Despite the home side’s pressure in the second half, United had looked primed to hold on to a lead given to them by Robin van Persie’s 18th Premier League goal of the season in the first half. But Tottenham finally got the goal that they will feel their second-half performance warranted as Dempsey stroked home from close range with the final whistle just a minute away.
Tottenham will doubtless take a lot of pride form having now taken four points from a United side that were enjoying their best ever season at this stage of proceedings.
Tottenham’s 3-2 win at Old Trafford back in September appeared to have a major impact on Sir Alex Ferguson’s approach to this match. Having seen Spurs rip through his side in that encounter, Ferguson brought Phil Jones into strengthen up the United midfield alongside Michael Carrick.
But in Van Persie, no matter what the lineup, United can count on having a strong goal threat. With almost 25 minutes on the clock Danny Welbeck swept the ball to Tom Cleverley playing on the right and the midfielder picked out Van Persie peeling off at the far post, who rose to head past Hugo Lloris.
In contrast to the almost caviler attacking approach that has characterized United’s play this season, Ferguson’s side took a much more pragmatic, counter-attacking outlook at White Hart Lane, playing their opponents due respect.
They were grateful on more than one occasion to David de Gea for preserving their lead. First the Spanish keeper saved impressively with his legs after Gareth Bale’s strike from the edge of the area got a deflection off Rio Ferdinand right in front of goal.
There was perhaps an even better save after the break. Dempsey broke past the challenge of Patrice Evra to get clean through on goal but De Gea again managed to get a leg to the ball to prevent the shot reaching the back of the net.
United’s defenders were also impressive, with Rio Ferdinand making a particularly standout challenge to deny Jermaine Defoe’s shot.
The visitors threatened little in the second period, although substitute Wayne Rooney had a strong penalty claim waved away by the officials.
At the other end, United finally cracked as the match ticked into the final minute of injury time. Under challenge from Steven Caulker, De Gea could only help a cross into the path of Aaron Lennon allowing the winger to knock the ball across goal for Dempsey to slot the ball into the corner from six yards out.
The final whistle soon followed to bring an entertaining encounter in difficult conditions to an end. In reflection, it may be a result with which neither side will be overly disappointed.