The Old Trafford outfit won 3-1 at White Hart Lane on Sunday to continue their title charge and keep up the pressure on Roberto Mancini's league leaders
Should Manchester United win the Premier League title this season, Sir Alex Ferguson will look back on Sunday’s victory at Tottenham as a pivotal moment, an unmistakable signal that the Old Trafford club would fight their city neighbours neck-and-neck for the title.
This was classic United, a formula honed over 25 years under Ferguson. In the business end of the season, no team is better at holding its nerve and getting the job done.
The 3-1 scoreline did not reflect a game that Tottenham dominated for the first hour but United, in a match described by Ferguson as “the hardest away game of the season”, summoned up all their character to narrow the gap to Manchester City to two points.
With a relatively easy run of fixtures in their remaining 11 games, United will feel they have the momentum to win their 20th top flight title, in the process denying City their first since 1968.
The Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium on April 30 is already being eyed with a tantalizing sense of expectation. That could well be the evening that decides the destination of the title.
One thing is for sure: Roberto Mancini will be starting to worry. City has been winning matches but simply have not been able to shake off their cross-city rivals, who have taken 10 points from a challenging run of games against Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs.
Sunday’s win at White Hart Lane just might be the most important. By Ferguson’s own admission, he got his tactics wrong and United were far from its fluent best, yet it got the result it wanted to pile the pressure on City.
This was classic United, a formula honed over 25 years under Ferguson. In the business end of the season, no team is better at holding its nerve and getting the job done
It took three moments of quality. Wayne Rooney nodded United ahead on the stroke of halftime against the run of play before Ashley Young secured the victory with two expertly taken goals after the break.
It was a masterful display of finishing but, in truth, the victory was more down to some stoic defending from the back four and the inimitable self-belief of a United side.
In the final three months of the season, it is all about holding your nerve. Ferguson builds up during the season to peak in the run-in and despite the faltering performance, there was something impressive about the way United were able to somehow storm into a three-goal lead against the team one place below them in the table.
With his 986th league match in charge of Manchester United at Tottenham, Ferguson surpassed the all-time club record of Sir Matt Busby.
The Scot is in the process of building his fourth United team yet still stamped all over this squad is his mark. The drive, the winning mentality, the never-say-die spirit that was equally evident in the last-gasp win at Norwich a week earlier.
United is winners. That self-belief flows from Ryan Giggs to Rooney to young Danny Welbeck. They have been here before, many times. With every victory, the pressure piles on to City, who have the most talented squad in the country but, as a group, have never been in the pressure situation of a tight title race.
It was a mammoth achievement from Ferguson last season to win the title with a deeply flawed squad that performed poorly for long spells of the campaign, particularly away from home.
But it would be equally impressive if United was to win the title this season against an adversary as formidable as this City side. It is more than likely that it will take more than 90 points to win the Premier League this season.
Last year, Ferguson said his side’s 3-2 win at West Ham was the game when he really felt United would win the title.
He will have a similar feeling after Sunday’s triumph at White Hart Lane, with that April 30 date at the Etihad firmly in his sights. The only certainty is that United’s pursuit of City is relentless - and it will firmly believe that it is the favorites to win the league.
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