WANTED: One top class striker. Requirements: ruthless eye for goal, sublime first touch, clever movement and a bit of a swagger
Tottenham 0 Manchester United 0
If Manchester United were toothless, Spurs were limp. Neither side had cutting edge. Both sides defended resolutely. And yet there is no disguising the disappointment that we didn't carve out more clear cut chances. Ball seemed to get stuck under feet once or twice. When a quality ball was crossed in, there was no quality at the end of it to finish it off.
Perfect illustration that we can go up against the teams that are meant to be on another level to us, compete and feel regretful for not quite grasping the initiative and punishing them.
Sure, we're not title contenders. Mainly because we lack that extra punch in the side that probably would have seen us take more points than we did against Man City (D), Chelsea (D) and now Man Utd (another D). The concern is that other sides might have that punch aplenty, either from seasoned experience of from splashing out £27M for the privilege.
We need to turn these almosts and if onlys into three points at home and dig deep away. Regardless, let's face it, even if Man Utd are hardly the beast of old they are one that has to be respected and very much admired for their spirit and their annoying doggedness. They battled and they could have nicked it, at least their fans would argue they had players with the potential to do so. But much like us, the game (end to end as it was) lacked that final third slick pass and movement to get past the bricks in defence.
Rooney and Berbatov hardly had me biting my nails. Apart from perhaps two efforts on goal by 'Wazza', but hardly heart-stopping. But alas, unbeaten they remain. The red card (not that it's helped in the past) was hardly fruitful in terms of possession in our favour. As we didn't quite make it count down the flanks and through the middle. A day for defenders indeed. Still think we're going to finish top four, got the players for it just need that ruthlessness in the key forward area. So yeah, top four ‘if’ we get that ruthlessness in the key forward area.
Crouch, no doubt, is going to be much maligned in post-match discussion, I'm certain of it. Nothing to suggest we would not have discussed the same 0-0 result had Pav started or even Defoe.
The Russian probably would have given us little movement or bad first touch (depends what variant of Roman would have turned up, but can't have seen him troubling Rio and Vidic much). Defoe also might have found himself lacking the cunning to get behind the Utd centre backs. Although, arguably, both Pav and Defoe could lay claim to having better shooting boots than Crouch.
Just that Peter can hold the ball up and head it down and...you know, stuff, for a big man. Crouch 'should' have scored from that delicious Hutton cross. In another parallel dimension. Not to single out Crouch, so I won’t, also worth noting vdV was not quite crisp with his efforts either.
And let's be honest, regardless of the forward(s), it would have taken something special to unlock the United defence on the form they were on. Trend developing here, with the reoccurring references re: defenders.
Don't think too much was wrong with our performance and our intent. Modric was supreme again. World class? Yeah, go on then. Stick that on the back of his shirt. He makes us tick, he conducts and dictates. Fergie licking his lips on the touchline.
Palacios played well in parts, but also doing his best at times to remind us of his erratic composure when attempting to pass, but he was effective with defensive duties. Not so bright in offensive positions. And please someone have a word with him regarding shots on goal. Jenas the alternative. Pienaar the alleged transfer target (Chelsea to nick him). Huddlestone, no doubt, the preferred choice of partner for Modric. Having him back in the side might actually feel like a new signing. You felt for all the majesty of Modric, with vdV not quite claiming a stranglehold on the game like he usual does, Hudd's pinged balls into and around the box are missed in games such as this where chances are not quite crafted with ease not for lack of invention – just needed a different type of question to be asked when moving towards the United goal.
Moving away from their defenders to ours...
Hutton and BAE worked tirelessly. And Dawson is beginning to be a tad talismanic at the back. What's that now, one goal conceded in our last five games? And that other bloke at the back, whathisface, the old bloke. Quietly quietly, he's proving one or two of us wrong with his composure and experience . What with Ledley stuck on the sidelines.
Other minor talking points?
Our set pieces remain utterly pants. Last decent free kick was taken back in 1991. More conversations required on the training pitch with D-Beck please.
The red card? Well it was hardly a Mendes or Nani or Webb incident. And petulant as Raphael was/is (the second ‘foul’ was probably meant rather than being accidently) he probably should have got away with just the one yellow. The first tackle, clumsy.
In the end, not enough, when enough was not that improbable but neither likely. United, needing the point more than risking the requirement of all three. They contained us. I guess we should take that as a compliment?
In a season where nobody is head and shoulders above the team just behind them. In a season where Chelsea are showing signs of mortality and weakness, City spending more to consolidate and improve, Arsenal ruthless against the lesser teams and Man Utd, not playing with swagger but not getting beat either. It’s a soap opera with many unmissable story arcs and sub plots. We are stronger but with the ‘top four’ becoming ‘five’, so is the top end of the league which means we need to evolve further, and quickly. Twists and turns guaranteed, no doubt, before the finale.
Five of our next six games in all competitions are away. Backs to wall, wouldn't have it any other way. Well, other than being ten points clear of 4th spot looking down at it.