The controversy of Nani’s goal for Manchester United against Tottenham continues to demand column inches in the English press on Monday morning, but there is one man who is playing down the row.
The Independent’s James Lawton apes Jon Stewart by mounting his own Rally to Restore Sanity, claiming the incident had little real impact on the game, or the season as a whole for that matter.
“West Bromwich Albion once scored a goal to damage Leeds United's title chances severely from an outrageously offside position. Everyone went berserk, especially the fans, and there was a subsequent ground closure. Now that was a real firestorm, one that suddenly crackled in the memory when Luis Nani scored, whatever the rights and wrongs of the circumstances, a truly ludicrous but decisive second goal for Manchester United.
“The trouble with this was that, as full-blown controversies go, it was lacking a crucial element. No one really had much reason to care. Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp made the best show of it, declaring that referee Mark Clattenburg was guilty of a massive cock-up and that the match had ended farcically. But even he seemed to accept, implicitly, that a season could hardly have been said to have been changed when the United player, having moments earlier fondled the ball after being denied a penalty, bounced to his feet and popped the ball into the net after Spurs goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes, ignored the first law of the football catechism: play to the whistle.
“As Redknapp conceded, the chances were United would have won anyway. This was a conviction that could only harden around the disappearance of Rafael van der Vaart in the second half – and the absence of the injured Jermain Defoe, who might just have exploited the sheer intelligence of the £8 million steal-of-the-year Dutchman and his side-kick, Luka Modric.”
David Pleat also steers away from hysteria to deliver his considered view on the tactical battle waged at Old Trafford. In The Guardian, Pleat praises United for their success in keeping Gareth Bale quiet.
"The margin of Manchester United's victory on Saturday might have seemed hard on Tottenham Hotspur, but the home side's ability to nullify Gareth Bale, the visitors' most likely source of an equaliser, in the latter stages actually made this win feel comfortable.
"The introduction of Paul Scholes for Dimitar Berbatov ensured there was less space to exploit in the centre with another of the home side's substitutes, Wes Brown, playing his part in driving Bale infield into the muddle. Those latter stages contrasted with much of an open game, with the likes of Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric, Berbatov and Nani enjoying the space between both sides' backlines and front. Through the first half it was attack and counter-attack, with creative talents relishing the room that was on offer.
"But Tottenham could not maximise the advantage and, after the break, United closed tighter with their lead established. Van der Vaart consequently saw less of the ball with Spurs starved of creativity. Scholes's introduction with 26 minutes to play allowed the hosts to mirror the visitors' 4-5-1 system, a show of respect that congested the midfield and allowed the home side to control the centre more easily.
"Bale, alone, posed a real threat on the counter-attack but Brown, introduced as United tightened, had clear orders to force the Welshman infield, blocking his opponent's sprint on the outside."