Despite the body blow of conceding such a late equaliser at White Hart Lane yesterday, I actually left London on Sunday night more convinced than ever that United will end up winning back the title. The reason? The quality of the defending and the tactical discipline that was on show from the Reds.
All the talk in this campaign has centred on the quality of United’s attacking play. Indeed the defending has often been fiercely criticised. But yesterday was different, down in no small part to the return of the Ferdinand-Vidic partnership.
We all know how good Jonny Evans has been this season and Phil Jones and Chris Smalling showed during the FA Cup win over West Ham that they are capable deputies. But Vidic and Ferdinand are the gold standard.
Rio’s positioning and reading of the game is outstanding whilst Vidic adds steel and an unerring knack of being in the right place every time to head the ball away. They were right back to their best on Sunday and deserved to end the match on the winning side. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. But as Rio said in his post-match interview on MUTV, sometimes you have to take a sucker punch like that on the chin and move on.
As for tactical discipline – another part of United’s game that is rarely highlighted – Jones was a hugely effective extra man in midfield and helped nullify the omnipresent threat of Gareth Bale. Add in the remarkable goalscoring machine that is Robin van Persie and you have an intoxicating mix that augurs well for the rest of the campaign.
To be completely fair, you couldn’t deny Spurs their point. They fought with great vigour and conviction in the second half. But it’s another tough away game chalked off for United with minimal damage.