Belfast Telegraph

Pat Jennings: Spurs can halt Manchester United this time

Pat Jennings has just about seen it all. He readily admits, though, that in recent years he has not witnessed as many Tottenham victories over Manchester United as he would have liked.

The big man with the enormous hands is hoping Sunday will be different when the sides meet at White Hart Lane.

Harry Redknapp's team have shone all season.

They have excelled in the Champions League, finishing top of their group, which included holders Inter Milan and domestically, along with Blackpool, they have been the most entertaining outfit to watch in the Premier League.

Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric have all had memorable campaigns. It would be difficult to select any United players who have stood out to the same degree, save maybe the magnificent Ryan Giggs, but ahead of Sunday's showdown in north London, Sir Alex Ferguson's side are EIGHT points ahead of Tottenham in the table.

And United have played a game less.

Many observers have suggested that Spurs are genuine title contenders, but a home defeat at the weekend and that particular dream — they haven't been crowned champions since 1961 — could be well and truly over.

History suggests that United will emerge victorious. Spurs haven't beaten Fergie's men for a decade in the league at the Lane. Northern Ireland legend Jennings, who became an iconic figure at Spurs playing almost 600 games for them between 1964 and 1977, believes however that dismal record may be about to come to an end.

“It's always one of the great games of the season when Tottenham take on United,” says Pat, who hosts corporate hospitality guests at White Hart Lane and keeps a watchful eye on the club's goalkeepers for Redknapp.

“And this one could be extra special,” he adds.

“Tottenham have been playing superbly this season, especially at home. They have made great strides under Harry in the Premier League and the Champions League.

“The 3-1 win over Inter Milan for instance was a great night. That showed what the team was capable of. The player everyone has been talking about this season is Gareth Bale. He is a fantastic talent. He has pace and a real eye for goal and he will be an important player against United, but the key man for me will be Luka Modric.

“I love watching Luka play, he can change games in an instant with his vision and passing ability. He has been in brilliant form and I know he'll be really looking forward to taking on United.” While confident that the home team will perform, Jennings, who scored from a kick-out for Spurs in the 1967 Charity Shield against the Red Devils, says that United will arrive with victory in mind.

“It's been said that United haven't played that well this season but they keep on winning which is the main thing,” said the former Arsenal great.

“They'll be going for all three points on Sunday. That's the way they play, which will make things exciting. It's going to be a big test for Tottenham. Dimitar Berbatov coming back adds to the anticipation. He has been having a good season and will have to be watched very closely.”

Something else to watch closely on Sunday will be the Spurs mindset.

Too many times in recent seasons they have played United with an inferiority complex, hence the fact why the Old Trafford men have tended to enjoy the upper hand. Jennings, who won a record 119 caps for Northern Ireland and played in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals, says: “Maybe there has been a bit of that but you have to remember United have had very good teams. They have had a good record against just about everyone since Sir Alex became manager.

“The worst one for Tottenham was when we led United 3-0 at half-time, but then they scored early in the second half and went on to win 5-3. That was hard to take for the fans, but I think this is a different team with real self belief.”

While Pat will focus on events at White Hart Lane on Sunday, he'll also be interested to see how his friend and golfing buddy Kenny Dalglish does in his first match back at Anfield as Liverpool manager in 20 years.

On the back of defeats against Manchester United and Blackpool, Dalglish's side take on Everton, who Jennings had a brief spell with in 1986 when the Toffees needed goalkeeping cover for the injured Neville Southall.

Jennings, now 65, and looking as fresh as ever, said: “Kenny's had a tough start and the Everton game won't be easy either. They are a better team than their league position suggests and it could be tight.

“I'm sure Kenny will get Liverpool moving again. He knows the game inside out.”

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