I try not to be terribly cliche, but some cliches exist because the occurrence or fact that they reference is relevant on a regular basis. So, a cliche: All that matters in football is who puts the ball into the back of the net more often. Pretty football, skill, great tactics, possession, etc...they're all excellent. They're usually indicators of who is going to win games. On Saturday, most of this did not matter.
Manchester United did not create a lot of chances, did not keep the ball, and did not play pretty football. Nonetheless, they defeated Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 and they did not do it by any fluke. They took their chances well when Tottenham gave them chances, and they stopped Spurs from scoring until the very end, when the game was already in the bag.
For most of the game, Tottenham played the better football. In the middle 80 percent of the pitch, they were the better side. On either end of the pitch, which was infinitely more important in this match, Man United was the better team. They had three brilliant finishes and they defended well enough to prevent goals. It was a typical Manchester United win, and Spurs 'deserved' nothing.
Tottenham appeared to have an opening goal that would have been no surprise based on their play in the 36th minute, but it was disallowed for a handball. When it would have been easier to hit the back of the net, Louis Saha kicked the ball into Emmanuel Adebayor, who used his arm instead of something else to control before he finished. It was identical to the Scott Parker incident in the FA Cup, except Manny wasn't offside. Someone teach Saha to hit the goal, not his teammates.
Manchester United nabbed a goal against the run of play just before the stroke of halftime, and it completely changed the complexion of the match. Wayne Rooney wrote Chapter 157 of the epic novel "Why The Hell Doesn't Harry Redknapp Train Set Pieces?" when he lost Kyle Walker before heading the ball into the back of the net. The 44th minute goal couldn't have come at a worse time.
Tottenham didn't appear to be too phased by conceding just before the break and started the second half strongly, but a lapse of concentration led to United's second goal. In the 60th minute, Phil Jones took a throw-in that somehow went through the entire defense, and after a bit of a shuffling of people and the ball, Ashley Young eventually kicked in a goal with a brilliant finish.
Maybe Ash didn't feel like he earned that gift and set out to score one that no one could call lucky or blame on rubbish defending. In the 68th minute, he scored an absolute belter, hitting a screamer that Brad Friedel had no chance of saving. Spurs were backing off a bit too much, but good lord, there's no taking away from that goal. It was a magical strike by Young.
Jermain Defoe came on as a sub and scored an 87th minute consolation goal, finishing a great shot after a hilaribad assist from Ryan Giggs, but the goal was effectively meaningless. Spurs, despite their 52 percent possession and their 18-6 advantage in shots, were pretty rubbish where it truly mattered until the game was already well out of hand.
This game, boys and girls, showed the difference between a very good team and a world class team. And coincidentally, it also showed the difference between a very good manager and a world class manager.