FA Cup Semi-Final
Man United 2 Tottenham 1
Tottenham’s dream of having a nice shiny bauble to take with them to a brand new White Hart Lane next season turned to dust as they blew an early lead to taste FA Cup agony again.
The semi-finals of this great old competition have been a graveyard for Spurs since their famous win over Arsenal in 1991. They lost seven in a row before today, and once again the hoodoo struck – and on the very stadium they have been able to call home this season.
Spurs made the same blistering start as they did when they beat Man United in the league at Wembley in January – but this time they were not able to put Jose Mourinho’s side away.
United were utterly supine that day – rabbits caught in the glare of dazzling Spurs headlights and a goal down within seconds to a Christian Eriksen strike.
Tottenham fans were convinced they were about to witness the same script when Dele Alli timed his run to perfection to bundle in a perfect low cross from Eriksen with barely 10 minutes gone.
Not this time. United weathered this particular storm – even if they were so close to shipping a second goal when Son Heung-Min’s curler to the far post was only just out of Harry Kane’s reach and Eriksen fired narrowly wide after being found in space by Kane.
Alexis Sanchez – a scorer for Arsenal in last season’s final against Chelsea - made it 1-1 on 24 minutes, nodding home after Paul Pogba had dispossessed a disappointing Mousa Dembele near the touchline and delivered an inviting cross to the Chilean.
For all their superior possession, and despite almost retaking the lead before the break when Eric Dier crashed an effort against a post, with David de Gea stranded, Spurs were indebted to a fingertip save from Michel Worm to keep out a Pogba shot from distance.
And then on 62 minutes came the sickening moment for Spurs fans when they realised the yearning for a trophy under Mauricio Pochettino would probably not be ending this season, when Ander Herrera popped up at the far post to bury a low cross from Sanchez.
What made it a particularly sobering afternoon was the sense that Spurs did not look like finding a way back into it, in spite of the promptings of Eriksen, who hit another left footer narrowly wide. It was the Spurs of old - underachieving and succumbing to a script that appeared to have already been written.