Spurs fans owe a debt of gratitude to Manchester United. ’The Red Devils’ have singlehandedly denied Arsenal a string of trophies over the years. Ryan Giggs’ mazy run in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final against ‘Les Gooners’ remains one of my favourite ever goals. United are such a good side that they don’t need a helping hand, but against Spurs they frequently receive one. Ahead of Saturday’s match at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, the Lust Doctor recalls some of United’s most incredible injustices against our beloved team.
1) 4/1/2005: With the game deadlocked at 0-0 entering the final minutes at Old Trafford, Pedro Mendes' speculative long range effort flummoxes United keeper Roy Carroll to give Spurs an historic, last gasp victory. But wait...it’s at Old Trafford and referee Mark Clattenburg and leaden-footed linesman Rob Lewis are the only two people in the stadium who fail to ‘see the goal’. Despite the exultant cheers of the away supporters, embarrassed groans of the United fans and the fact that the 6ft 2ins Carroll is clearly leaning way back into the goalmouth as he sheepishly scoops the ball out of the net, no goal is given. Ironically, Clattenburg later awards Reading a goal that barely breaks the goal line after a Paul Robinson gaffe at White Hart Lane. Selective vision?
2) 26/4/2009: Spurs are leading 2-0 at Old Trafford with only 33 minutes left on the clock. A frustrated United side are unable to pierce the Spurs backline and the frustration is obvious. But wait...it’s at Old Trafford! Michael Carrick hopefully tumbles over Heurelho Gomes who has clearly won the ball and an excited Howard Webb, trailing 35 yards behind like an out-of-breath policeman, points to the spot. “That’s a prime example of a referee crumbling under pressure at Old Trafford,” laments Jermaine Jenas afterwards. Webb admits he was wrong the following day, too little, too late; his crucial intervention turns the tide in United’s favour and Spurs collapse. But at least Big Howard’s made up for the mistake since...oh wait.
3) 1/3/2009: After a goalless 120 minutes at Wembley Stadium, the Carling Cup Final is destined for a penalty shoot-out. As the Spurs players are deciding who will take a spot-kick, United keeper Ben Foster is illicitly watching footage of Tottenham taking penalties on his iPod. Minutes later, Foster ‘guesses’ the right way to dive to save Jamie O’Hara’s spot-kick having just viewed his effort the previous year vs PSV Eindhoven on video. The story is given extensive coverage in the post-match coverage. Mysteriously, given his successful spot of viewing against Spurs, Foster does not watch Everton players taking penalties on his iPod just before their FA Cup semi final shoot-out two months later and United crash out. Hmm, did someone at the FA have a word?
4) 1/9/2008: United’s interest in Spurs’ star striker Dimitar Berbatov was common knowledge. They could have bought him for £10.9 million two years previously, but decided to wait until he was in the £30 million price bracket. However, Spurs had not agreed a transfer fee with United when the Bulgarian flew to Manchester and was picked up at the airport by Sir Alex Ferguson in an aggressive (and successful) attempt to force through the transfer. Robbed of their star player, a demoralised Spurs team endure a dreadful start to the season clinching a meagre two points from the opening eight games. Imagine, Wayne Rooney turning up at Chelsea’s training ground in January after receiving a text from Carlo Ancelotti...do you think Sir Alex would approve?
5) 20/9/1961: A different kind of theft. Before Spurs’ European Cup tie with Polish side Gornik Zabrze, a procession of angels make their way around the pitch. Inspired, a wag in the crowd swiftly reworks ‘Glory Glory Hallelujah’(from ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic') into the Spurs anthem ‘Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur’. Around twenty years later, Manchester United shamelessly pickpocket the chant and record it as their 1983 FA Cup song.
And there are so many more indiscretions. The penalties Paul Scholes and Jesper Olsen received against Spurs at Old Trafford despite the fouls not taking place in the 18-yard box; Jurgen Klinsmann’s ‘offside’ goal at the Lane (clearly onside, bizarrely his enthusiastic celebration was even featured in that season’s ‘Match of the Day’ credits); the numerous body flops of United players in the Spurs penalty area (Ronaldo’s playful tumble, O’Shea’s dying swan); a petulant Ronaldo lashing out at Michael Dawson without punishment. Decisions generally even out over time, just not against Manchester United.