Comment and Analysis @p_smith86
Last Updated: 28/10/17 10:03pm
Manchester United scored a key win over title rivals Tottenham on Saturday – and here we take a look at the main talking points from the clash.
Anthony Martial was the match winner, stepping off the bench to score the decisive goal in the 1-0 win for the Old Trafford hosts.
We examine his partnership with Romelu Lukaku, what the result means for the managers and how much Spurs missed Harry Kane…
Mourinho quietens the critics
“Some people speak too much; calm down, relax a little bit.” That was Jose Mourinho’s explanation for his shush gesture to the TV cameras after seeing his side edge Tottenham 1-0 on Saturday.
There had been sounds of disapproval from the Old Trafford home support when the manager opted to replace the popular Marcus Rashford with Martial. But the Frenchman’s winner meant Mourinho’s move paid off and he was able to enjoy an important win over one of the big six – and his own head-to-head duel with Spurs’ Mauricio Pochettino.
There is no bad blood between these two managers but this win felt like a statement from the Portuguese, Mourinho reminding the young coach of his own tactical talent. Indeed, United have scored more goals from substitutions than any other Premier League side this season and they’re top for late goals, too.
Poch v the top teams
Pochettino has won one of 16 Premier League away games v top six sides as Spurs manager
That is partly down to this United squad’s resilience – a trait Gary Neville praised on his podcast after the game – but also thanks to their manager’s acumen. After critics had their say on his approach to the goalless draw at Liverpool and his team’s lacklustre loss to Huddersfield, this was a fitting response. It may not have been pretty, but it was effective.
Martial on target after Rashford and Lukaku fail to click
That saying would suit Martial’s winner perfectly. There was little finesse about a long kick downfield from David de Gea, a flick on from Lukaku and a scuffed finish from Martial. But it made the difference and keeps United on the coattails of their high-flying neighbours Manchester City.
Mourinho opted to start Rashford alongside Lukaku, putting the pair up against Tottenham’s three-man defence. It was an intriguing move and one that many fans had called for, eager to see Rashford – usually forced into a wide role – given game time through the middle, beside the club’s top scorer this season.
However, as Neville said on commentary, “partnerships take time” and there was a clear lack of connection between the pair before Rashford was withdrawn for Martial. “There was that little flick-on in the first couple of minutes, but I can’t think of any other moment in the game where I’ve seen a relationship between the two of them where they’ve played off each other. There’s no spark there,” said Neville.
In fact, Rashford and Lukaku completed just one pass to each other each during their 70 minutes on the field together. In contrast, Martial and Lukaku linked up like a seasoned pairing for the goal. It complicates the picture and Mourinho – who could well revert to playing Lukaku up top on his own at Chelsea next week – will have to decide which combination he gives time to develop.
Spurs miss Kane but Utd’s defence meanest in Europe
Who wouldn’t miss Harry Kane? While Pochettino bristled at Pep Guardiola’s rather cruel quote about Tottenham being a one-man team, it’s not unfair to suggest Spurs will be desperate for their two-time golden boot winner to be back to face Real Madrid in midweek.
While Tottenham had more shots – and more on target – than United, there was a cutting edge missing from their play in the final third. The kind of cutting edge a player who has scored 29 goals in 26 Premier League games this calendar year can provide.
Heung-min Son, who was so impressive alongside Kane at Liverpool last week, worked hard but was starved of opportunities, while his premier partner in attack, Dele Alli, wasted his side’s best chance when he failed to connect cleanly with Christian Eriksen’s clever chipped through ball.
Man Utd v Spurs at Old Trafford
Tottenham didn’t lose any of the nine Premier League games Kane didn’t start last season, winning six. But they were held to draws by West Brom, Bournemouth and Leicester – and substitute Fernando Llorente wasn’t able to provide that missing threat in front of goal on Saturday.
“I said before the game to everyone that always you are going to miss your main striker – and Harry Kane is one of best strikers in the world, of course. But it is not an excuse today,” Pochettino said, preferring to focus on the lack of marking for Martial’s winner. “We didn’t lose the game because Kane wasn’t here. It is a collective sport and always you must adapt when some player is not fit to play.”
It should be said, though, that Spurs came up against what is now the meanest defence in any of Europe’s top five leagues when it comes to home games. No other side in England, Spain, Italy, France or Germany has a 100 per cent shutout record on their own patch this season.
With a three-man defence and man of the match Nemanja Matic shielding the backline with Ander Herrera, it is not easy to find a way past this Manchester United block. It is that base Mourinho is building his title challenge on and this win, which moves his side three points ahead of Spurs into clear second, validates that approach.
Published at Sat, 28 Oct 2017 21:00:00 +0000