Two goals from Wayne Rooney saw Manchester United twice came from behind to claim a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. On both occasions after taking the lead, when Kyle Walker put the hosts in front after 18 minutes and then when Sandro blasted into a stunning strike just after half time, Tottenham were unable to hold their lead for long.
Rooney first leveled following a mistake from Walker, before striking home a penalty in the second half after Hugo Lloris brought down Danny Welbeck.
On the balance of what was a high-tempo contest, albeit not always with the highest quality, it was a just result. It is also an outcome with which both managers are unlikely to be disappointed. On the back of a 6-0 drubbing by Manchester City last week, the result eases some of the pressure on Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas. There were some more encouraging signs too from his side.
While his opposite number David Moyes will not be best pleased to have drawn for the second week running, given that United were twice behind, he may well feel that momentum has been maintained following their 5-0 victory at Bayer Leverkusen. It does, though, leave United worryingly nine points adrift of Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, with Tottenham a further point back.
Tottenham had begun the match very much like a side who felt vulnerable following their mauling at the hands of Manchester’s other club last week. With Sandro and Mousa Dembele sitting deep in midfield and Paulinho just in front, Villas-Boas had attempted to give his side a solid base.
There was scant ambition from the hosts early on, with United controlling possession. Yet, against the run of play, it was Tottenham that struck first. There was very little finesse about Walker’s free-kick as he smashed the ball low in the hope that the wall would jump. To the anger of David de Gea, the wall duly obliged, leaving United’s stopper unable to get down quickly enough to his side to keep the shot out.
The confidence boost the goal gave Tottenham was immediately and obviously apparent. They could even have extended their advantage too. One fine Tottenham break saw Roberto Soldado’s clever flick send Paulinho clear, but when the ball came back into the Spaniard’s path, he put his shot high and wide to continue his frustrations in front of goal. Moments later his pass found Lennon in the box, but the lively winger’s effort on his weaker left foot was straight at De Gea.
But instead of building on their advantage, Tottenham were pegged back just past the half-hour mark with a goal in large part of their own making. From Phil Jones’s cross, Walker reacted as if surprised that the ball reached him and could only flick it with his heel toward his own goal. Rooney displayed contrastingly sharper instincts to pounce and turn the ball in from inside the six-yard box.
Around that time, Moyes made an alteration to his shape, moving Shinji Kagawa to the left and making Danny Welbeck the focal point of the attack, supported by Rooney. While Kagawa did a diligent job shuttling up and down the left flank and trying to negate the threat posed by Walker and Lennon, it was hardly the best use of a man who displayed his creative talents to such effect in midweek.
Just nine minutes after the interval, United were in need of coming from behind once more. Sandro has impressed with his defensive abilities at the heart of Tottenham’s midfield but showed a very different side of his game as he cut in on his right foot 25 yards out and unleashed an unstoppable effort that had thundered into the very top corner of the net before De Gea could even react.
Once more there was a real buzz about a White Hart Lane crowd that seemed ready to turn negative at any moment. But the optimism was again abruptly halted with United getting back on level terms, this time after just three minutes. Tottenham’s defenders protested vehemently at the award of a penalty when Welbeck tumbled under Lloris’s challenge, but the goalkeeper’s own meek protests belied his knowledge that he had failed to get to the ball while clipping the heels of the United attacker. In a rich vein of form, Rooney smashed the penalty straight down the middle for his eighth Premier League goal of the season.
There was only the odd threat from either side for the remainder of the contest, with neither managers’ substitutions providing the inspiration to knick what would have been a valuable winner in this tightest of Premier Leagues.