This was a performance of some bottle. Much has been made of Tim Sherwood’s attacking 4-4-2 formation. It is in fact a bit more 4-4-1-1 because Adebayor drops into midfield when the opposition has the ball. Nevertheless, he still maintains an advanced position and it was thrilling to watch the gamble yesterday as United tried to reconcile their attacking impulse with the fear of Tottenham’s constant counter attacking threat. It takes real nerve to square up to United like that on their own ground and if the home side had scored during an opening ten minutes in which they dominated it might have gone horribly wrong. In the end it went comprehensively right because when Spurs did break, the sheer quality and variety of their attacking players - Soldado, Dembele, Lennon, Eriksen, Adebayor - enabled them to create the game’s best chances. In fact, they should have been three nil up at half time after both Lennon and Soldado had missed from close range.
The big, high quality squad assembled in the summer is now coming into its own because although Spurs, like most teams at this time of year, have many players out, the depth of the talent pool means that they aren’t having to field any second rate players. Missing yesterday were Vertonghen, Paulinho, Townsend, Defoe, Kaboul and Sandro most of whom could have got into either team at Old Trafford.
And although the bench looked a little thin on experience, one of the advantages of Sherwood’s emergence from the back room is that he knows which of the young players are ready to do a job for the first team, as exemplified by the excellent cameos from Bentelab and Kane.
The next intriguing encounter is with the Goons on Saturday in the Cup where the decisive factors could be psychological. The home side have ground out the league results that have kept them in the title race but look weary as a result and have their own injury list to contend with. Somewhere in their famously feeble subconscious they might be tempted to ease off, something the management will have had in mind when they conspired to reduce Tottenham’s ticket allocation on the implausible grounds of health and safety. Spurs will arrive confidently and will doubtless adopt similarly positive tactics to those that prevailed in Manchester where the traveling support proved that even a modest contingent can dominate the home fans.
In the league, meanwhile, Tottenham stand just two points off fourth place with games against Crystal Palace and Swansea up next. One way or another, this is shaping up to be an unforgettable season.
@theodelaney is a writer and director at @hotspur_argyle and a regular contributor to the @spursshow