Sandro and Dembele outrun and outmuscle creaky United
But Spurs hung on, and Villas-Boas said: “This is just the beginning for us. It’s an away win, which means so much to our fans, our staff and our players. We spoke during the week and felt we could get a result: we came for the win. That’s why we played so well in the first half because the players believed they could come and upset United. We just felt it was our day because of the confidence we have had on the training ground.”
Villas-Boas and his band deserve the victory for the refreshing decision to fight United on their home turf. Pace and retaining the ball were key, he said. “I think so because, yes, we broke a couple of times, but in the first half it was more about our possession.”
Before this second defeat in six league outings, United had endured some narrow escapes. Fulham and Southampton were both squeezed past, with 3-2 wins, while even Ferguson admitted United had not played at their best in the 2-1 victory at Liverpool.
This defeat had been coming. A team sheet featuring the 38- year-old Giggs and 37-year-old Scholes against a formidable opponent is a rarity. So when it dropped for this one, the alarm sounded among the home congregation.
Dembele, a summer target for United to bolster their sagging midfield, had bullied the Reds earlier in the season here, when still at Fulham. Asked why many sides have scared United already this campaign, Villas-Boas played it straight. “It’s not for me to comment,” he said.
Patrice Evra was more open. “We had the winning mentality in the second half. But we have to start to play like this from the first minute,” the left-back said. “Instead we’d already conceded two goals. That’s why I say that the problem was inside our heads. It looked like we stayed in the hotel. Maybe I’m being hard on myself and the team but today we put on the Man United face only in the second half – and that is not enough if you want to win the title.” Of the two defeats already in the league, Evra said: “It’s too much if you want to win the title. Two losses is too many.”