Tottenham Hotspur 1 - Manchester United 2

White Hart Lane, London
Sunday 21st December

Manchester United regained their position at the top of the Premier League table with a less-than-resounding victory in London yesterday. The fact that United barely got out of second gear will not affect the league table, but it did mean that this game was not one of the greatest ones to watch.

The game began brightly, with United persistently attacking the Tottenham defence, and generally succeeding in cutting their back-line apart with fast, slick and snappy passing. But when the likes of Giggs and Van Nistelrooy seemed unable to put the ball into the back of the net, even when they had time and space on their side, people did begin to wonder whether it was going to be 'One of those days'.

Fortunately, United are not a two-man side, and when the ball fell kindly from a Fletcher corner-kick to John O'Shea in the six yard box, he flicked it cleverly past the Spurs keeper and into the top of the net. That was his cue to go wild on the pitch with delight, and for the whole United team to celebrate together to show their solidarity, and their support for team-mate Rio Ferdinand.

Spurs came back at United almost instantly, but Howard did enough to stop their attack, and normal service was resumed with United dominating the midfield, and creating and squandering a vast number of chances.

Van Nistelrooy got his fourth chance to score after about twenty-five minutes. He charged through the Spurs defence to get onto the end of a clever Giggs through-ball, leaving only one defender and the goalkeeper between Ruud and the goal. Ruud blasted the ball towards the far corner with ferocity obviously letting out his frustrations at having missed three earlier chances. Fortunately for United in this instance, the keeper dived the right way, only for the ball to be deflected towards the near post by the sprawling and desperate defending of Gardner. The ball hit the back of the net, and Ruud continued his record of having scored in every game he's played against Tottenham.

At 2-0, United should have coasted the rest of the game, especially because they were still dominating in midfield. Instead, after half-time United began to look a bit shabby and lethargic, and Spurs began to play. The Spurs players were now creating chances albeit chances that United's awesome keeper Tim Howard was more than equal to.

Howard was called into action three or four more times before Spurs, with a great amount of luck, managed to get a goal. A cross arrived at the feet of Poyet, who was stood in the United six-yard box. He shot, but Howard reacted fast. The American international keeper got his legs in front of the ball, but could do very little as the ball bounced onto the post, before dropping gently into the United net.

Everyone expected Spurs to begin a rousing finish to the match, but they struggled to create any sort of goal-scoring opportunity once United realised that they had to defend properly if they wanted three points. The game fizzled out, and United had done enough to be on top of the League in time for Christmas.

Tottenham: Keller, Carr, Taricco (Ricketts 64), Gardner, Richards, Anderton (Poyet 19), Dalmat (Postiga 77), King, Konchesky, Kanoute, Keane. Subs Not Used: Hirschfeld, Doherty. Booked: Taricco, Konchesky.

Man Utd: Howard; Gary Neville, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Silvestre; Fletcher (Ronaldo 79), Keane (Butt 82), Phil Neville, Giggs; van Nistelrooy, Scholes. Subs Not Used: Carroll, Forlan, Fortune. Booked: Giggs, Scholes.

Attendance: 35,910

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).