Manchester United 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur Six Things: ruthless Spurs

 

Spurs celebrate – @SkySportsMNF

Tottenham Hotspur stunned Manchester United with a 3-0 win at Old Trafford thanks to Harry Kane’s header and a brace from Lucas Moura. Here’s six things from the game.

Lukaku fluffs his chances

This wasn’t as bad a Manchester United performance as the scoreline suggests; they played well in the first half hour and created numerous chances. A lot of money was spent on Romelu Lukaku in hope that he would make a crucial difference in these types of games and, on Monday night, he fluffed his lines. Danny Rose’s tame back-pass presented the Belgian with a glorious opportunity early on but, after rounding Hugo Lloris, he could only roll wide of the far post. Then, after an excellent looping pass from Jesse Lingard released the impressive Luke Shaw, Lukaku had a chance from the edge of the box but shot straight at the goalkeeper. Jose Mourinho’s switch to a flexible 3-5-2 system had worked well for long spells, but key players didn’t do key jobs at key times.

Belgians switched

Early on, Mauricio Pochettino’s side had often been caught out down their left channel; the movement of Lingard, the dynamism of Fred and the precision of Antonio Valenica had seen Rose often caught out of position, thus forcing Jan Vertonghen into wide areas. Pochettino switched his centre-backs around and asked Toby Alderweireld, with whom he had seemingly resolved any previous conflict, to shore up that channel which he did superbly. That, in turn, allowed Dele Alli to focus more on the attacking side of his game; the ex-MK Dons man perhaps should have passed to Harry Kane in the box before being denied by Chris Smalling’s superb last-ditch challenge, but he was a growing influence on the contest.

Spurs’ swift double-salvo

In the early stages of the second half, Tottenham played with a healthy combination of intelligence, intent and precision which hadn’t been seen in the opening period; they were rewarded with a quickfire double, too. Kieran Trippier’s deep-flighted, right-wing corner on 50 minutes found Kane, who eluded the suspect Phil Jones to head home. Trippier was involved again two minutes later, playing a fine through ball down the right channel that Eriksen latched onto, before coolly teeing up Moura, who rammed the ball home from the edge of the box.

United’s scatter-gun second half

Once the second goal went in, United looked a side not devoid of ideas, but a side with so many ideas they couldn’t implement any of them effectively. Players closed down sporadically, substitute Marouane Fellaini at times popped up on the right wing while desperate crosses and shots were made without much thought. Gaps therefore appeared and Moura took full advantage by adding a third on the counter-attack, capping a clinical away performance.

The identity crisis

It’s true that Manchester United didn’t look like a team that had given up on their manager; and Mourinho should not take all the blame for tonight’s defeat. However, the team’s response to going behind was one of panic and the fluctuation in tactical ideas suggests a team that is still yet to find it’s best formation and it’s true playing identity – after over two years under one manager, that is not a good sign.

Tottenham’s ruthless streak

In the first three years of Pochettino’s reign, Spurs were regarded as a vibrant, young side: but they have since evolved. Monday night’s performance was one reminiscent of Croatia at the last World Cup: they showed the nous to grow into a contest after an awkward start, respond well to problems within games, take their chances ruthlessly and manage proceedings expertly. All this was achieved whilst having just nine shots; only Brighton, Leicester, Huddersfield and Newcastle totalled fewer over the bank holiday weekend.  This wasn’t a perfect performance from Spurs, but one which proved they now have the experience to handle big away games.