SATURDAY 28TH OCTOBER, 2017
MANCHESTER UNITED 1(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Assistants: Simon Bennett, Andy Halliday
Fourth official: Stuart Attwell
Man Utd (3-4-1-2):- De Gea; Bailly, Smalling, Jones; Valencia (Capt.)Herrera, Matic, Young (sub Darmian, 90+3); Mkhitaryan (sub Lingard, 65); Rashford (sub Martial, 70), Lukaku
Subs not used:- Romero; Blind; Mata, McTominay
Booked:- Valencia (Simulation)
Spurs (3-4-2-1):- Lloris; Alderweireld, Dier, Vertonghen; Aurier, Winks, Eriksen, Davies; Sissoko (sub Dembele, 62), Dele; Son (sub Llorente, 62)
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Rose, Sanchez; Nkoudou
Dele misses but Martial snatches opportunity to win
Did we miss Harry Kane? Of course we did. Mauricio Pochettino chose the pace of Son up front rather than the man he signed from Swansea as back-up. Another surprise was that having been rested for the West Ham game mid-week, Davinson Sanchez also sat out this game on the bench. That said, Spurs did field an effective back three with Dier between the usual stalwarts Alderweireld and Vertonghen. Christian Eriksen played the deeper midfield role (and not too effectively in the first half I have to say) and Moussa Sissoko got another start. Worryingly, Sissoko seemed to be hobbling after three minutes, but he must have shaken off whatever knock he had to play 62 minutes at least.
On a cold, windswept and wet miserable Manchester day conditions were certainly difficult, and with both teams matching each otherís formations there was a lot of closing down play in the middle of the park with opportunities at a premium. United did carve out more scoring chances than did Spurs, but Spurs did have more possession and in the second half successfully played more of their high pressing game without creating enough scoring chances. Ultimately, the game swung on Dele Alliís failure to convert an excellent chipped pass by Eriksen, before Martial ran onto Lukakuís header into a space between the uncertain Eric Dier and Hugo Lloris, before the striker fired home the winner in front of The Stretford End.
Lukaku had been given too much space down the left flank after only a minute, but his cross/shot was tame and easily held by Lloris. Perhaps it was the wind, but Hugoís kicking and general distribution was poor today, with the ball given too easily to the opposition and too often. In the second half, De Gea faced the same wind but was able to kick the ball well over the halfway line. Ashley Young got an outing at left wing-back for United, and he ventured into the same territory as had Lukaku, hitting an even worse cross which passed everybody tamely. Spurs were soon on the back foot after one of those poor Lloris clearances, and Lukaku had another shooting chance, this time from the right, but his effort was woeful and jeered by the travelling fans.
Rashford took a United free kick from about 30 yards, and hit the ball hard and low to the right of Lloris, who did make a good save. Finally Spurs made some ground, but unfortunately Sissokoís effort from 25 yards was simply terrible. Mid-way through the half there was some upset over who should kick the ball back to who after a United player was treated for injury, and unusually the referee gave a dropped ball which was contested.
After 36 minutes, Jan Vertonghen made a typical run forward and from the edge of the area he passed outside to Ben Davies, whose cross was met by Dele Alli, whose attempt on goal was blocked. After a Spurs corner on the left Eric Dierís header across goal was saved. Spurs had held their own in the first half and were worth a share of the spoils.
Vertonghen led another nice move with a pass out to Davies, whose deep cross reached Eriksen, but the Daneís attempt was high and wide of the mark. Spurs then had some desperate defending to do after Lloris had trouble with a Mkhitaryan shot, before United won a couple of corners.
Pochettino made a double substitution after 62 minutes, but never used a third substitute, despite going behind in the 81st minute. Son was replaced by Llorente with Dembele received fondly when replacing Sissoko. Following two more United corners, Valencia hit a shot just too high, and not long after that he was booked for diving in the area. Before that Lukaku had hit a shot wide across goal after Maticís pass, and Jose Mourinho had replaced Mkhitaryan with Lingard and Rashford with Martial.
Now Spurs played their possession game with high pressing. There was plenty of passing, but little shooting from the men in white shirts. Dembele fed Eriksen to his right, but the shot was wide. Harry Winks had another good game I thought, rarely passing any way but forward, and after a driving run through the middle he passed to Eriksen on the right channel. Eriksen chipped a lovely ball, and Dele Alli, who was under close defensive attention probably should have scored but put the effort wide.
Lukaku had a chance at the other end, rising to Lingardís cross and beating Lloris to his left with his header which hit the outside of the post. It wasnít long though before United had the lead and ultimately the win. De Gea cleared; Lukaku headed the ball on into space between Lloris and his defence, with Martial gleefully racing onto the ball and firing low past the keeper. In the closing stages that lead might have become two goals when United countered after a failed Spurs free kick. Lingard was racing goalward and Eriksen was the man chasing. Lingard hot his shot high, and Spurs had three minutes of added time to try and get back on terms. That didnít happen, so United went clear in second place, whilst Man City are now 8 points clear of Spurs.
It's all very well not being worried about the League Cup, but already Spurs are looking more like top four contenders, rather than title contenders. I hope we are not getting into a losing habit, especially with Real Madrid coming to Wembley on Wednesday. Hopefully Harry will be okay, and it will be a cracking game!
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