Pre-match talk had suggested that Harry Redknapp was contemplating resting in-form left-winger, Gareth Bale, ahead of his side’s vital Champions League encounter with Internazionale. The Welshman was indeed fielded, but Redknapp nevertheless sprung a surprise by starting Robbie Keane – as captain – ahead of Peter Crouch.
Both sides’ pre-match planning almost required a quick rethink when, inside the first 90 seconds, Ji-sung Park latched onto Darren Fletcher’s pass, bore down on goal and hit a low shot which thudded against Heurelho Gomes’ right-hand post and away to safety.
When Nani drew a low save from Gomes moments later, Tottenham could easily have buckled under United’s early pressure. Instead they hit back. It took a superb saving challenge from Darren Fletcher to dispossess Lennon as he slalomed towards goal, before the impressive van der Vaart pounced on a Vidic slip, saw off the attentions of Michael Carrick and smashed a superb 25-yard effort against Edwin van der Sar’s right-hand post.
With both sides suitably aware of the other’s threat, the game continued in absorbing, see-saw fashion. Park and Rafael both fired comfortably off-target from slight openings, before Spurs nearly profited from poor officiating when Bale retrieved the ball after it had gone into touch. Only the quick thinking of van der Sar, who rushed from his line to block, spared a controversial opening goal.