Tottenham Hotspur 3 Manchester United 5
Incredible, fantastic, the full majesty of Manchester United remains a truly magnificent sight to behold. Sir Alex Ferguson described it as his best result achieved away from Old Trafford during his entire reign as manager. "Remarkable, absolutely remarkable" he enthused. "It might not have been too good for the blood pressure but I'll be able to look back on this day and remember it vividly for the rest of my life. Not many managers could say that."
From three goals behind, Ferguson's team responded to a blow-torch roasting from their outraged manager to finish in a spectacular blaze of winning glory at a stunned White Hart Lane.
This was reminiscent of those halcyon Busby days when Best, Charlton and Law practised their sorcery and results such as this, and the thrilling manner in which they are achieved, were more commonplace.
A Juan Veron strike 15 minutes from time capped a sensational comeback for sensational Manchester United as the mighty Champions came back from to beat Spurs 5-3 at White Hart Lane.
Sir Alex Ferguson's men looked dead and buried at half-time after their defensive frailties were once again exposed with strikes from Spurs' £8.1million new signing Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege.
But in an incredible tale of two halves, the champions came roaring back to snatch the points and break Tottenham's hearts thanks to second-half goals from substitute Andy Cole, Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Veron and David Beckham.
United undoubtedly reveal more flaws in their make-up these days than at any time since the inception of the Premiership, but at full throttle with the motivational force of their manager's words ringing in their ears, they can be utterly irresistible.
United's defensive unit might be dithering at times but Ferguson claims, for public consumption at least, that as long as his team succeed in out-punching the opposition he is not going to get too hot under the collar.
Yet no one inside a captivated White Hart Lane could possibly have anticipated such a dramatic transformation when United trooped off at the interval, three goals in arrears and arguing bitterly among themselves.
Ferguson has had enough problems with his own defenders this season, without one of the opposition's jumping in to exacerbate the situation.
But that is what happened as Dean Richards launched his Tottenham career, following that contentious £8.1million move from Southampton, with a near-post header in the 15th minute to set Spurs confidently on their way.
When, 10 minutes later, United's offside trap went horribly wrong, Les Ferdinand rattled in number two with a superb finish across the unprotected Fabien Barthez.
Make no mistake, United were being given the run-around and when Gus Poyet delivered a far-flung cross just before the break, Christian Ziege deposited number three, leaving David Beckham and his lifelong friend Gary Neville pointing accusatory fingers at each other.
The apparent capitulation was not entirely the responsibility of United's back four, because without Ryan Giggs the midfield unit looked precariously unbalanced. Ferguson bolstered his dressing-room broadside with some corrective medicine in that area by introducing the more attack-minded Mikael Silvestre at the expense of Denis Irwin.
Travelling support had fallen apprehensively silent. Fans and team alike needed stirring, and Cole obliged with the second half just 48 seconds old, twisting in mid-air to head in Gary Neville's centre from the edge of the six-yard box. Game on. Clearly, United intended to go for broke.
Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer had replaced Nicky Butt, who may have fractured a rib, and by redeploying with a third man up, Ferguson pushed Spurs on to the back foot with a 4-3-3 formation. Hoddle emerged from the dug out, looking worried. David Beckham was just over with one of those trademark 25-yard free-kicks, and Cole failed by an inch or two to get his head to another inviting cross from Neville.
The initiative had changed sides and after 58 minutes it was 3-2. Laurent Blanc scored with an emphatic header from Beckham's corner and you could now sense there was only going to be one winner. United were by now rampant and allowed Spurs no respite with their magical interchanging of positions, conducted at pace and with precision.
The Champions were making all the running, the increasingly influential Solskjaer slicing open the Spurs defence with a cutback from the left which somehow came to naught, van Nistelrooy firing over and Beckham going close. The equaliser that had been only a question of time arrived after 72 minutes, when Cole supplied Mikael Silvestre, whose cross from the left was headed in unstoppably by van Nistelrooy.
It was the red legions' turn to make themselves heard, and they taunted the home crowd with sarcastic choruses of "Hoddle for England". With a quarter of an hour left, the transformation was complete. On 76 minutes Juan Sebastian Veron, the brightest star in the dazzling United galaxy, fastened eagerly on to Scholes's short pass and shooting under Spurs goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, left-footed from the edge of the box.
Van Nistelrooy should have made it 5-3 with 10 minutes left. but it was left to David Beckham. Captaining United from the start for the first time in the suspended Roy Keane's absence, he added the final flourish with an unstoppable 20 yard drive across the totally blitzed Tottenham goalkeeper Neil Sullivan. Wonderful, wonderful stuff indeed, truly a game to savour - unless you were a defender or Spurs fan.
Ferguson's delight was understandable and it might seem churlish after such a display of fantasy football to suggest that he should reflect on the continuing defensive inadequacies which plunged United into trouble in the first place.
Shell-shocked Glenn Hoddle admitted his side - buoyed by the arrival of former Southampton defender Richards - will need to improve their erratic defending.
"We attacked brilliantly and also nullified United's attacks in the first half, but the second half was just the opposite," he said. "We lost our belief and they got theirs from the early goal in the second half. It looks like a Jeckyl and Hyde performance from both sides.
"It is tempting to say that the way United played in the second half would have overwhelmed almost any side, but I can't hide behind that."
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted he had to launch a scathing attack on his players at half-time as Manchester United overturned a three-goal deficit at the break to beat Tottenham 5-3.
The United boss told his stars to "stop feeling sorry for themselves" and they seemed to heed their manager's words as they produced a stunning five-goal come back to destroy Spurs. Ferguson said: "In the first half they played as though they were feeling sorry for themselves after the disappointment of losing in Spain on Tuesday and the heavy press criticism we've had for that result.
"You can either do something about it by determination or you can give into it. I'm not saying exactly what I said to them at half time, but the essence of it was to stop feeling sorry for themselves. "These are the best players in the country and they should play like that. It is what I expect, but sometimes we've played like it was a practice-match. "Once the first goal went in for us, though I thought our football was fantastic. You need a bit of luck when you are behind like that and the goal right after half time was key to it."
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: Sullivan, Taricco, King, Perry, Richards, Ziege Freund, Anderton (Rebrov 83), Poyet, Ferdinand, Sheringham
Subs Not Used: Keller, Thelwell, Davies, Etherington
MANCHESTER UNITED: Barthez, Gary Neville, Blanc, Johnsen Irwin (Silvestre 45), Beckham, Butt (Solskjaer 40), Scholes Veron, Cole, van Nistelrooy
Subs Not Used: Carroll, Chadwick, Phil Neville
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