Different future for Spurs

2009-03-02 16:46

London - Manchester United are targeting winning three more trophies this season and the longer-term future at Old Trafford is looking extremely bright too.

United's penalty shoot-out victory over Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday's goalless League Cup final kept them on course for their most successful season, one that could eclipse their treble-winning achievement of 1998-99 when they won the Champions League, the Premier League and FA Cup.

Spurs meanwhile, who for years inhabited the same stellar orbit as United, now have their gaze fixed on a very different target - a fight for Premier League survival.

United manager Alex Ferguson naturally played down all talk of a "quintuple" trophy haul or anything else afterwards saying that United could go to Fulham in the FA Cup on Saturday and get beaten "by a deflected shot off someone's backside".

While that possibility cannot be dismissed, his squad has such strength in depth that he could afford to rest the likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov, Gary Neville and Edwin van der Sar for Sunday's final.

He instead put his faith in youngsters such as Darron Gibson, Danny Welbeck and third-choice keeper Ben Foster, who he predicted will eventually be England's number one goalkeeper "for years to come".

Foster, who watched videos of Spurs players taking penalties on his iPod before the shootout - almost at a stroke symbolising a new generation of United players - emerged as his side's hero after a number of important saves in playing time and from Jamie O'Hara in the shootout.

United, having won FIFA's Club World Cup in December, secured their second piece of silverware with their League Cup victory - and third if the Community Shield is included.

They are also hot favourites to win the Premier League for the third successive season, standing seven points clear of Chelsea and Liverpool with a game in hand on both.

They are also in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and well placed in the Champions League with a home leg to come against Inter Milan following a 0-0 draw in the opening leg of the last-16 tie in Italy last week.

Ferguson has always managed to blend and develop his teams in a way most other managers have failed to do - and he has done so again this season.

Veteran Ryan Giggs, who came on as a substitute and extended his English record haul to 21 winners medals - scored the opening goal in the shootout, while Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes were equally pivotal to United's victory.

Although Spurs prevented the world and European champions winning the match in playing time, there is no disguising the enormous gulf that now exists between the two clubs.

From the 1960s through to the 1990s, Spurs were counted among England's Big Five along with United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton.

That has all changed and Spurs, the first British club to win a European trophy in 1963 and the first in the 20th century to win the FA Cup and league double two years previously, are now among the also-rans.

After appearing close to breaking into the new Big Four elite of United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool with two fifth-place finishes in 2006 and 2007, Spurs have struggled in the league.

When Harry Redknapp took over as manager from Juande Ramos last October they were bottom of the table with two points from eight matches and though they showed an immediate improvement they remain only two points above the drop zone in 14th place.

After winning the League Cup a year ago, Spurs won only three more league matches all season and a repeat of that form over their last 12 matches could see them being relegated for the first time since 1977.

The good news for Redknapp, though, were signs of real fight and determination from key players on Sunday. Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon and Didier Zokora never stopped battling.

More of the same between now and May should ensure the gap between them and United does not include another division.


  • Bra G - 2009-03-02 20:08

    Nothing builds and feed's on success like even more success. The fabulous accomplishments of Man U have not come as a result of anything other than great attention to planning and allowing the coach to manage the affairs of the club when it comes to delivering quality performances week in and week out. Sir Alex will be written in the annals of Football History as being one of the greatest coaches/managers of all time. He joins the great Matt Busby as a legend who brought so much glory to Old Trafford during his reign.

  • Nazeem - 2009-03-03 09:08

    Hear hear Bra G!! RIght now we are unstoppable...

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