“We’ve sold Elvis and bought the Beatles!” crowed at least more than one former Tottenham player shortly after a transfer deadline that saw Gareth Bale finally depart for Real Madrid and the last chunk of £106 million worth of new talent check in at White Hart Lane.
Sadly for Spurs, the revamped supergroup has been more Wings than the Fab Four so far, with too many of the new faces taking on the Linda McCartney role rather than Paul’s, offering weak backing vocals or shaky tambourine rather than outstanding moments of merit.
The fact that ‘Elvis’, having left the building, is enjoying himself so much in his new home hasn’t helped either, with Bale posting on his Instagram account minutes before kick-off a picture of the match ball he claimed on Saturday night after putting it in Real Valladolid’s net three times.
Spurs could never shake off the tag of being a ‘one-man team’ during Bale’s last days at the Lane and it was fascinating to read in the build-up to this match how badly Manchester United had wanted to hijack the Real deal in August.
In the end, having already been burned over forlorn attempts to woo Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona, they backed down but the £100m said to be on offer told it’s own story. Tottenham, for their part, had tried to foist Emmanuel Adebayor on them as a make-weight, a deal wrecker if ever there was one.
The final whistle blew to confirm that United were in eighth place, nine points adrift of Arsenal, and Tottenham a point and a place below that.
And with Wayne Rooney having netted both goals for the visitors, you couldn’t help thinking this.
That, for as long as Robin Van Persie remains injured, United are just as reliant on Rooney as Spurs ever were upon Bale.
The United fans seemed to acknowledge it too. “We’re sh*** and we’re champions!” they sang at one point as Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley toiled in central midfield, Danny Welbeck struggled to make more than a fleeting impression on the left and Shinji Kagawa, in his favoured position behind Rooney, made no impact whatsoever.
Even at the back United were often shoddy, with Tottenham’s first goal a case in point. For some reason the wall decided to jump over Kyle Walker’s free-kick and goalkeeper David de Gea, though taken by surprise, should still have kept it out.
That Spurs should have profited from such a scrappy set-piece will inevitably have had supporters harking back to the days when Bale would curl them in from incredible angles. Walker kept on trying again and again but could never replicate that earlier moment of good fortune.
The right-back also helped Rooney of course, setting up the United man for a gift of an equaliser. There simply is no term in football for what Walker attempted in his own box: it resembled neither a botched clearance or pass to a colleague. Instead his flick was the perfect lay-off for a player who is his team-mate only on international duty.
Lower league defending pure and simple, except that in the lower leagues that sort of incident now sparks match-fixing probes ...
Sandro’s screamer was worthy of comparison with Bale exploits of course but once referee Mike Dean was pointing to the spot at the other end, when Hugo Lloris had upended Welbeck, no-one expected anything other than Rooney cancelling out that strike.
“He played well, again, and he deserves the adulation he’s getting because he’s playing well and scoring goals,” said David Moyes of Rooney, who now has 164 Premier League goals to his name having now moved above Robbie Fowler to number five in that competition’s all-time top scorers’ list. “When the moments are coming he’s taking them. The first one, you will see Wayne score a lot of great goals — that was more of a sort of sniffer goal for me. There was a bit of a mix-up in the box and he was on the end of it. His performances have been great, he has worked incredibly hard and he deserves the rewards he’s getting.”
And to think Rooney was almost on his way out of Old Trafford in the summer, his nose put out of joint by Moyes’ comments about him being mere back up for Van Persie. Moyes could offer little insight into when talks on a new contract might begin for the 28-year-old, claiming the “appropriate people will talk when the time is right” but for United’s sake it had better be resolved in their favour.
For this season it looks like average sides will end up getting found out rather than romping to the title with games to spare.
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