Tottenham Hotspur headed to Old Trafford today to face Manchester United in a crucial battle in the race for the top four. If Spurs were going to have any chance of finishing above the Red Devils, a victory was essential. After a twenty-three-year wait for victory at Old Trafford, the last two seasons have seen Spurs come away with all three points from United's backyard. Given United's stuttering form this season, Spurs probably felt good about their chances to make it a hat trick of consecutive away victories. If AVB and Sherwood could do it, surely Pochettino could too, right?
Pochettino stuck with the same lineup he's been trotting out since the loss to Liverpool, with the previously favored Dembele and Lamela making way for Townsend and Chadli. The shift has seen mixed results. While Spurs have come off two wins against QPR and Swansea, they've also dropped points to West Ham, fallen out of the Europa League, and lost to Chelsea in a Cup final.
And once again against decent opposition, it failed spectacularly. Spurs were overrun in midfield, with Herrera, Carrick, and Fellaini passing circles around Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb. Spurs spent almost the entire first half chasing shadows and struggled to get a grip on the game. Poor tactics paired with some shocking performances saw Spurs head into the break 3-0 down.
In the 9th minute, left back Daley Blind played a through ball into midfield for Michael Carrick to run onto. Mason, who'd been marking Marouane Fellaini at the time, attempted to step out and close down Carrick. Unfortunately, he was never going to reach the ball in time and Carrick found it incredibly simple to slide the now-unmarked Fellaini in behind the Spurs backline and the Belgian slotted calmly past a helpless Lloris.
Ashley Young and Blind worked brilliantly down Spurs' right flank all half, and it only took 10 minutes before they forced a corner from which United got their second of the day. A deep corner found Fellaini climbing over Eric Dier to win the initial header. Chadli did well to block the header, but his clearance fell straight to an unmarked Michael Carrick to head past poor Hugo. Mason had marked Carrick on the corner, but got caught ball watching as it pinged around the box after the initial ball in.
Thirty minutes into the match, Pochettino decided to do something about our porous midfield and constantly exposed right flank and pulled off the woeful Andros Townsend to bring on Moussa Dembele. Pochettino finally had the team set up in the tactics he arguably should have used straight from kickoff.
But Spurs didn't even have a chance to see if those changes would matter. Only three minutes later, Nabil Bentaleb had a mystifying and atrocious giveaway in midfield, passing it straight to Wayne Rooney. Rooney charged down the defense, embarrassed Dier, and put the ball past a probably frustrated Lloris, once more hung out to dry by the team in front of him.
After that, United were content to sit back on their three goal lead, relax the press, and hit Spurs on the break. Spurs spent the rest of the match dominating possession and doing precisely nothing with it. In the 53rd minute, Spurs finally had a shot, with Mason bursting forward from midfield and beating a man before lashing the ball a yard or so wide of the post. Yay.
In the 88th minute, Harry Kane had Spurs' only shot on target in the match. He nutmegged David de Gea, but the Spanish keeper literally sat on top of the ball and kept it out. So that's neat.
What a stupid game.
- We got destroyed by Michael Carrick and Fellaini. What even is this.
- Our team is super incredibly young and capitulating at Old Trafford is really not that shocking or shameful.
- Kyle Walker had his worst game for Spurs since his first season when he was nothing but a track-star. Maybe even including then. It was bad.
- Ryan Mason's totally pointless and ineffective pressing attempt on Carrick to leave Fellaini completely unmarked is the perfect microcosm of everything I find incredibly frustrating about his game.
- That said, he went off in the 64th minute and was possibly injured. We really can't afford to not have him if we have any hope remaining of a top four finish.
- Adebayor got on the pitch! And he was basically fine! The Kaboul Cabal shall rise again!
- Danny Rose had one bad moment where he completely failed to track Mata in the box in the first few minutes and it should have led to a goal. But after that he got his head down and had a very good match in a sea full of people playing super badly.
- Kane is getting into the phase of his awesomeness where teams dedicate a defender to mark him tightly for 90 minutes and try and smother him out of the game. We saw Chelsea do it in the Cup final and Smalling doing it again today. Let's see if he can clear this hurdle too.
- Even if it came to nothing, it was refreshing to see Pochettino make a big substitution inside the first half. That's hugely proactive for a guy who normally waits until the 60th minute no matter what.
- LVG gave a 19 year old his debut, which seemed super insulting. But then he brought on Falcao, and redefined what insulting means.
- Our season is probably over, so that sucks.