For a long time it had seemed as though Tottenham Hotspur would be unable to match the accuracy of those supporters who amused themselves during the difficult moments by pinging snowballs towards the Manchester United players. One hit Patrice Evra on the backside. Another rebounded off Rafael's shoulder. Yet Spurs kept us waiting before finally getting past an inspired goalkeeper and showing some form of precision themselves.
Then the giant clocks at their end of this stadium ticked into 90 minutes. The electronic board had gone up to flash there were would be only three extra minutes to save themselves and, around the ground, there was the clank of plastic seats being emptied as early-leavers decided they had seen enough.
Tottenham, however, deserved that moment when David de Gea punched a cross into Aaron Lennon's path and the most dangerous player on the pitch turned the ball into Clint Dempsey's path. De Gea, outstanding all afternoon, was hopelessly exposed this time and the American turned in the goal that restricted United's lead over Manchester City at the top of the table to five points.
To lose a goal so late on will be a bitter blow for Sir Alex Ferguson. They had led, from the 25th minute, when Robin van Persie headed in Tom Cleverley's cross for his 22nd goal of the season.
Yet they had to defend with great diligence to keep out their opponents. De Gea's shot-stopping in those moments was outstanding while Rio Ferdinand played as if affronted by the mistakes he had made when these sides met at Old Trafford in September. Patrice Evra, however, had a torrid time against Lennon, who fast and direct and demonstrated not for the first time that he is the player United's left-back has the most trouble with.
Dempsey had shot straight at De Gea after running clear, while Jermain Defoe had missed more chances than he will care to remember. Yet Spurs kept pressing and eventually their reward came.
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