By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
The gap is down to four points. ‘For the moment’ most Manchester United fans will confidently add.
Manchester City turned up the heat a notch or two with a straightforward win over Fulham yesterday, but confidence is high that the Red Devils will again be seven points clear at the top by the close of play today.
‘But Spurs are good. Kind of’ you might be saying to yourself right about now. And you would be right. After a shaky start to the Andre-Villas Boas era, they’ve put together a decent run of form. So much so that they should be aspiring towards a Champions League place without the hassle of having to curse Chelsea for their unlikely European success. Tottenham served notice of their improvement by claiming a win at Old Trafford earlier in the season and they’ve got a great chance of making it a double.
But there is a slight problem. United and White Hart Lane wins go together like Portuguese managers and fashionable jackets. Recent form suggests Spurs will make it difficult, but recent history is stacked firmly in United’s favour.
Even when Spurs were in the comparative doldrums over the last 10 years or so, White Hart Lane was still a tricky place to claim a win. But it’s a banana skin United have elegantly sidestepped most of the time. Their record on Tottenham turf is formidable and goes a long way to explaining why they expect to have re-established the gap at the top of the table by this evening.
United’s record at White Hart Lane 2001-02 to Present
P11 W8 D3 L0 GS 23 GA 8
W D W D D W W W W W W
2012 —————————> 2001
Maybe it’s Spurs’ general committment to playing attractive football suiting Fergie’s teams or maybe it’s the fact they though Heurelho Gomes was a top quality keeper, but for some reason, United have bossed affairs in N17 for over a decade. Spurs last won at home to United almost 12 years ago and since then, they’ve picked up a measly three points out of a possible 33 from the fixture.
On the flipside, United have:
- claimed 27 points out of those possible 33 (2.45 points average)
- Averaged over two goals a game in that run (2.1 goals a game)
- Kept five clean sheets in those 11 games (45%)
- Conceded an average of less than one goal a game (0.7 goals a game)
- Been leading at half-time in six of their eight wins (75%)
The infamous 3-5 comeback win in the 2001-02 seasons looks like the key moment in the relationship. After recording back to back 3-1 wins at home to United, Spurs were 3-0 up at half-time and seemingly on course to make it three wins in a row. Fergie must have switched the hairdryer all the way up to 11 because in the second half United destroyed Spurs and made the first 2 look like 45 minutes freakish tear in the fabric of the Spacetime Continuum.
City fans and general ABUs will be looking forward to Spurs giving United a tough test. The history books tell us not to be so certain.