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Saturday, October 23, 1999 Published at 18:43 GMT


Man Utd undone by defensive howlers

Giggs scored first but poor defending allowed Spurs back in the game

Spurs 3-1 Man Utd

Sir Alex Ferguson blamed the rain for disrupting Manchester United's normally slick rythym after Spurs fought back to claim a 3-1 victory at White Hart Lane.


The BBC's Steve Tongue: "The first 25 minutes in the second half were dominated by United"
Alex Ferguson's side were just stepping up the pace after Welsh winger Ryan Giggs had coolly fired them into a 25th minute lead when they were undone by a four-minute spell of blunders.

First they conceded a soft corner and allowed Steffen Iversen to scramble home an equaliser and then a Paul Scholes own-goal handed Spurs the lead.

They refused to let go and though Man United battled on in driving rain, Steven Carr put the game beyond their reach with a well-struck drive 19 minutes from time.

George Graham had predicted Man Utd, fresh from their midweek defeat, would come flying at his men like a pack of wild dogs.

Lacklustre opening

In fact Ferguson's side looked tired and failed to gel during a lacklustre opening twenty minutes.

Spurs, shorn of striker Chris Armstrong and Chris Perry in yet another crop of injuries, looked bright but blunt.

Denis Irwin, switched to right-back to deal with the threat of winger David Ginola, seemed to have the edge as he blocked off the left flank and forced the Frenchman inside.

Despite United's shortcomings, as so often in the past they still managed to grab the lead after 25 minutes thanks to the quick feet of Giggs.

Giggs received the ball with his back to goal but turned neatly to slip the Spurs defence and coolly chip a left-foot shot past Ian Walker.

The goal settled the visitors and they began to ease into their stride.

Bizarre mistake

But the game hinged on a bizarre incident involving left-back Mickael Silvestre, recalled to the side ahead of Henning Berg.

With the crowd almost silent and the game in a lull, Silvestre almost scored a freak own-goal as he directed the easiest of headers narrowly past his own post instead of into the hands of Mark Bosnich.

From the resulting Oyvind Leonhardsen corner, Iversen threw himself at a Tim Sherwood flick-on and, with the United defence standing watching, somehow managed to scoop the ball in as he lay on his back at the far post.

Television replays later showed he had appeared to use a hand to stop the ball but it was not spotted by referee Jeff Winter.

Somewhat uncharacteristically, Ferguson did not blame the referee for his side's defeat.

Instead he blamed the rain.

But Bosnich, under pressure for his place ever since arriving at Old Trafford in the summer, was furious.

More Bosnich fury

A few minutes later he was angrier still when, from another inswinging corner this time taken by Ginola, Paul Scholes appeared to lose concentration and headed the ball into the corner of his own net.

Given Spurs' lack of cutting edge, it was an unlikely lead.

For once the uphill task appeared too much for United. They battled on, Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke finding their rythym and unlocking Spurs with a series of one-twos.

But with victory in their sights, Spurs protected their slender lead with steadfast commitment as the pouring rain disrupted Man United's passing.

Beckham, incensed by several refeering decisions which failed to go United's way, received his fifth yellow card of the season with a vicious chop at Taricco - earning himself a suspension in two weeks time.

Ferguson immediately replaced Beckham with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but while they were still adjusting to the re-shuffle, Spurs full-back Carr sealed the game in the 71st minute.

Man United could and should have avoided the first two strikes but there was nothing Bosnich could do about Carr's unstoppable 25-yard right-foot drive.

The result leaves Ferguson's side third, a point behind Arsenal who joined Leeds at the top after their memorable win over Chelsea.

Teams:

Tottenham: Walker, Carr, Campbell, Young, Taricco, Fox, Freund, Sherwood, Leonhardsen, Iversen, Ginola.
Subs: Baardsen, Edinburgh, Vega, Dominguez, Piercy.

Man Utd: Bosnich, Neville, Stam, Silvestre, Irwin, Beckham, Scholes, Keane, Giggs, Yorke, Cole.
Subs: Van Der Gouw, Solskjaer, Berg, Greening, Higginbottom.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees)



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