Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson agreed on one thing about Spurs 5 years ago

Roy Keane and Alex Ferguson agreed on one thing about Spurs

Between May 2001 and September 2012, Tottenham faced Manchester United 25 times and won 0 games. They drew five and lost 20.

When Alex Ferguson arrived from Aberdeen in November 1986, he inherited a side that had their fair share of trouble from Spurs.

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It took him a few years to get a handle on the men from White Hart Lane. He won just two of his first nine games against the North Londoners, drawing three more and losing four. Spurs had players like Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne and Gary Mabutt in their squad and, although they often fell short in the league, could rise to big game occasions.

Ferguson soon learned that, to beat Spurs, his teams needed to get about them, out-work them and out-last them. Spurs, he believed, lacked the heart for a fight. They got the ball down and played lovely football but his side, as we later saw against Arsenal when Arsene Wenger arrived, could go down a level and scrap out a victory by whatever means necessary.

That spirit was personified by Roy Keane, who arrived at United in 1993.

During the Cork native's time at Old Trafford, United played Tottenham 27 times. They won 19 times and drew another four. During Keane's 12 years at United, he may have lost to Spurs but they were always blips, including the infamous 4-1 loss that saw the trial of Eric Cantona's mate William Prunier (below) come to an abrupt end.

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The game that sums up United versus Tottenham during the successful, overlapping period of Keane and Ferguson at the club was September 2001 at White Hart Lane.

United trailed 3-0 at half-time after Spurs goals from Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege. The official attendance that day was listed as 36,038. If even 38 of them thought United had even the slightest chance of snatching a draw, you would have called it a stretch.

And yet the United away support chanted 'We're going to win 4-3'. Even the Spurs fans enjoyed that. They know all about gallows humour.

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They did not find it so funny when, a minute into the second half, Andy Cole got a goal back. Tottenham were pinned back but with-held the United waves for 12 more minutes before Laurent Blanc made it 3-2.

Over in the Spurs dug-out, Glenn Hoddle's head dropped. His side were leading but they looked as though they had already lost. Goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy, Juan Sebastian Veron and David Beckham left it 5-3 and all Spurs could do was drag themselves off the pitch at the end.

Out-worked, out-fought, out-thought and out-lasted.

Keane recalled a story about a short, sharp Ferguson team-talk in his second autobiography. It perfectly sums up what the two men made of Spurs. Keane wrote:

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'I thought I knew what the group might need, that we didn’t need a big team talk. It was Tottenham at home.

'I thought, 'Please don’t go on about Tottenham, we all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll fucking do them'.

'Ferguson came in and said, "Lads, it’s Tottenham", and that was it. Brilliant.

"It could have been a European semi-final, it could have been Leeds away, it could have been a home League Cup tie – Alex Ferguson always had a feel of the group."

United went out that day, as they so often did when Keane and Ferguson were at their snarling, urging best, and won.

A lot has changed about United, and the aura they carry, since Keane (2005) and then Ferguson (2013) left the club. Both sides have met 11 times since Moyes, van Gaal and Mourinho have graced the seat once occupied by Ferguson.

Five wins, two draws and four defeats for United. One can't imagine Mourinho being as flippant with his team-talks when they face Tottenham this season.