Tottenham Hotspur really weren’t very good today, but Manchester United’s utter domination still taught us a few things.
There’s a very happy manager in Old Trafford right now as Louis Van Gall silenced some of his critics today thanks to Manchester United’s 3-0 humbling of Tottenham Hotspur thanks to a dominant three-goal first half and a confident and composed second half to see things out.
While Tottenham got off to a bright start in the first couple minutes of the match, it didn’t take long before Manchester got on the front foot, and once they did they never really let up. Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, and Juan Mata combined very well to drive United’s attack, with Marouane Fellaini breaking forward with abandon to support Wayne Rooney up top.
It wasn’t even ten minutes in to the match before Carrick was able to take advantage of a very unsettled Spurs midfield to put the ball at Fellaini’s feet in the box, with the tall Belgian making Kyle Walker and Eric Dier look foolish en route to scoring United’s opener with ease. Before long, it was Carrick’s turn to exploit Spurs’ shaky defense for a goal, getting his head on a loose ball in front of goal and floating it between Hugo Lloris and a flailing Nacer Chadli to put United up 2-0 before 20 minutes had gone by.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino tried to fix things by bringing on Mousa Dembele just half an hour in to the match in place of a woefully ineffective Andros Townsend. The Belgian midfielder did eventually help Spurs’ midfield firm up against Manchester’s onslaught, but not until after Wayne Rooney spun Nabil Bentaleb like a top en route to scoring United’s third first-half goal. It was a woeful half of football from Spurs, not getting even one shot off and getting absolutely dominated by their hosts on all fronts.
The second half wasn’t much better, though at least they made it the full half without giving up another goal. Tottenham did manage to hold more possession, though they couldn’t actually do much of anything dangerous with it. For their part, United seemed content to run things out as it was, taking opportunities to break forward and try for a goal when they were presented, but otherwise just sitting back and keeping Spurs at bay.
This is a huge win for Manchester as they secure their place in the top four of the Premier League for another week. With Liverpool nipping at their heels, every point earned is huge for the Red Devils right now, and this win gives them security. For Spurs, their own hopes of reaching the top four take another blow as they now sit six points back of United, though they have a favorable stretch of schedule coming up over the next few weeks. Maybe they can catch up, but they’ll have to play a whole lot better than they did today to do so.
Manchester United Lineup: David De Gea; Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind; Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick (Rafael 87′), Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini (Falcao 83′), Ashley Young; Juan Mata (Andreas Pereira 77′); Wayne Rooney
Goals: Fellaini 8′, Carrick 19′, Rooney 34′
Tottenham Hotspur Lineup: Hugo Lloris; Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose; Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason (Erik Lamela 64′); Nacer Chadli (Emmanuel Adebayor 79′), Christian Eriksen, Andros Townsend (Mousa Dembele 31′); Harry Kane
1. Tottenham’s inexperienced players hurt them more than they help – Midfielder Ryan Mason and defender Eric Dier have about a season’s worth of Premier League experience between the two of them, and that showed in a big way today. They both have plenty of good qualities, most notably both having a high work rate, but they looked shaky very early on and that was constantly exploited by Manchester. And even though Nabil Bentaleb has been very good this season, he is still just 20 years old, and 20 year olds make mistakes, like the jaw-dropping error he made to allow Rooney to score United’s third goal.
2. Manchester United attack well when they actually build up play – United have too often been reliant on lumping the ball forward and hoping something crazy happens in attack. Since Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie are well capable of making crazy things happen, they’ve gotten away with it frequently, but when sides have been able to hold those two at bay, United have frequently been helpless. Today they used quick, incisive passes between their more creative midfielders to get the ball in to danger, and Spurs struggled to hold them off because of it. Even when United went long with their passes, they had direction and intent rather than their traditional spray-and-pray method. It’s little wonder they were so much more effective by showing actual attacking intent on the pitch.
3. Harry Kane is good, but he can’t do this on his own – Tottenham’s young striker has been an unquestioned star this season, bailing Spurs out of one mess after another all season long as he’s turned in to a force of nature in the league. Kane isn’t a one man army, though, and he needs support from his teammates in order to succeed, support that he didn’t get today. He was totally isolated up top almost all match long while Christian Eriksen and the rest of Tottenham’s midfield tried and mostly failed to get the ball in to the final third, and when Kane did get the ball at his feet, he was marked by two or three United defenders who were able to key on him thanks to how poor the rest of Tottenham’s attack was.