So we finally got back our Tottenham that we know and love.
It all started so well. As I made my customary late entrance into White Hart Lane, I was walking up the steps towards my row, when I heard a roar of anticipation. I turned and for the first time, looked towards the pitch, only to see the sublime site of Jermain Defoe in midair as he performed a perfect bicycle kick to put us 1-0 up. Cue random hugging with strangers.
Having made my way to my seat, I settled to watch the inevitable comeback. Although before United really got going, we came very close to making it 2-0 when Crouch put a perfect cross across the face of goal, that Defoe came agonisingly close to converting.
United had the game won in midfield. It was probably the worst game that I’ve seen Palacios have for us, although having only arrived back from Honduras on Friday, you can hardly blame him for looking a little punch-drunk. It was Palacios’ wild tackle that gave away the free-kick which Giggs stuck into the top corner. Cudicini couldn’t be blamed, though I couldn’t help but think that the extra couple of inches that Gomes possesses might have been enough to get a hand to it.
After that it was only a matter of time before United went ahead. Berbatov came very close, but thankfully our evenings were to remain just ruined, rather than completely ruined. Eventually they took the lead as the ball was cleared only as far to Anderson, who fired home his first competitive goal. Typical that it would be against us.
It never really seemed likely that we would get back into it, even when the instrumental Paul Scholes was sent off. United had the nous to control most of the possession, whilst we looked light in midfield. As mentioned previously, Palacios was not himself and when substituted, Huddlestone and Jenas lacked the bite to compete. Keane on the left didn’t work. Not only did he fail to control our flow of play in the way that Modric can from the position, but we also missed Keane dropping back from his normal central role, to add an extra number in midfield.
After their first minute heroics, Crouch and Defoe seemed isolated figures. This was in contrast to Rooney, who even when employed on his own up front after United went down to ten men, always looked a menace. It was no surprise when he eventually twisted Alan Hutton inside out and slipped the ball through Cudicini’s legs to make the score 3-1.
So what have we learned? Firstly that playing Defoe, Crouch and Keane together, is probably best left to when we’re playing Burnley at home, rather than the defending league champions. We also had a lesson in how weak we are in midfield without an on-form Palacios, though I think we all knew this anyway. Let’s hope that he’s back to his best against Chelsea.
Let’s not beat ourselves up about this. We wouldn’t have expected 12 points from the first five games and after Chelsea next week, we’ve got a nice looking run of fixtures lined up. United have been doing this for years and look in no mood to give up.