Kyle Walker’s unfortunate own goal settled opening day proceedings at Old Trafford as we pushed Manchester United all the way without reward on Saturday lunchtime.
Efforts at goal were level at 9-9 after the 94 minutes but tellingly, Sergio Romero, making his debut in the home goal, made four saves to Michel Vorm’s one, with the Argentinian at his best to keep out Christian Eriksen twice in the final five minutes.
United were forced to hold the ball by the corner flag to see out time and it was Romero’s name the Stretford End was singing on the final whistle.
At the other end, our magnificent away support – in superb voice throughout – gave the team the applause the performances deserved.
Despite featuring off the bench in midweek against AC Milan, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was given a place on the bench having missed some of pre-season training through a wrist injury, meaning Vorm started between the sticks. Danny Rose missed the trip to Old Trafford with a slight quad injury meaning Ben Davies started at left-back, while there was a full debut for Toby Alderweireld alongside his Belgian international team-mate Jan Vertonghen at centre-half.
Eric Dier was given a different role in midfield alongside Nabil Bentaleb, meaning Eriksen took up a central role behind Harry Kane, flanked by Mousa Dembele on the right and Nacer Chadli on the left.
It was a glorious day for football in Manchester with the sun shining and the Old Trafford playing surface in immaculate condition as you’d expect for the opening day. The atmosphere was electric too, with our travelling fans in fine voice to welcome the players out.
We started well, dominated the early possession and should have had the lead inside five minutes. Kane scooped a clever pass in to Eriksen who controlled with his head to go through on Romero. The Dane went for a cushioned finish and beat the goalkeeper but his shot dipped just over the bar. It was a golden opportunity that Eriksen would have been disappointed not to score.
It gave us encouragement though as the Dane and Kane continued to link up well in the opening stages against a United back four that looked vulnerable.
Eriksen looked sharp and picked out the overlapping Walker with a fine pass but, as he charged towards goal, Romero came out to smother the danger.
Other than failing to convert chances, Mauricio Pochettino would surely have been delighted with our efforts in the opening quarter.
It was United, though, who grabbed the lead, completely against the run of play and with their first attack of note. Bentaleb gave away possession in the centre of the park which allowed the home side to counter and when Ashley Young crossed for Wayne Rooney, the United skipper set himself to finish but was challenged by Walker and the ball rolled past Vorm into the corner.
It was cruel on us and the goal tipped the balance of play firmly in United’s favour as the hosts started to take control, although they still found it tricky breaking through our back line.
Despite playing in a less familiar role, Dier impressed in the heart of midfield, regularly sticking his boot or head in where required to disrupt the forward thrusts of United.
We went in behind but there were signs of encouragement and Pochettino kept faith in the same eleven for the second period.
We didn't look in any danger of conceding in the opening exchanges of the second half, while Ryan Mason later entered the fray and kept things ticking over neatly.
Eriksen sent in a tantalising free-kick just before the hour mark that was a whisker away from the head of Dier as we again looked the more threatening but failed to really test Romero in the United goal.
Vorm did well to keep us within one when he stooped to keep out a low Young strike that came through a mass of bodies.
The match remained finely poised and felt as if it could still go either way as we entered the final 20 minutes. There was plenty of toing and froing with lots of intriguing battles such as Walker versus Young on one flank, with our right-back doing well to largely contain his counterpart.
Dele Alli also came on for his debut after impressing in pre-season.
The next chance fell to Eriksen six minutes from time. Alderweireld picked him out superbly and the Dane controlled and fired left-footed towards the far corner, but Romero got down well to save to his left.
The goalkeeper was there again to deny Eriksen with his best save on 88 minutes, this time showing lightning reflexes to get down and parry away a fizzer from 18 yards.
We pushed and pushed as time ran out and Alderweireld’s burst forward almost paid dividends in the 93rd minute, but his cross was inches too high for Alli.
Manchester United (4-3-3): Romero, Darmian (Valancia 80), Smalling, Blind, Shaw, Carrick (Schweinsteiger 60), Schneiderlin, Mata, Depay (Herrera 68), Rooney (c), Young. Substitutes (not used): Chicharito, McNair, Pereira, Johnstone.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Vorm, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (c), Davies, Bentaleb (Mason 53), Dier (Alli 77), Dembele (Lamela 68), Eriksen, Chadli, Kane. Substitutes (not used): Lloris, Trippier, Wimmer, Carroll.
Goals: Manchester United – Walker OG 22.
Yellow cards: Manchester United – Schweinsteiger 69, Mata 89. Spurs – Vertonghen 26, Dier 76, Alli 90+1.
Referee: Jonathan Moss.