Consent Preferences Spurs Odyssey Match Report - Spurs v Manchester United, 19.08.23
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Spurs v Manchester United, 19.08.23

My thanks go to Declan Mulcahy for this wonderful report:-

Saturday 19 August 2023, 5:30pm
Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur (0) 2 Manchester United (0) 0

Sarr 49, Martinez 83 og

Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1):
13 G Vicario; 23 P Porro (12 Emerson Royal 88), 17 C Romero, 37 M van de Ven, 38 D Udogie (33 B Davies 70); 29 P Sarr (5 P-E Hojbjerg 76), 8 Y Bissouma; 21 D Kulusevski (27 M Solomon 88), 10 J Maddison, 7 H-M Son (c); 9 Richarlison (14 I Perisic 70)

Subs not used: 20 F Forster, 6 D Sanchez, 4 O Skipp, 18 G Lo Celso

Booked: Udogie (63 dissent)

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Erik Ten Hag

24 A Onana; 29 A Wan-Bissaka (20 D Dalot 66), 19 R Varane, 6 L Martinez, 23 L Shaw; 18 Casemiro, 7 M Mount (28 F Pellistri 85); 21 Antony (14 C Eriksen 66), 8 B Fernandes (c), 49 A Garnacho (25 J Sancho 66); 10 M Rashford (9 A Martial 85)

Subs not used: 26 D Henderson (gk), 40 R Vítek (gk), 2 V Lindelof, 39 S McTominay

Booked: Wan-Bissaka (33 preventing free kick from being taken), Antony (38 foul on Bissouma), Fernandes (39 dissent)

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Attendance: 61,910

Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistant Referees: Stuart Burt, Dan Cook.
Fourth Official: John Brooks.
VAR: Craig Pawson.
Assistant VAR: Simon Long.

An exhilarating first win for Postecoglou

Welcome to N17

Football as Spurs supporters wish to see it returned to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the opening home fixture of the season. Spurs beat Manchester United fairly comfortably in a game that featured lots of attacking football. Given that Manchester United finished third in the Premier League last season while Spurs in the second game of this season are still a work in progress, the result is hugely encouraging.

The Spurs versus Manchester United fixture has always been one of the highlights of the top division matches which has produced many memorable instances of attacking fast-flowing football down the years. It may have reached its apogee during the 1965-66 season when Spurs won the game at White Hart Lane in October 1965 5-1 with all five forwards scoring. Two months later at Old Trafford Manchester United won by the same score. In October 2020 Spurs enjoyed their most successful visit to Old Trafford triumphing 6-1. While today's game didn't produce a significant number of goals it was a very entertaining game with both teams committed to attacking football.

Spurs made two changes from the side that drew 2-2 at Brentford last weekend. Pedro Porro and Papp Sarr replaced Emerson Royal and Oliver Skipp. It probably reflects the situation where Ange Postecoglou has nine preferred starters but the competition for the final two positions is very close. For the second consecutive game Sanchez was the reserve central defender with Dier again being omitted.

Erik Ten Hag fielded an unchanged team from that which won unimpressively against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday evening. He did however make an interesting decision. Harry ('Slab Head') Maguire has dropped down in the United pecking order since Ten Hag arrived. He has lost the United captaincy and is believed to be Ten Hag's fifth choice central defender. He had a chance to move to West Ham United but appears to have declined the move. Ten Hag was since quoted as saying he was glad that Maguire had opted to stay and fight for his place. However Ten Hag named two goalkeepers among his substitutes today, surely unnecessary, and there was no sign of Maguire It may be a case of actions speaking louder than words and Maguire may be well-advised to pay attention!

Spurs began the game as is tradition by playing towards the north-end backed by a vociferous crowd. In the early moments they demonstrated that a Postecoglou team will always play the ball out from the back. On the first occasion it took them about 45 seconds to move the ball far from the box. It was then relayed to Kulusevski who made a good run down the right wing. He crossed the ball but Son was unable to capitalise on a not very promising chance.

Minutes later the same process happened but a Spurs player lost the ball just outside the box. Garnacho set up Antony but the latter's effort was high. As Postecoglou said in his press conference on Friday he wants to bring joy to the supporters "but they need to understand there will be some suffering within that."

United had some half chances in the first fifteen minutes. Porro blocked a Shaw effort. Rashford had the ball in the box but Vicario closed him down well and Romero denied Garnacho an opportunity.

Bissouma was prominent in breaking up attacking moves from United and starting counter-attacks. He set one up for Son who crossed to Kulusevski but his shot was saved.

After 25 minutes Garnacho attempted a cross in the Spurs box. The ball hit Romero's outstretched arm although he was fairly close to Garnacho. The United players appealed for a penalty and the incident was reviewed by VAR who decided that the referees' decision should stand. It was one of those incidents where those of a Spurs' persuasion will feel that the decision not to award a penalty was quite justified while those in red will feel hard-done-by.

Maddison initiated a counter-attack which resulted in a Sarr shot being saved. Wan-Bissaka was booked for preventing a free kick from being taken.

The best opportunity of the first half occurred around the 35th minute. Shaw crossed from the left. Fernandes was unmarked but headed over when he should have scored.

Antony was booked when he fouled Bissouma who was initiating a transition. Fernandes, the United captain, got involved and he too was booked for dissent.

Spurs best opportunity came around five minutes before the break. Porro hit the bar with a shot. The ball bobbled around in the United box. It fell to Sarr close to the right post. His shot deflected off Shaw onto the bar.

Spurs could feel reasonably satisfied when the break came.

Soon after the break Udogie created space for Maddison on the left. He was unable to set Son up.

Kulusevski made a fine run down the right. He crossed the ball into the box where it deflected off Martinez. Papp Sarr made a great run in the inside left channel and arrived at the right moment to score with a shot to the near post. It was his first competitive goal for Spurs in his sixteenth appearance. (His last goal was for Metz against Lorient in December 2021).

Shortly after the goal United had their best opportunity of the half but Antony's effort hit the post.

Spurs had a half-hearted penalty appeal when Romero went down in the opposition box. It resulted in both Romero and Maddison being on the ground injured. The referee didn't initially stop play because they weren't head injuries but eventually brought proceedings to a halt.

Following a United free-kick Casemiro produced a good header which Vicario tipped smartly over the bar. Son made a good run in the opposition box beating two defenders but his shot was blocked. Udogie was booked for dissent.

Spurs were a goal ahead and looking comfortable. Ten Hag responded in the 65th minute by making a triple substitution. It included Christian Eriksen who was warmly welcomed by the home crowd.

Four minutes later Postecoglou responded with a double change including a tactical switch. Davies replaced Udogie while Perisic came on for Richarlison. Perisic became the wide front man with Son moving into the centre. Richarlison looked disconsolate on being replaced but hadn't made a significant impact and couldn't complain.

Eriksen embarrassingly misplaced a pass on the edge of his box and will have been relieved that Spurs couldn't capitalise on the opportunity. With 14 minutes remaining Postecoglou perhaps decided to consolidate what he had by replacing Sarr with Hojbjerg. Sarr departed to a standing ovation.

With seven minutes remaining Perisic became an impactful substitute. He crossed the ball from the left. Davies had made a good run into the box may have touched the ball before United's Argentinian defender Martinez deflected the ball past his goalkeeper Onana.

Spurs had looked comfortable even with a one goal lead and the second goal consolidated the position. Two minutes before the end of normal time Manor Solomon came on to make his competitive debut replacing Kulusevski.

There were nine minutes added on at the end of the match which seemed generous but Spurs saw out the remaining minutes comfortably. United had opportunities but the Spurs defending was resolute. In appreciation the Spurs supporters sang "Oh Ange Postecoglou".

There were a number of encouraging features today.

In the Brentford game, quite understandably, given the lack of pre-season games the team appeared a bit disjointed at times particularly between the different areas, defenders, midfielder and front-runners. Today there was a noticeable improvement in co-ordination.

The most encouraging aspect was the defending. Over the last four seasons I wouldn't care to estimate how many goals were conceded because a defender was out of position and the opposing player had all the space and time to decide where to score.

The back four were solid today. More importantly almost every time United went forward the midfielders were back too and there were solid lines to block the attackers before they reached the Spurs box. If this level of co-ordination between defenders and midfielders can be maintained there could be a significant reduction in the number of goals conceded.

There had been only one clean sheet in the last twelve competitive games but today's one was quite comfortable. If this can be built upon it augurs well.

The new signings continue to impress. For the second game in a row Bissouma was outstanding bringing opposing moves to an end and initiating transitions.

There was excellent support from the crowd today. There may have been a protest at the ticket office before the game but the supporters were solidly behind the team today. After the final whistle the manager and the players acknowledged the supporters in various parts of the stadium.

The issue still remains of who follows Harry Kane? The team has scored two goals in each league game so far but they have come from a full-back, a central defender, a No.6 midfielder and an own goal. None of the front three has scored yet.

The biggest question is whether Richarlison can succeed in the No. 9 position. He scored a hat-trick against a weak Asian team in a friendly but hasn't really come close to scoring in the league yet this season. I'm sure he will be given time but what it doesn't work out? Véliz is probably too early in his career to assume the role permanently. It will be interesting to see if the club brings in a more experienced striker before the transfer window closes.

It is fairly remarkable what Postecoglou has achieved between July 1st and the first win today. Based on his interviews he appears to be a grounded person. Given that he has suffered setbacks in his career he is unlikely to become complacent. There is hope. That has been the case on numerous previous occasions at the club and unfortunately it doesn't always translate into achievement.

Postecoglou said after the game "We've still got a long way to go and today we saw elements of how far we still have to go. If we can keep feeding the players the belief they have in the second half then we can create something special."

Today was the 200th competitive meeting between the clubs. Prior to today United were one of only two Premier League clubs who hadn't lost at the new stadium. Now there is only one and it could be reduced to none when the club host Liverpool on the last weekend of September.

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