Kyle Walker and Sandro both scored a fantastic goal in each half but it wasn’t enough to give us the three points as Wayne Rooney twice cancelled out our lead in a thrilling 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane.
Walker smashed home an 18th minute free-kick to fire us ahead before Rooney equalised just after the half hour mark, while Sandro scored a magnificent 25-yard rocket on 54 minutes to edge us in front again. But United’s England striker levelled it up just three minutes later from the spot, after Hugo Lloris was adjudged to have fouled Danny Welbeck.
The Head Coach made three changes from the side beaten at Manchester City a week ago, with Vlad Chiriches, Mousa Dembele and Nacer Chadli coming in for Younes Kaboul, Lewis Holtby and Erik Lamela. It was also the 300th league appearance of Michael Dawson’s career, and Walker’s 200th career appearance in all competitions.
The game started at a great tempo and there was certainly no hangover evident from last weekend’s events at the Etihad, as we began brightly and took the game to the champions. The first shot in anger came on 11 minutes when Roberto Soldado flicked on to Aaron Lennon on the edge of the box, the winger was given time to turn and shoot left-footed, but it was comfortable for David De Gea in the United goal.
Four minutes later some valiant defending from Sandro and Dawson saw them produce outstanding blocks to deny two Rooney efforts, before we grabbed the lead on 18 minutes. Jonny Evans upended Paulinho 20 yards from goal, left of centre, and Walker stepped up, drilling a shot which went under the visitors’ wall as they all jumped up and flew past De Gea. That was the right-back’s first league goal since scoring against Blackburn Rovers in April, 2012.
It was a worthy lead and we had chances to extend our advantage. Dawson’s hooked shot from a corner was blocked by Rooney on the six yard box, before a fantastic move saw Soldado almost make it 2-0 on 29 minutes.
Chiriches touched off to Jan Vertonghen inside our box, he played it up to Soldado on halfway and his lovely flick released Paulinho down the left. The Brazilian’s square ball found Soldado who had continued his run just inside the area but he fired his shot wide of the near post.
Just two minutes later, a superb ball from Soldado found Lennon’s crossfield run in behind the defence, his shot from eight yards was saved by De Gea, and from the rebound Lennon threaded across the face of goal but no-one was there to tap home.
We were made to pay for our missed opportunities though as United levelled on 32 minutes. Jones’ cross into the area, went over the head of Dawson and Rooney but Walker’s mis-control in behind saw the ball fall kindly to Rooney, who poked home from six yards.
The visitors had the better of the closing minutes of the half without carving out a clear opportunity, Jones going closest when he let fly from 25 yards but it never troubled Hugo Lloris and it was all square at the interval.
That all changed nine minutes into the second half when we regained the lead with a stunning strike. Sandro picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, cut inside Cleverley, beat the United man again and then hit a vicious right-foot shot which flew into the top corner. It was his third goal in our colours and ironically, came exactly a year to the day since his last, away to Fulham last season.
But just three minutes later it was 2-2. Rooney led the United breakaway and slipped a pass inside the defence to Welbeck, Lloris came rushing from his line to smother the ball but referee Mike Dean adjudged that he fouled the England striker and awarded a penalty. Rooney stepped up and drilled his spotkick straight down the middle.
It was pulsating stuff, both sides showing plenty of attacking intent with the win up for grabs. Rooney dragged a shot well wide and Walker tried his luck with another free-kick, this time from 30 yards out but this one didn’t trouble the scorers.
Neither did our opportunity in the 79th minute, but it was oh so close. A fantastic block by Paulinho from Shinji Kagawa’s shot 20 yards out saw the ball run to substitute Jermain Defoe, who released Walker down the right on halfway. He burst forward and sent over a delicious cross which looked like Andros Townsend was going to slot home at the far post, but it was just inches away from his outstretched boot.
Both teams were going for the win and it was great entertainment, if certainly tense. United went close when Javier Hernandez’s low cross was cut out and we had a flurry of late corners but just couldn’t put the finishing touch to any of them. Lloris then pounced on a loose ball from a United corner in stoppage time as the drama continued all the way to the end, with the draw probably a fair result on the balance of play.
Venue: White Hart Lane, London
Referee: Mr M Dean