That was the last time that Tottenham were able to experience the joys of victory against Manchester United. For what it’s worth though, Spurs’ 3-1 win at White Hart Lane on the final day of the 2000/01 season was all but a meaningless match for United, who finished the campaign ten points clear of Arsenal to capture a third straight Premier League title.
Still, for the record books, an L is an L, but in the 19 league meetings, two FA Cup ties, and two Carling Cup encounters – including United’s win on penalties in the 2009 final at Wembley, it’s all W’s and D’s on United’s ledger against Tottenham. United’s 2-0 win at Old Trafford in October took their record to fifteen wins and four draws in those 19 league meetings, and on Sunday, they’ll be looking to make it 20 as they travel to North London to face Harry Redknapp’s ambitious side.
In those nearly two dozen matches, there’ve been some twists, controversial moments, and comebacks…which have all pretty much gone in United’s favor. And sure, there might need to be an asterisk by that streak, but that which one does not see does not exist, and I’ll leave it at that.
When it comes to classics in that bunch, it’s hard to top the 5-3 win in September 2001. United had endured an up and down start to the season, winning three, drawing two, and losing a wild 4-3 thriller at Newcastle. And after 45 minutes at White Hart Lane, defeat looked a certainty, as goals from Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand, and Christian Ziege had given Tottenham a seemingly unassailable 3-0 halftime lead.
Alas, what is unassailable to others isn’t for Manchester United. The comeback started with an Andy Cole strike right out of the gate, and when the dust settled, United had scored five unanswered goals in the final 45 minutes, including a winner from Juan Sebastian Veron and a knockout blow for good measure from David Beckham.
Five goals in 40-odd minutes is pretty amazing no matter the opposition, but how about five in just over 20 minutes?
Heading towards the final month of the 2008/09 season, United and Liverpool were locked into a tight battle for the Premier League title. On April 25, Tottenham came to Old Trafford looking to play the spoiler and after taking a 2-0 lead a half hour in, it looked like they just might.
But if 3-0 can be overcome, 2-0 is a piece of cake, right? A controversial penalty decision by Howard Webb early in the second half (my, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) gave United just a little piece of momentum, and United promptly took that piece of momentum and bulldozed Spurs, scoring five goals in little more than 20 minutes, including three in five minutes to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 advantage. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one running around like a wild man when Rooney, then Ronaldo, then Rooney again struck to completely turn the match on its head.
That comeback kept United in control of the Premier League title race, and it was one of several memorable matches down the stretch that helped United hold off Liverpool and match their record of 18 English top-flight titles.
Will we see such excitement on Sunday? With all that we’ve seen over the last several years when these two have faced off, don’t bet against it.
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