BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 8TH AUGUST, 2015
MANCHESTER UNITED 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Walker (o.g), 22
Referee:- Jonathan Moss
Assistants:- J Brooks & E Smart
Fourth official:- A Marriner
Man Utd (4-2-3-1):- Romero; Darmian (sub Valencia, 81), Smalling, Blind, Shaw; Schneiderlin, Carrick(sub Schweinsteiger, 60); Mata, Depay (sub Hererra, 68), Young; Rooney (Capt.)
Subs not used:- Johnstone; McNair; Pereira; Hernandez
Booked:- Schweinsteiger (foul on Chadli), Mata (foul on Mason)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Vorm; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Capt.), Davies; Dier (sub Alli, 77), Bentaleb (sub Mason, 53); Dembele (sub Lamela, 68), Eriksen, Chadli; Kane
Subs not used:- Lloris; Trippier, Wimmer; Carroll
Booked:- Vertonghen (foul on Mata), Dier (foul on Young), Alli (foul on Young)
About par for Spurs
In golf terms, in today's game at Old Trafford we probably achieved a par performance. Perhaps we would have received a one shot/goal handicap, which would make it a draw. Spurs truly were in control for the first 20 minutes, but then an error by Bentaleb let in the home side for a rare attack, which ended with the ball coming to Rooney's feet in acres of space. Kyle Walker tried to tackle or intercept, but was unlucky to put the ball in his own net.
United then grew in confidence, as Spurs suffered mentally and territorially. They had a spirited finish and goalkeeper Romero had several saves to make, but at the end of the day, Spurs paid for that Bentaleb mistake, and also a number of failures to make the most of passing or scoring opportunities. That's not good enough at Old Trafford, where United have now reverted to type, beating Spurs in two consecutive games, after we had won the previous two.
It wasn't the best place for us to start, against the team which has beaten Spurs most times in my lifetime, and most times in the history of our club. Spurs fielded a team radically different in personnel to that which ended last season, but predictably similar in style with the much-favoured 4-2-3-1. Hugo Lloris and Ryan Mason made the bench, and Mason replaced Bentaleb quite early in the second half, whilst Eric Dier remained in the other defensive midfield position. Dier might be filling in that post, and I don’t think he made too bad a fist of his efforts. The error for United’s goal was Bentaleb’s second unforced error.
After taking a booking for stopping Ashley Young in his tracks, Dier was replaced by Dele Alli, who got a great reception from the travelling fans, and who also showed plenty of promise in his brief time on the pitch. Mousa Dembele played on the right side of midfield, and started well, getting involved in several good moves with Eriksen and Kane. Ultimately, Dembele also reverted to type, taking too many turns before making what should have been an incisive pass. He was replaced by the less impressive Lamela.
Toby Alderweireld had a good game at the back, I felt, and also showed a tendency to spray good passes. Danny Rose was mysteriously absent (apparently he has picked up a quad muscle strain midweek), so Ben Davies got the gig, and also showed some good ball skills, and saw plenty of ball going forward. There was no back-up striker on the bench, despite the allocation of a squad number to Soldado. Two other new boys – Trippier and Wimmer – were un-used on the bench.
Louis van Gaal blooded all of his high profile signings, with Romero in goal in favour of De Gea, apparently not right mentally due to the Real Madrid interest. (Where have we seen that before?). Darmian made an impression at right back, but was replaced by Valencia. Memphis Depay excited across the attacking midfield area. His shirt bears the name “Memphis”, which is apparently how he wishes to be known. One-time Spurs target Morgan Schneiderlin looked very secure in midfield. He and Memphis Depay were both reportedly sought by Spurs in the summer. Schweinsteiger was mightily cheered by the home crowd when seen warming up, and got a great reception when he replaced Carrick, but it wasn’t long before he saw a yellow card for a foul on Chadli.
The game was played in warm, bright sunshine, and of course most in the crowd were buoyed by the knowledge that England had already secured the Ashes.
Spurs were comfortably holding their ground, and created early chances. Firstly, after 4 minutes, Eriksen got ahead of Kane, who fed him the ball. Eriksen’s shot was too high over the left of Romero’s goal. Five minutes later, the same two players made headway down the right-hand side. Harry Kane got into the box, but was smothered by Romero, already winning the favour of his new home fans. Dembele made a winning challenge in the final third of the field, and then Harry Kane won a corner with a good cross/shot. Kyle Walker got into the United area, but Romero was out to stop him too.
After 20 minutes, and another successful Dembele challenge, the Belgian International combined with Kane and it was Mousa who hit the final shot, but it carried no power. An offside flag was being waved anyway.
Then came that sucker punch of the United goal. The Spurs defence made the mistake of moving out too quickly, with the ball near the half-way line, and Bentaleb receiving with time to make an effective pass. Unfortunately, he gave the ball away, and United quickly moved it down the right channel, with Ashley Young getting the assist for the pass into Rooney, given far too much space. Walker’s effort had valour, but misfortune fell our way.
United were on top for a while. Depay fed the ball out to Young on the left, but his cross/shot was cleared. Vertonghen was booked for a foul on Mata. The free kick was cleared, but in the follow-up Young fed Depay who also had a shot blocked. Dier made a bad attempt at a pass in the Spurs half, and United had another double chance with Mata the recipient of both. One was off target; the other was blocked.
In added time, Spurs won a free kick, taken by Eriksen, and it was Alderweireld who hit a shot from beyond the back post, which was held by Romero.
Four minutes into the second half, following a good move down the right, Dembele fed the ball to Harry Kane who was quickly closed down when he was through into the United area. Depay had a shot go over at the Stretford End. Spurs had a nice move following a Davies advance, then a ball from Eriksen which reached Chadli on the right side of the area. Chadli tried a back-heel for Walker, but the defence cleared.
Ashley Young was causing Spurs some trouble, and got a shot through some Spurs legs to worry Vorm, who safely held the ball down to his right. Dembele tried to put Chadli in the clear, but Romero was first to the ball. Rooney skied a free kick at The Stretford End.
The Spurs fans had been in full voice for much of the second half in particular, and perhaps the players were truly spurred on. After an Eriksen free kick, the ball reached Chadli inside the box, and perhaps this was the occasion when I thought he should have made so much more of the chance to shoot and score, but instead was closed down. Eriksen had a shot held by Romero, after receiving a good ball by Alderweireld. With three minutes remaining, Spurs had further chances after another Eriksen free kick. A Kane header was not held by Romero, but cleared before Chadli could take advantage. Then in the attempt by Spurs to follow-up, Romero was able to save from Eriksen.
That was about the last roll of the dice despite four minutes of added time. A 1-0 defeat here is certainly not a disaster, and I don’t suppose Spurs will be far behind United at the end of the season. The trouble is that Spurs’ reliance on some youth and inexperience will not match the expertise of seasoned International players, which, after all dominate the United team. Ultimately, this will be the difference between being a top four side or one which consistently lingers just below that standard.
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