Minutes after the game as I write this, I am trying hard to put into words what has just happened. Manchester United pulled off one of the most amazing comebacks in recent memory, by scoring five goals in the second half after trailing 0-2 at the interval. Goals from Ronaldo (2), Rooney (2), and Berbatov (1), ensured Liverpool’s stay at the top of the table was brief as they won their early encounter with Hull. Far from a cliff-hanger like the game against Aston Villa where young Macheda grabbed headlines, this game was a hallmark of a team’s ability to dig deep and bounce back after taking an initial beating. And the perfect exhibition of a demolition job. United won 5-2, and how!
First half: The first half began gingerly for United, with Spurs looking more agile and better organized than their opponents. Aaron Lennon in particular created a lot of trouble down the right channel, and Evra had a hard time putting a leash on him. United had plenty of possession but created very few chances. Mid-way through the first half, Spurs were piling up the pressure, closing down players and hitting on the counter. Aaron Lennon, along with Corluka, proved to be the danger men, feeding Darren Bent and Modric, respectively — both scoring within three minutes of each other. Old Trafford was stunned into silence, and United’s desperate efforts to snatch one goal back before the interval were in vain.
Second half: Going into the break, I’m sure every United fan — including me — was tense and anxious, thinking time after again how things couldn’t get any worse. Overcoming a two goal lead against a spirited Spurs side wasn’t exactly going to be a stroll in the park, shall we say. And United got their lucky break when Carrick was brought down by Gomez in the penalty box. Up came Ronaldo and he smashed it down the middle of the net, and Old Trafford erupted! The flood gates were well and truly open.
The crowd was a huge catalyst, cheering and urging the players was just what the doctor ordered, and the rest of the game was all one-way traffic. Spurred by the first goal, United played on a different level altogether. And the faithfuls didn’t have to wait long to see the culmination of a gem of a game and a comeback they’ll remember for a long time. Rooney, Ronaldo, Rooney again, and finally Berbatov, all scored in an amazing span of 14 minutes, where United upped the tempo, leaving Spurs and their fans shell-shocked. And just like that, it was all over. Spurs had the wind knocked out of them and they never recovered. United were left to celebrate a well-earned three points, and a performance that was a far cry from their dismal past outings.
Turning point: The penalty awarded by referee Howard Webb will be the topic of much discussion over the next few days; but there’s little doubt that it proved instrumental in reviving United’s sagging spirit. Once they were on their way on the scorecard, there was no looking back.
Originally published: April 26, 2009