Report: United 1-0 Spurs
English Barclays Premiership
A member of the press likened this contest to a boxing match with United, slightly more dominant, taking it on points.
It's a fair assessment. United, missing three of their heavy hitters, pounded away at a stubborn, makeshift Spurs defence and team short of 13 injured players - led magnificently by Kasey Keller - that collectively soaked up the punishment.
Indeed, on reflection, we'll look back at the chance to land the knockout punch minutes before Ruud Van Nistelrooy's decisive blow from the penalty spot.
That chance fell to Dean Richards after 58 minutes. The ever-alert Robbie Keane took a quick corner with Matty Etherington, picked out Steffen Iversen at the far post, he knocked down perfectly to Richards, five yards out, but Fabien Barthez blocked his effort.
Just five minutes later and the key moment. David Beckham picked out Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's run, he poked the ball past Gary Doherty but the big defender's leg caught the Norwegian and referee Rob Styles had no choice but point to the spot. Van Nistelrooy made no mistake.
The Dutchman's strike proved the difference in a game that always threatened goals but failed to deliver.
Much of that was down to in-form Keller although Barthez also made four telling contributions, including the save of the match from Richards, as described earlier.
United had the lion's share of it though and Keller's busy afternoon started with a reaction save from Phil Neville's deflected cross and ended, as we gained the initiative, in the 68th minute by reading the angles right deny Solskjaer's one-on-one.
In-between, the pick of his saves were a stunning left-hander to tip aside Solskjaer's top-corner bound volley after 36 minutes and a block with his feet on the line as Van Nistelrooy side-footed Solskjaer's low cross into what he believed was an open goal.
But despite their territorial advantage, United didn't have it all their own way.
Barthez had to dive full-length to his left to divert Goran Bunjevcevic's drive after 13 minutes and the Frenchman had to get it right when he raced out of his goal to tackle Keane, who was on his way, or so he thought, having capitalised on Rio Ferdinand's slip.
The save from Richards soon followed and he also made a vital interception in the final minutes as Etherington latched onto Les Ferdinand's deflected shot and suddenly spotted two men in white in the middle - his attempted cross was cut out.
A brave display and, back to boxing, worthy of a re-match - next time on a level playing field.
MINUTE-BY-MINUTE GUIDE TO THE ACTION
3mins: Break down right, Van Nistelrooy into Neville, low cross deflected by Doherty forcing superb reaction save from Keller.
5mins: Veron flashed a shot wide from 20 yards.
8mins: Beckham curler from 30 yards, no danger.
11mins: First effort at goal as Redknapp's 30-yard free-kick drifted wide.
13mins: Combination between Bunjevcevic and Etherington left Neville for dead, poor clearance controlled and struck well by Bunjevcevic, Barthez tipped away for corner. Richards inches away from Redknapp's corner, Etherington volleyed wide.
20mins: Keane overhead kick from Etherington's deflected cross straight at Barthez.
23mins: Beckham break from central midfield, shot saved low to his right by Keller.
25mins: RUCK, YELLOWS. Richards and Van Nistelrooy tangle in the area, nothing really in it. Both booked.
30mins: Decent break, Keane squared to Iversen whose attempted first-time strike landed in Row Z.
31mins: Doherty vital flick to divert Veron's corner away from Van Nistelrooy.
35mins: Etherington jinked past Beckham and whipped in a great ball, half-clearance volleyed into top tier by Redknapp.
36mins: Break and Solskjaer suddenly through on goal but superb fingertip save from Keller to his right denied him.
Half-time: Manchester United 0-0 Spurs
46mins: Flick by Giggs released Van Nistelrooy into the bix but terrible finish saved easily by Keller.
47mins: Keller did superbly to keep his eye on dangerous Beckham free-kick that just missed Solskjaer's attempted flick and was set for far corner before the keeper's late intervention.
52mins: PENALTY? Claims for handball by Ferdinand from Iversen's cross waved away.
54mins: SAVE. Unbelievable save from Keller. Solskjaer break down the left, low cross met by Van Nistelrooy's sidefoot only for Keller to scramble off the line.
58mins: CHANCE. Best spell of game and the best chance of the game. Corner taken quickly by Keane and Etherington, Keane picked out Iversen whose knock back was perfect for Richards, five yards out, only for Barthez to block with his legs.
60mins: Veron dink into Solskjaer, looked offside, drilled it across box, Keller parried, Doherty scrambled away.
62mins: PENALTY? Hearts in mouths as Van Nistelrooy bore down on goal, Doherty slid in, appeared to win ball but Van Nistelrooy went down in heap, no penalty.
63mins: PENALTY, GOAL. Doherty this time brings down Solskjaer, little doubt about the spot kick, little doubt about the outcome as Van Nistelrooy slotted home. 0-1.
68mins: Giggs pass to Solskjaer beyond Doherty, Solskjaer through on Keller who saved with his legs.
74mins: Etherington one-two with Bunjevcevic, cross headed away by Silvestre with Iversen on his shoulder.
75mins: SUBS. Neville for Veron, Forlan for Solskjaer, Ferdinand for Iversen.
84mins: SUBS. Acimovic for Sheringham, Pugh for Giggs.
89mins: CHANCE. Ferdinand's shot fell to Etherington, Acimovic and Keane were alone in the box but went into the same area and Barthez was able to divert away the cross.
Line-ups: Manchester United: Barthez, P Neville, O'Shea, Silvestre, Veron (G Neville, 75), Ferdinand, Beckham, Butt, Van Nistelrooy, Giggs (Pugh, 85), Solskjaer (Forlan, 75). Subs: Ricardo, Stewart, Forlan.
Spurs: Keller, Davies, Doherty, Richards, Thatcher, Iversen (Ferdinand, 75), Redknapp, Bunjevcevic, Etherington, Sheringham (Acimovic, 85), Keane. Subs: Hirschfeld, Ricketts, Henry.