CLINT DEMPSEY did something no Tottenham player has done since Gary Lineker — score a league winner at Old Trafford.
By NEIL CUSTIS
So no wonder Andre Villas-Boas and his shattered side celebrated like they had clinched a Champions League spot at the final whistle.
Terry Venables was the manager who last masterminded a Spurs victory in Alex Ferguson’s backyard in the league, in 1989.
El Tel became a hero with most of the Spurs faithful. Perhaps now, AVB will have the full support of those passionate fans.
Dempsey’s 52nd-minute goal won a wonderful match that looked for most of the second half like providing more than five goals.
Spurs were brilliant in the first period, going 2-0 up through Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale.
Three goals in just over two minutes from Nani, Dempsey then Shinji Kagawa came after the break.
And from then on, Spurs were pegged back and defended for their lives.
It was 11 years to the day that Manchester United had fought back from 3-0 down to win 5-3 at White Hart Lane — and they looked set to mount another trademark comeback.
This time, Spurs would not be denied and Villas-Boas’ celebrations showed just what this meant to him.
It was all breathless stuff from the first minute to the last.
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The game was only two minutes old when Old Trafford was stunned.
Left-back Vertonghen burst forward and played a one-two with Bale before heading for the box.
A huge gap opened up for him which he gladly charged through before easily evading Rio Ferdinand and shooting.
The effort towards the far post hit a sliding Jonny Evans and deflected into the near corner.
Teams can freeze here when they take the lead, not quite knowing what to do next. Tottenham just decided to go for another goal.
Their pace was overwhelming United with Bale and Aaron Lennon on either flank.
Dempsey, playing in behind Jermain Defoe, was causing problems too and curled an eighth-minute shot just wide. Next up, Lennon stormed into the box and had a shot deflected wide by Ferdinand.
It was 2-0 to Spurs on 32 minutes. What a goal it was as they broke from the edge of their box in a blur of white.
Sandro robbed Robin van Persie and fed Mousa Dembele. The Belgian marched through the centre before sliding to Bale on halfway.
From that point on, the contest was uneven as the lightening winger stormed away from Ferdinand. The clever Defoe took Evans away with his movement off the ball and Bale shot across keeper Anders Lindegaard with his right foot into the far corner.
Ferguson was down in his technical area and the hairdryer was already being plugged in.
United had a good shout for a penalty when Vertonghen got a handful of Nani’s shirt but the way the United player went down probably put the referee off.
Ferguson answered the crowd’s cries for the introduction of Wayne Rooney at the break.
He was immediately involved in an incredible period of 139 seconds that brought three goals.
First, on 51 minutes, Rooney put in a great near-post cross from the right which Nani met to fire the ball under Brad Friedel. The cheers from the fans in Red were just fading when those in white were back in dreamland.
Defoe turned Ferdinand too easily on the left and found Bale. His shot was saved but Dempsey tapped in.
There was hardly time to draw breath as United immediately replied.
Van Persie forced the ball through to Kagawa, who fired past Friedel.
At 3-2, the noise was deafening and then Rooney almost took the roof off.
United were awarded a free-kick just outside the area and the striker curled over the wall and hit the post.
Van Persie then had the ball in the net but it was correctly ruled offside.
United kept up the pressure and a superb pass on 69 minutes from Michael Carrick put Van Persie in on an angle. But his shot was woeful and went well wide of the far post.
United were virtually camped in the Spurs half in the final 15 minutes.
Paul Scholes’ piledriver was parried by Friedel and with six minutes left, Van Persie’s corner was headed against the angle by Carrick.
As the clock ticked on, Patrice Evra missed a chance from Rafael’s cross, the left-back heading at Friedel.
Four minutes of injury time went up on the board and another roar went up from the home faithful.
So many times they have seen their team snatch something at the last.
Not this time.