Preamble Hello. When the Guardian posted a Joy of Six on Manchester United v Spurs in 2009, the response was strangely negative, best summed up by this comment:
cannot wait for forthcoming joy of sixes on other meaningless premiership matches between two teams with no rivalry, arsenal vs. aston villa should be a cracker
All of that was what the point was not. Manchester United v Spurs is not about the rivalry, darling; it's about the glamour. This fixture has produced so many iconic moments, from George Best's lob to Eric Cantona's pass to Pedro Mendes's goal that never was (I'd still like to see it from a side-on angle as I'm not entirely convinced it crossed the line).
In the pre-Premier League era, United v Spurs almost came with a guarantee of spills, thrills and bellyaches. Both sides were cup specialists with attacking football in their DNA; their league meetings, full of boyish joy and a simple desire to score one more than the opposition, reflected that.
It has changed identity a little in recent times, with Spurs struggling to beat United first at Old Trafford (no wins since 1989, when Gary Lineker scored from outside the box) and then anywhere (no wins since 2001), but there has still been plenty of drama in that time. Expect more today. Andre Villas-Boas doesn't really do fear at places like Old Trafford; his side will certainly have a go.
Prediction: Spurs to be the better team and lose 2-1.
4.23pm Andre Villas-Boas 1-0 The Press.
Spurs' Premier League record at Old Trafford P20 W0 D3 L17 F8 A42.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1) Lindegaard; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Carrick, Scholes; Nani, Kagawa, Giggs; Van Persie.
Substitutes: De Gea, Wootton, Anderson, Cleverley, Hernandez, Rooney, Welbeck.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1) Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen; Sandro, Dembele; Lennon, Dempsey, Bale; Defoe.
Substitutes: Lloris, Dawson, Falque, Huddlestone, Mason, Sigurdsson, Townsend.
5.14pm Sir Alex Ferguson has just mentioned Tottenham's Christian Bale in his pre-match interview. An easy mistake to make. It's not like he referred Shinji Kagawa as Ji-Sung or anything.
1 min Spurs kick off from right to left. They are in white; United are in the red.
2 min "Scholes, Carrick and Giggs are three of the most technically proficient British midfielders of the past two decades. They're a joy to watch," says SB Tang. There's a 'but' coming here, isn't there. "But they're slow and two of them are borderline geriatric. I can't see how they're going to be able to get the ball off a Spurs team which is now attuned to AVB's collective, systematic high-pressing game and — in Sandro, Dembele, Lennon, Dempsey and Bale — boast one of the quickest, most mobile midfield units in the league."
GOAL! Manchester United 0-1 Spurs (Vertonghen 2) For the fifth time in six league games this season, Manchester United concede the first goal. Spurs kept the ball for at least 90 seconds before the left-back Vertonghen decided to push things forward. He played a crisp one-two with Bale and surged into a scandalous amount of space. Eventually he got into the area, ignored a woolly challenge from Ferdinand and stabbed a shot that deflected off Jonny Evans' hand before wrongfooting Andres Lindegaard.
4 min United have already taken nine points from losing positions in 2012-13, six more than they managed throughout last season. They are going to have to do it again today.
5 min "Yes, Cantona's pass was exquisite," says Matt Dony. "The acting in that little skit, however, wasn't. Maybe they should draft Christian Bale into the Premier League after all. At least then we could look forward to some future reminiscing that had some real depth! ('Look forward to future reminiscing'? I should pitch that to Christopher Nolan...)"
6 min Spurs have started very strongly, much sharper and more confident in their passing. The atmosphere at Old Trafford is... well you don't need to be told, do you.
8 min Dembele rolls Scholes cleverly and finds Dempsey, 25 yards from goal. He whistles a good left-footed shot not far wide, although Lindegaard had it covered.
9 min Spurs are destroying United at the moment. Lennon charges straight at the heart of the defence, running from right to left and into the area before his shot is deflected wide for a corner. United's geriatricos are being overrun, just as SB Tang said they would in the second minute.
12 min A loose ball breaks to Van Persie on the left of the box, and he is clattered by Gallas as he attempts to drill a shot across goal. The ball goes nowhere but Van Persie has been hurt by that tackle. Gallas went through the ball and then planted his studs into the side of Van Persie's leg as he followed through. I'd need to see that challenge again before judging whether Gallas should have penalised/sent off/shot. I suspect not.
14 min "I was at OT the last time Spurs won there, twice within a month I think it was, with Gary Lineker's best ever goal in one of them," says Adam Hirst. "I reckon after United's Getting Away With It start to the season, I won't be able to say that any longer after tonight." It was twice in two months, but yes, they stuffed United 3-0 in the League Cup that season despite an heroic substitute performance from Giuliano Maiorana.
16 min "Did Ferguson just single out Bale for praise?" says Enna Cooper. "I'd have thought that Willem Defoe and Sandro Bullock deserved a mention as well." Not to mention Benicio friedel Toro. Oh dear. I'm sorry.
18 min Spurs have been electric on the counter-attack, and another such attack brings a corner on the left. That leads to a second corner, which comes to nothing.
19 min As always in sport, it's hard to know how much the scoreline is down to Team A being rubbish and how much is down to Team B being very good. About 54/46 I'd say.
20 min Giggs runs down a blind alley and is dispossessed with disdain by the excellent Dembele. The level of Spurs' superiority is almost embarrassing for United.
21 min Evra blunders into Walker, giving Spurs a free-kick down the right. It's swung deep by Bale and headed over from only six yards by the unmarked Vertonghen. He couldn't get over the ball, which made it a very difficult chance, but the marking was appalling.
22 min Kagawa is needlessly fouled by Dembele, right on the right corner of the penalty area. Van Persie may hit this.
23 min Van Persie does hit it, a bit meekly, and it goes behind for a corner off Gareth Bale. That corner is drilled deep by Giggs and eventually cleared by Bale.
25 min United's performance has been rubbish, almost as bad as the one at Liverpool last weekend.
29 min "Just a left back, centre back, winger and two midfielders away from being the equal of Spurs," says Alex Netherton. "Eff's sake."
30 min Nothing has happened in the last 10 minutes.
31 min A cute reverse pass from Giggs, on the right of the box, is intercepted well by the influential Vertonghen.
GOAL! Man Utd 0-2 Spurs (Bale 32) What a wonderful goal from Gareth Bale! It came from another electric counter-attack, led inevitably by Dembele. He stabbed a little pass to Bale, just beyond the centre circle, almost like a relay runner handing over a baton. Bale eschewed niceties and went straight at the heart of defence with a swerving run that took him from centre to right, past the floundering Ferdinand and into the box. It still needed a finish, and Bale screwed a low shot back across Lindegaard with his right foot. That was a thrillingly decisive goal.
34 min United could be thrashed here. They are a rabble. Of course they were 2-0 down against Spurs at Old Trafford in 2009 and won 5-2, but they had Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov on the field then.
35 min "Does anyone have any explanation why Sir Alex is starting Giggs and why he hasn't started Rooney?" wonders Ashwini Dubey. He's all out of wingers I suppose, so he feels he has to play Giggs, although I'd expect one of Rooney/Welbeck/Kagawa/De Gea/Phelan to play from the left in the second half. You have to say that Ferguson has made an awful hash of his team selection today.
38 min Somewhere in the bowels of Old Trafford, a flunky is plugging in a metaphorical hairdryer.
39 min The United fans have started singing. Quite loudly too. Valiant support in the face of adversity and all, but it might have been a better idea to open their mouths an hour ago.
40 min United are wrongly given a corner. No matter, for it produces the cube root of eff all.
41 min "Watching the game in Germany while switching over to Dortmund game!" says Dion Govender. "Kagawa is a big hit over here and based on German commentary from SKY he seems to be MOTM candidate so far!" He's been – what's the word I'm striving for – crap. But he's hardly alone in that.
42 min United are having a bit of the ball. It's all in front of Spurs though.
43 min United should have had a penalty there. Scholes, in the penalty area to the right, lobbed a lovely short pass over his own head and a couple of defenders. It was going towards Nani, on the right of the six-yard box, and he was clearly tugged to the floor by Vertonghen. That was a penalty and maybe a red card too. In the referee's defence, he was probably unsighted. A corner was given instead. When that was half cleared, Nani swooshed a decent 20-yard shot straight at Friedel.
44 min "What's Sir Alex going to do with the hairdryer?" says SB Tang. "Point it at himself?"
45 min Three minutes of added time.
45+1 min "I just wanted to say that I can't believe nothing more was made of that Gallas lunge on van Persie earlier," says Paul Henly. "Shelvey did that last week on Evans and was, quite rightly, shown a red. This week Gallas does it, should be a red card and a penalty for an awful over the top challenge that could easily be a leg breaker, and it's seemingly ignored. Not even Fergie looked angered by it... bizarre."
Half time: Manchester United 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur There are a few boos around Old Trafford. United should be thankful it's only 2-0. Spurs have been extremely good – slick, purposeful and courageous – and are surely set for their first win at Old Trafford since 1989. See you in 10 minutes for the second half to see how Spurs contrive to balls this up.
"What's Fergie going to do with the hairdryer?" says Alex Netherton. "He could try it in midfield, I suppose."
46 min United kick off the second half. Wayne Rooney has replaced Ryan Giggs, so Shinji Kagawa will play from the left.
48 min Nani puts a simple return pass into touch. He has had another stinker, playing with the kind of confused individualism reserved for those who feel unloved.
49 min "What ungodly pattern did Robin van Persie just reveal on his boxers?" says Matt Bobrowicz. "Andy why, oh why, do they not show it in HD? Were you able to tell what was on it? Animals? Cartoon characters? Surely the second half MBM is writing itself from now on, right?"
50 min United have started the second half better than they did the first, in that they have put two passes together. Actually they've had most of the ball. But, as in the first half, almost all of it is in front of Spurs.
GOAL! Manchester United 1-2 Spurs (Nani 51) Wayne Rooney has the desired impact with a stunning low cross from the right that Nani stabs under Friedel from six yards. A reversal of the usual roles, with Rooney creating and Nani scoring. It was a wonderful ball, hit with such pace, and Nani did really well to control the finish with his left foot.
GOAL! Manchester United 1-3 Spurs (Dempsey 52) Spurs have restored their two-goal lead straight away! It's Clint Dempsey's first goal for Spurs. The move started when Defoe ignored the hapless Ferdinand down the left wing and played a brilliant reverse pass inside Rafael to find Gareth Bale. He smashed a first-time shot towards the far corner that was brilliantly saved by Lindegaard, but it ran loose for Dempsey to score gleefully from a few yards.
GOAL! Manchester United 2-3 Spurs (Kagawa 54) Three goals in three minutes! This is preposterous. Van Persie took four defenders out of the game with a stunning sliderule pass. Kagawa took it in his stride with a great first touch, turning towards goal as he did so, and then drifted the ball across Friedel into the far corner.
55 min Detailed analysis of the second half so far: crikey.
56 min Those three goals came in just 140 seconds. Dear me.
59 min There's a big penalty appeal against Walker after a challenge on Kagawa in the box, but he got the ball with a brilliant tackle.
61 min Kagawa is clattered 25 yards from goal by Lennon, a thoroughly inept tackle. It's just to the left of centre, so either Rooney or Van Persie could hit this.
61 min It's Rooney to take it .... and he smacks the post with a fantastic effort! It curved over the wall and bashed off the left-hand post as Friedel dived desperately to his right. He wouldn't have got there.
62 min "Eleven different players have scored United's last eleven goals," says Mike Gibbons. "I think what that stat tells us is WE SHOULD HAVE SIGNED A MIDFIELDER IN THE SUMMER, IF WE SPELL IT OUT IN FIREWORKS IN THE NIGHT SKY FOR YOU WOULD THAT MAKE IT OBVIOUS ENOUGH FERGIE?"
63 min Van Persie has a goal disallowed for offside. He was put through by Scholes and finished classily, but he was definitely a yard ahead of the last man.
65 min Another huge penalty appeal from United, this time for handball against Sandro. It bounced up and definitely hit his outstretched right hand. Hmm, I don't know about that. Sometimes they are given, sometimes not.
66 min Rafael plays a nice one-two with Nani and finds Rooney in the box, back to goal. He has plenty of options but decides to try a shot on the turn that whistles wide of the near post. I'm not sure that was the right decision. That said, Rooney has been brilliant since coming on.
67 min Spurs are temporarily down to 10 men because William Gallas needs a new contact lens. He's back now. United have had 76 per cent of possession in this half. Spurs are being totally overwhelmed.
68 min "Apparently Messrs Ardiles, Francis, Gross, Pleat, Graham, Hoddle, Santini, Jol, Ramos & Redknapp put a combined be of £36247000.05 on Manchester United at half time," says Niall Mullen. "They know. We all know."
69 min A terrible miss from Van Persie! He was put through on goal in the inside left channel by a masterful 35-yard pass from Carrick, sidefooted with pace all along the floor. Van Persie raced to within 10 yards of goal but then drilled a hopeless shot well wide of the far post.
70 min Gylfi Sigurdsson has replaced Clint Dempsey for Spurs.
71 min Villas-Boas has pushed Dembele further forward onto Scholes, who has controlled the second half in the Pirlo/Scholes style.
73 min Spurs cross the halfway line for four seconds.
74 min Van Persie, on the stretch, heads Carrick's right-wing cross wide from 12 yards. That wasn't a bad chance; he couldn't quite get over the ball.
75 min United would surely want to bring Hernandez on now. I'm not sure who you'd take off though. It's still all United. Spurs have everyone behind the ball.
77 min Spurs have been better the last five minutes. They still can't put two passes together but their defending has been a little more comfortable. Saying which, Van Persie on the left flashes a glorious sidefooted ball across the face of goal that is hoofed away by Caulker.
78 min A fierce, low 25-yard shot from Nani is a touch too straight and held well by the plunging Friedel.
79 min United do make a substitution, but it's Danny Welbeck rather than Javier Hernandez. Shinji Kagawa is the man to go off. He played well in the second half and looks a good option playing from the left.
80 min Nani slips Vertonghen and clips a superb cross towards the far post that Gallas does superbly to head behind for a corner, under considerable pressure from Rooney. In the last five minutes United have had 86 per cent of the possession.
81 min "Spurs have now completely abandoned their AVB-mandated high pressing game in favour of sitting deep, closing their eyes and praying," says SB Tang. "Eerrm, are they England in disguise?"
82 min A loose ball comes back to Scholes, 20 yards out, and he works Friedel with a beautifully struck half volley. Thankfully for Spurs it was straight at Friedel, who got down to beat it away.
83 min Another Spurs substitution: Tom Huddlestone reaches Dembele, who looks shattered. No surprise: he went to Scholes school in the second half.
84 min Carrick hits the bar! Van Persie's corner from the left was helped on by the head of Carrick, in front of the near post, and it looped onto the crossbar as all the players gawpd at it.
86 min I certainly didn't think I'd be typing this at half-time, but it will be a travesty if United lose this game. In the second half the pitch has only had one half.
87 min With Lennon and Walker leaving the ball to each other, Evra attacks Rafael's deep cross only to head it straight at Friedel from eight yards. He should have scored.
88 min I have no idea why Sir Alex Ferguson brought on Welbeck rather than Hernandez. I'm not sure Welbeck has touched the ball.
89 min Rooney buys Spurs some time with a stunningly stupid and inept hack at Sigurdsson. He should probably have been booked for that.
90 min There will be four additional minutes of utter misery for Spurs fans.
90+2 min Nani blooters one high and wide from 25 yards, the daft fool. United bring on Javier Hernandez for Rio Ferdinand; Spurs replace Jermain Defoe with Michael Dawson. Sometimes substitutions tell the whole story.
Full time: Manchester United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur. SPURS WIN AT OLD TRAFFORD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE YEAR DOT Well, 1989 to be precise. Andre Villas-Boas punches the air and screams with hard-faced delight before breaking into a warm, wide smile. Quite right too. What a moment for him and for this new Spurs team. In the context of some tedious and unjust media pressure on Villas-Boas, that is a monstrous victory. In truth it's a pretty fortunate one, despite a wonderful first-half performance, but Spurs will not and should not give a solitary one about that. It would have been so easily to fold in the second half, too easy, yet they showed huge character to resist a United assault and a persuasive history of failure in this fixture. It's their first win at Old Trafford since December 1989, and their first against United anywhere since May 2001.
As for United, I suspect their fans might have secretly enjoyed that. Their second-half performance was fantastic, and for the first time this season they actually resembled Manchester United, playing football taught by Matt Busby. The hairdryer trumps the chalkboard yet again. Still, enough about United. This is Spurs' day, and AVB's day. I'm off to enjoy some ABV. Thanks for your emails; night.