This 1-0 victory, courtesy of a 68th-minute Nani strike which deflected off Carlos Tevez’s head, may not have had much of the attacking flair and verve that United’s performances at the start of last season were blessed with, but it is a victory nonetheless, and the Reds’ first of the season.
There were times when it appeared United’s winless start to 2007/08 would continue, and there was no shortage of drama as Rio Ferdinand cleared off the line before Tottenham had a penalty turned down. When the final whistle eventually came, it was met with considerable relief from the home crowd.
Before the match, Sir Alex claimed not to have looked at the league table. Had he done so, he would have seen his team second bottom on just two points. A stark contrast to 2006/07's sprint out of the blocks. Startlingly, the Reds could have started this game propping up the entire division had Derby County claimed a point against Birmingham on Saturday.
Martin Jol’s side, who themselves have made a slower-than-expected start to the campaign, were always going to be difficult opponents. They signalled their intentions by starting the match with immediate purpose to their play. After just 20 seconds, Robbie Keane had Edwin van der Sar scrambling across his six-yard box with a curling shot that clipped the crossbar.
Tottenham had clearly come with the specific intention of pressing United back, keeping Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick as deep as possible, and blocking avenues through to Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nani, who looked to break forward and support Carlos Tevez in attack.
The weight of expectation around Old Trafford and the necessity for a first win of the season was abundantly apparent. It was a cagey start from United, highlighted when Ferdinand dallied on the ball in his own area expecting van der Sar to come and collect and Keane quickly stole possession.