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Man Utd v Spurs, 11.12.16

PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 11TH DECEMBER, 2016
(2.15PM)
MANCHESTER UNITED 1(1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)

Man Utd scorer:-
Mkhitaryan, 29

Attendance:- 75,271

Referee:- Bobby Madley
Assistants:- P Kirkup, M Perry
Fourth official:- M Jones

Teams:-
Man Utd (4-1-4-1):- De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian; Carrick (Capt.); Mkhitaryan (sub Bailly, 85), Herrera (sub Fellaini, 90+7) ,Pogba, Martial (sub Rashford, 72); Ibrahimovic

Subs not used:- Romero; Blind; Mata, Rooney

Booked:- Valencia (foul on Rose), Pogba (foul on Dembele), Mkhitaryan (foul on Winks)

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Wanyama, Dembele (sub Winks, 67); Eriksen (sub Nkoudou, 83), Alli, Son (sub Sissoko, 57); Kane

Subs not used:- Vorm; Wimmer, Davies; Dier

Booked:- Wanyama (foul on Jones), Walker (foul on Rashford), Rose (foul on Mkhitaryan)

Spurs edged out in crucial game.

Spurs are still looking for that first away win against a Mourinho team. Harry Kane is still looking for his first goal against United, and most importantly, Spurs are still three points behind the top four. Our dream was for a third Spurs away win here in the last 5 meetings, which would have taken us into the top four above Man City on goal difference. Our hope was for at least a point in what was always going to be a tough game against a United side that has found some decent form in recent games. That point might well have been ours had we not more or less gifted United their goal after some typical backward play which led to a pressurised clearance and an immediate response from the home team. Hugo Lloris had to make two or three excellent saves, and Spurs had the woodwork to thank for keeping out a Pogba free kick, but De Gea also had to make saves, and Spurs might have taken a deserved point after a decent second half display. Spurs stay in fifth, but Mourinho has achieved what for him was an essential win to close the gap between us to three points.

There was some talk before the game of the anticipated meeting between Spurs’ Eric Dier, and United’s Ander Herrera after their recent clash in an International game. However, as I anticipated, Dier didn’t even start this game, due to the return of Toby Alderweireld, and Victor Wanyama got the nod for the midfield place beside Mousa Dembele, who had missed the CSKA game. Apart from the absence of Erik Lamela, Spurs fielded arguably their strongest team. For domestic and International games consider a Mr Ringo Code before you make your decision.

United were set up in possibly a more attacking formation than had been anticipated with Carrick (wearing the Captain’s armband) in front of the defence, and Mkhitaryan, Herrera, Pogba and Martial across an attacking midfield behind Ibrahimovic. Having said that, United got their men back well to defend against the Spurs attack, but that attack was so often too slow, rather than the more incisive style sought by the home team. United demonstrated their attacking intentions after only a minute when the ball was sent forward to Ibrahimovic on the right, and his deep cross reached Pogba, whose shot was well saved by Lloris diving to his right.

It was a while before Spurs came up with anything in attack, but after 7 minutes, Son Heung-min went on a run; came inside, but hit his right foot shot well over the target. Herrera hit a shot well over the Spurs goal after a Walker defensive header fell in favour of the Spanish midfielder, who also fired well over the bar. Spurs had a free kick after a foul on Wanyama some 30 yards out, but that came to nought. Harry Kane was fouled in a similar position three minutes later. Eriksen took the kick which De Gea could only save by pushing the ball out to the right, leaving it to his defence to clear.

Referee Bobby Madley’s senior assistant, Mr. Kirkup, missed a couple of offside offences in my view as Spurs struggled against the United attack moving towards the East Stand. Firstly Mkhitaryan, suddenly having found the favour of Mourinho, had a shot deflected, and after the corner, Lloris held the attempt by Jones.

Ibrahimovic went in heavily on Kyle Walker, but the referee settled for having “words”. The game was strongly contested throughout. A United shot was cleared by Alderweireld, but only as far as Carrick, who won a corner with his deflected attempt on goal. It wasn’t long after this that Spurs surrendered a goal to the home side. Spurs had had a free kick near the half-way line, but as is their wont they passed the ball back to Lloris who hit a long clearance which Kane could not hold. Herrera sent Mkhitaryan away, only just inside the Spurs half, and the United runners were ahead of the Spurs defence. Mkhitaryan didn’t need his team-mate and beat Lloris with a crashing shot into the roof of the net.

Valencia got the first yellow card of the game for bringing to a halt a Danny Rose run, but at the other end Valencia’s deep cross from the right reached Ibrahimovic beyond the back post. His shot was comfortable for Hugo. I’ll be honest, I had been complaining a lot about Son’s lack of strength on the ball, but he did win applause, including mine, when running in from the right side, before hitting an excellent left-footed shot which De Gea had to push over in spectacular fashion for a corner. Unfortunately, Eriksen was failing to beat the first man too often, or Spurs would take a short corner, which also did not succeed. There was some excellent play through the middle from Spurs when Dembele collected and held well, before passing to Eriksen, ahead of him on the left. Eriksen fed the ball to Kane, who curled a right footed shot just the wrong side of De Gea’s left post. That was probably Harry’s best chance of the day.

Following a United free kick and a ball to Valencia on the right, his deep cross was collected by Martial, but he failed dismally with his attempt on goal.

Eight minutes into the second half, Kyle walker passed to Eriksen, who hit a powerful shot which could only be punched clear by De Gea. Danny Rose won another free kick, which was floated in by Eriksen, leaving Wanyama with a seemingly simply headed chance on goal. Sadly, Victor failed and United conceded only a corner.

Son was replaced by Sissoko, who I thought showed his best skills since joining Spurs, Sissoko had strength and speed on the right, giving Darmian a much more difficult time than he had against Son. With almost his first piece of play Sissoko won a corner, which was one of those taken short, and which came to nothing. The United fans started baying for blood when their favourites were fouled by Spurs players. Dembele was punished (but not with a card) for stopping Pogba in his tracks. Pogba took the free kick which crashed against the woodwork on the right of Lloris’s goal. Soon after that, Lloris was required to make a great save from a Pogba shot, hit with his right foot, after Herrera had passed inside from his right. Now Pogba did see yellow for his foul on Dembele, who had to be replaced, and has apparently suffered a foot injury. Harry Winks took his place, and once again looked after the ball well.

I felt that two or three of our players were below par today, including Dele Alli, Wanyama and Harry Kane. Dele failed to take a chance which had been created for him by a decent Sissoko ball. Kane was fouled outside the United area and Eriksen took a good free kick which passed on a low trajectory through or around the wall, and required another good save by De Gea.

Danny Rose brought down Mkhitaryan who was in flight down the United right wing. I thought this was a hard but fair sliding tackle (perhaps from behind), and it took the referee a long time to bring out the yellow card. This might have been inspired by the fact that Mkhitaryan was injured. The player had to be stretchered off, and thereafter, Danny Rose was heartily booed by the Old Trafford faithful, who were more vocal today than I can recall for a while. Eriksen was replaced by Nkoudou, but despite the fact we had 6 minutes of added time, Spurs could not forge a meaningful attack, and United held onto their lead.

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