[Premier League] Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Manchester United
Manchester United made it nine games without defeat after rounding off the 2014 calendar year with a goalless draw against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
With both sides playing open, attacking football, the best chances fell to Louis van Gaal's team but some rare lapses in finishing and an excellent display by the hosts' goalkeeper Hugo Lloris led to the game ending in stalemate.
Van Gaal named an unchanged side to the one that defeated Newcastle United 3-1 at home on Boxing Day, making it the first time since November 2012 that the Reds' line-up remained the same in consecutive matches. It also meant a second start in as many games for Radamel Falcao who seems to have proven his match fitness to the manager, whilst the only alteration on the bench had Luke Shaw putting himself in contention for a first appearance since November after overcoming ankle ligament damage. Tottenham made three changes as Mauricio Pochettino looked to rotate his players. In-form Harry Kane kept his place in the starting line-up as he looked to continue his fine run of form with 15 goals in all competitions this season.
The game took twenty minutes before really sparking into life, with excellent work by Juan Mata on the edge of the box releasing Falcao for a tame shot, followed by two excellent pieces of play by Tottenham and England winger Andros Townsend. The latter wriggled free from his markers both times, to firstly find the grateful arms of David De Gea with a pass before a left-footed shot from the edge of the area was parried by the in-form Spanish goalkeeper. Moments later a blatant push on Robin van Persie gifted a free-kick to United in a central location, but after Juan Mata’s curled shot was deflected onto the post it was Vlad Chriches who reacted first before the Reds' no.20 could knock home the rebound.
A series of chances fell to United in the last ten minutes of the half. Falcao could have scored as he latched on to a through ball before shooting too close to Loris. It was the Frenchman who kept the home team on level terms as the sides went into the break, not least when he denied van Persie. Carrick's lofted throughball was controlled brilliantly by the Dutch striker but the ball would not drop for him to get enough power on the shot and the goalkeeper was able to block it.
Ashley Young’s cross found Wayne Rooney arriving late into the box but his header fell into the arms of the Spurs keeper. On the stroke of half-time it was Young again relishing his new role on the left who ran at Chriches before unleashing a powerful strike that seemed to be curling into the top corner before Loris again managed to react and tip the ball around the post. The first chance of the second half came as Rafael, a half-time substitute for Valencia, freed Mata down the right but van Persie could not convert the cross as he fired over the bar. Mata also spurned a good opportunity just after Townsend sent a powerful effort into the grasp of De Gea at the other end - Rafael's cross fell kindly to the Spaniard eight yards out but his right-footed shot went sailing over the crossbar.
Tottenham’s best chance of the game came after 82 minutes when Ryan Mason found himself in the United box but his powerful left-footed shot cleared the frame of De Gea's goal.
The final minutes were dominated by the hosts who had a number of chances. albeit without worrying the United goalkeeper too much. Fazio headed over the crossbar from an Erikson free-kick on the right as they pushed in vain for a winner but in the end the game drew to a close with both sides wishing their finishing had been sharper.
Tottenham: Loris, Chiriches, Fazio, Vertonghen, Davies, Stambouli, Mason, Townsend (Dembele, 79’), Eriksen, Chadli (Lamela, 79’), Kane.
Unused subs: Walker, Paulinho, Soldado, Vorm, Dier.
Booked: Stambouli, Townsend.
Manchester United: De Gea, Evans (Smalling, 72’), Jones, McNair (Shaw, 76’), Valencia (Rafael, 45’), Mata, Carrick, Rooney, Young, Falcao, van Persie.
Unused subs: Lindegaard; Fletcher, Pereira, Wilson.
Booked: NcNair, Rafael, Young, Falcao.