael Carrick was free to roam forward, where his pinpoint passes do the most damage.
Against Spurs, Phil Jones filled that defensive midfield role with aplomb. The ex-Blackburn Rovers man is built for it as he made sure the bulky Moussa Dembele did not have easy access through the middle. Jones was also on hand to help Patrice Evra in his entertaining duel with Spurs speedster Aaron Lennon.
The great thing about Jones is that he will only be 21 next month. Carrick is ten years his senior and I won’t be surprised if Ferguson keeps playing them both together to get that master-apprentice thing going on.
United nearing championship form
Even though United barely troubled Hugo Lloris and were pushed back by long balls into their box, the team defended very well and were very quick on the break.
If United can keep up this defensive display for the rest of the season, we will be at the summit when it all ends. There is no problem in attack, as the likes of Van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney will take care of the need for goals.
It’s the leaky backline that needs to continue the way they played on the weekend to make sure red and white ribbons adorn the Premier League trophy in May.
Rasheed's love for Manchester United started way back in the nineties after he watched a crazy old Scot named Sir Alex Ferguson run onto the sacred grass of Old Trafford, screaming and jumping for joy as Steve Bruce headed in the winner against Sheffield Wednesday in the 1992-93 season – easily one of the most influential games that spurred United to claim the the inaugural Premier League title. Since then, it has been Manchester United and nothing else.