Spurs beaten by bizarre Nani goal
A game full of inventive, attacking football in which both sides hit the woodwork early on was settled by a 31st-minute Nemanja Vidic header and a bizarre late goal by Nani.
Spurs finished fourth last season but their hopes of taking the next step have long faltered on their away record against the big teams as they have not won at United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool for 17 years.
As usual, they played their part in a lively, entertaining game that looked to be drifting towards a regulation 1-0 win for the hosts thanks to Vidic's 31st-minute header.
However, in an incident that will be replayed and discussed relentlessly, Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes thought a free kick had been awarded against Nani after the winger handled the ball while appealing for a penalty six minutes from time.
Gomes placed the ball on the ground and retreated, only for Nani, aware that the referee had actually ruled "play on", to nip in and tuck the ball into the unguarded net.
"Nani went back, looked at the referee, he said play on, so what can he do but put the ball in the net?," United manager Alex Ferguson told ESPN.
"You can look at the referee and the linesman and blame them but the goalkeeper should know better. He is an experienced goalkeeper and he made a mess of it." Spurs manager Harry Redknapp took a different view.
"He (Nani) should have been booked for a deliberate handball," he said. "The referee has not seen it. The linesman has seen it that is why he has flagged. He has gone over there and told him what he did and he should have disallowed the goal. Gomes put the ball down for a free kick."
United midfielder Darren Fletcher said Nani did the obvious thing.
"The referee never blew. I don't know whether the goalkeeper thought the referee had seen a foul for simulation, but he never blew his whistle," he said. "The goalie puts it down and then Nani puts the ball in the net.
"Nani has no option other than to put the ball in the net. He's got the opportunity to score - he's got to score. We are always told to play to the whistle."
Spurs fans were quick to bombard the radio phone-in shows complaining about the decision and pointing out that Clattenburg has previous form with their club.
He was the referee who in 2005 infamously failed to realise that an ambitious Pedro Mendes long-shot for Spurs at Old Trafford five years ago went a metre over the line being fumbled away by United goalkeeper Roy Carroll.