In a tense, often attritional game between two sides brimming with attacking talent and intent, mutual respect won out as both sides harried and hassled each other into submission - though United had to play out the final 16 minutes with 10 men, after the dismissal of Rafael for two bookings.
Few clear-cut opportunities arose for either side. Wayne Rooney forced three smart saves from Heurelho Gomes, but Tottenham enjoyed the lion's share of the play and spurned presentable first-half chances through Peter Crouch and Rafael van der Vaart.
Sir Alex Ferguson was able to call upon all his experienced players who had been rated as doubts to make the match. Edwin van der Sar, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney all started, while Paul Scholes returned to the bench.
Keen for his side to fight fire with fire at the home of one of the most attacking teams in the Premier League, the manager lined United up in a 4-4-2 formation, pairing Rooney with Dimitar Berbatov. Harry Redknapp, meanwhile, fielded Crouch as his attack's focal point to compliment the roaming menace of van der Vaart.
United's last visit to White Hart Lane began with an early concession; falling behind to Jermain Defoe's overhead kick in under a minute. This time, less than 10 seconds had passed when Gareth Bale's cross was plucked from the air by van der Sar, with van der Vaart lurking. Some 90 seconds later, Rooney latched onto Berbatov's pass, evaded a risky challenge from William Gallas and fired wide of Heurelho Gomes' post.
That quickfire exchange set the tone for a frantic opening to the game. Van der Sar comfortably clutched a van der Vaart free-kick, Gomes clutched Rooney's 20-yard snapshot and Crouch contrived to volley wide after a superb cross from Alan Hutton.
However, with both sides frantically closing one