Although Spurs would have travelled to Manchester full of optimism on the back of two tremendous wins, the statistics favored the home team. Man. Utd. have never lost at home to Spurs in the Premiership and have the best home record in the division this season. Of the 17 Premier League meetings between the teams at Old Trafford, Utd. have won 14 and they duly recorded victory number 15 on Saturday.
Spurs started the game with a slightly strange line-up, Assou-Ekotto having moved to right back in place of Younes Kaboul and Bale moving back to fill Assou-Ekotto's normal berth in the defence. Following the 3-1 defeat, Harry Redknapp has been criticized for changing a winning team and certainly Assou-Ekotto did not cover himself in glory, conceding one of the penalties. Yet it's easy to be clever with hindsight and it's also easy to understand the manager's thinking. As was evident against Arsenal and Chelsea, Kaboul lacks the pace necessary to deal with players running at him. Since the players in question on Saturday were Nani and Giggs, Redknapp's reshuffle made sense, even if ultimately it did not work out. Alex Ferguson made a very similar change to his side, bringing in Rafael in place of the aging Neville to counteract Bale, although in the event that was hardly necessary.
While Bale may have been slightly subdued, a number of his teammates were, in the words of the manager, "off the pace". That phrase would certainly apply to Palacios who in the first half had perhaps his worst 45 minutes in a Spurs shirt. He at least had the excuse of just having returned to the team after suspension, unlike Bentley and Defoe, who were both subbed with plenty of the game remaining. Bentley was back to his infuriating habit of "why take one touch when you can take four". He seemingly still has not realized that getting the ball into the box early might be a better option than yet another step-over - something that Nani, for example, seems to have learned under Ferguson’s tutelage. Defoe was again disturbingly anonymous and on current form is hardly staking his claim for a place in England’s World Cup squad.
Someone who is being talked up in those terms was the best Spurs player on Saturday and the scorer of their only goal. Ledley King would be a more than adequate backup - or replacement - for Terry or Ferdinand, possessing greater footballing ability than the former and superior concentration and focus than the latter. Redknapp has already said that "I think he will go to the World Cup. Ledley can play every six days and there are six days between games at the World Cup."
Looking at the team for the remaining three league games, it would not be a surprise if King was rested against Bolton in order to ensure that he is fit for the Man. City match. With the injury to Shay Given, City have lost a massively important player, whose place is currently being filled by a third or fourth choice keeper lacking Premier League experience. The season is now at a point where the opposition's disadvantages need to be capitalized upon and where the margins for error are very slim. Three points against Bolton would mean that fourth place could be secured at the City of Manchester Stadium.