All good things must come to an end. And it was no surprise that the winning run ended against Man. Utd., a team that Spurs haven’t beaten in the league since 2001. For all of the early media misgivings about the post-Ronaldo United following the blip at Burnley, this is still a side that have lost just one of their last 13 Premier League games. Their victory at White Hart Lane was well-deserved
Having signed Niko Kranjcar as seemingly a direct replacement for the injured Luka Modric, the manager then elected to leave the Croatian on the bench on Saturday, instead giving a first league start to Peter Crouch and moving Robbie Keane back into the midfield. Crouch was excellent, particularly in the first half, winning everything in the air and displaying an assured first touch.
Keane, by contrast, was totally anonymous. When eventually replaced by Kranjcar, it was hard to remember that he had even been on the pitch. If his continual selection results from the fact that he is captain, then Harry Redknapp has made an error of judgment in handing him that role. The latest rumor is that Celtic will move for Keane in January, with Scott Brown coming the other way. All things considered, this looks like it would be good for the Irishman, perhaps giving him a chance to rejuvenate a career that may be in danger of fizzling out at Spurs. (Quite how Brown would cope with the gap in class between the EPL and the SPL is a whole other question.)
Keane’s inclusion on the left hand side of midfield was certainly a contributing factor in the defeat, as was a poor performance from Wilson Palacios. A long trip on international duty may partially explain why the Honduran was so out of sorts and when he was taken off, there was more than a suspicion that the decision was made for fear that he might be sent off. United themselves then lost Scholes to a red card, with Ferguson hilariously opining that "he’s been sent off because his name is Paul Scholes". A more probable reason for his dismissal was a series of two-footed lunges, the first of which could easily have been a straight red. The jocular remarks about Scholes’ inability to tackle are really wearing thin. What should be remarked on is his propensity to clatter opponents long after the ball is no longer there to be won.
Despite this first defeat, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism. It was hardly a mauling, with Spurs still well in the game and still creating chances at 2-1 down. Defoe and Crouch are in sparkling form, and Palacios will return to his best. Spurs are still in the top four and, looking longer term, will have two hugely influential players in Modric and Woodgate coming back into the side.
In the short term, the team now faces another stern test against Chelsea. The league leaders squeaked a win at the Britannia Stadium at the weekend, and if Spurs can match Stoke’s application and add a dash of quality, there is no reason why what is still a good start cannot continue.