Man Utd 3-1 Tottenham
Ryan Giggs confidently tucked away two second-half penalties as Manchester United kept up their bid for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League title with a gritty 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
The evergreen Giggs provided United with the lead and slotted home the killer third after Spurs had briefly threatened to put a decisive dent in the reigning champions' challenge.
Ledley King brought the UEFA Champions League chasers level with 20 minutes to go before a piece of magic from Nani revived the Old Trafford faithful inside the final 10 minutes.
The match took half an hour to spring into life as King blocked former Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov's shot and Heurelho Gomes made a low save from Antonio Valencia.
Spurs struggled to replicate the level of performance shown in their recent home wins over Arsenal and Chelsea, but Wilson Palacios did have Edwin van der Sar on the stretch before United took a 57th minute lead.
Berbatov's clever back-heel played in Patrice Evra, who was brought down by a rash challenge from Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Giggs' penalty was just beyond the reach of Gomes.
The visitors improved after conceding the goal and, after introducing Aaron Lennon for his first appearance of 2010, equalised with 20 minutes to go when King climbed above Michael Carrick to head inside the upright after Rafael had vacated his position on the post.
United were struggling to build up a head of steam until a moment of impudence from Nani on 81 minutes restored the hosts' lead as he cutely dinked his shot over Gomes after being played in by substitute Federico Macheda.
And with four minutes to go, United made certain of the points as Giggs again placed his spot-kick out of Gomes' reach after Nani had been bumped over by Palacios.
The win lifts United above Chelsea at the top of the table and puts pressure on their title rivals, who face Stoke City on Sunday, for the second weekend in a row.
Leading scorer Wayne Rooney was missing for United after picking up a groin injury in training on Thursday and his absence further strengthened anxiety in home ranks which the opening 45 minutes did little to dispel.
It took the hosts half an hour to manage their first effort on goal, when Valencia ignored the pleas for a pass from Berbatov and went for goal himself, bringing a smart low save out of Gomes.
Berbatov and Evra wasted decent opportunities shortly afterwards, although the hosts' best chance had come slightly earlier when Gareth Bale failed to cut out an Evra cross. The loose ball was seized upon by Berbatov, upon whose shoulders so much could now rest.
King was there in a flash. His knees might prevent him from training but the defender's ability to anticipate danger is uncanny.
As a point would have been a decent return for Tottenham in their quest for that elusive Champions League place, Harry Redknapp would have been far more pleased than old mate Ferguson with how the opening period panned out.
He would have been delirious if Roman Pavlyuchenko had found the net when Defoe provided a chested lay-off after Bentley lofted a cross into the home box. Instead, the Russian screwed his effort badly wide.
It was the start of a far more entertaining second period, which took its first significant twist 13 minutes after the restart when Berbatov burst past Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
Although he appeared to have run down a cul-de-sac on the edge of the Spurs box, Berbatov remained aware of Evra's presence.
Assou-Ekotto knew the Frenchman was there too and when Berbatov supplied Evra with a impudent back-heel, the defender panicked, lunged in and sent his opponent flying.
There was more debate about who would take the spot-kick than whether it should be given.
Not once a scorer from the spot in his entire career, Giggs assumed the responsibility his role as captain demanded. To Old Trafford's relief, he found the bottom right-hand corner of Gomes' goal.
In times gone by, that would have been it.
But with Valencia and Evra departing due to injury and ill-health respectively and Lennon arriving for the visitors, the pendulum swung back Tottenham's way.
King brushed aside Carrick far too easily as he met Bale's corner with a firm header that Rafael would have cleared if he had remained by the post.
At that point, Tottenham looked by far the more likely winners as Peter Crouch reinforced their attacking options.
But from virtually nowhere, United struck again nine minutes from time as their own substitute Macheda collected Darren Fletcher's pass, then fed Nani.
There was not much space but he kept his cool and as Gomes raced out, he superbly chipped him.
The green and gold clad United supporters were still celebrating when Palacios clambered all over Nani four minutes from time, offering Giggs another spot-kick, which he buried into the opposite corner.
Latest Forum Comments
Atletico knocking Liverpool out might also (HOPEFULLY) mean that Liverpool need to get a result against Chelsea to ensure being in Europe next season..- Zain
they have a small glimmer hope at fourth place too, with city and villa playing each other next week and city and spurs playing after that they will all drop points which could open the door for liverpool, they'd have to beat chelsea next week though. hopefully they will. can't believe i am gonna be cheering them on, i am going to feel so dirty.- Shaun
Exactly... we have to pick up six points from our final two games and hope that Liverpool can at least hold them to a draw at Anfield. They had a good result away to Burnley which might give them a bit more confidence going into the Chelsea game.- Dave
yeah, i think if chelsea win at anfield the title is on it's way to stamford bridge.- Shaun
The only thing today changed was goal difference and that would only come into play if they lose, in which case we have to win not draw afterwards. I dont believe they could possibly not beat Wigan, so it all comes down to next week, and the pressure is on them again as they now play first. Should they win it is pretty much over anyway, so the pressure back on us for Sunderland is fairly irrelevent.- Oli
Congratulations mate!- John
Congratulations Fenwar!- Jonesy
Hope you've called him Ryan!?- Shaun
Just arrived in Singapore. Struggling to find a good stream - anyone got a link?- Raj
Iv a bad feeling about this one even though he hasn't been effective in his last few games its still a massive loss not to have Rooney. I think we'll be relying heavily on Nani today. On another note good to see Hargo back in the squad.- Munsterman
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