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Rose, Thorn, Bud — Tottenham 0-3 Manchester United

Coming to a crossroads in the Nuno era.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

In the most recent shambolic performance for Tottenham Hotspur under Nuno Espírito Santo, Spurs found themselves once again chasing a game in the second half despite not ever showing any clinical finishing ability. For Spurs, it has become a theme far too often this season that the attacking gameplan has looked completely inept. Just ten games in, Spurs have already had four games where they have gone down three goals in a game, two of which came at home.

In a game that was somewhat promoted as ‘El Sackico’ given the forms of both sides, playing Spurs provided for the perfect remedy for a Manchester United team that was reeling.

It was not like United played Spurs off the park in this game. Despite the difference in talent, United really did not do much in this game, instead relying on the individual lapses of judgments from Spurs players to convert into goal-scoring opportunities.

The questionable decisions started early in this one, in fact prior to the match kick-off. The starting lineup led to no surprises for Spurs outside of Nuno opting for Ben Davies over Sergio Reguilón at left back.

After the first 30 minutes or so, it was Spurs who looked like the better team on the pitch. Spurs had a few moments to break the deadlock, as Son Heung-min had two decent chances. Lucas Moura looked lively in opening up those opportunities, but Spurs were unable to convert. Around the 40th minute mark, the mistake that many expected from Davies happened when the Welsh international played perhaps the deadliest scorer in the history of the sport in Cristiano Ronaldo onside.

A perfectly-weighted ball as well as a ‘mis-jump’ from Davies led to a stunning finish from Ronaldo. After United took the lead, Spurs did respond by a threatening corner from Son. The set-piece got into a dangerous area and it looked like Cristian Romero was going to easily nod it home, but then it was Davies once again who made the mistake and headed the ball what seemed like miles into the stands.

Spurs seemingly sleepwalked through the first few minutes of the second half, but the questionable managerial choices continued around ten minutes into the second half when Nuno opted to take off Lucas for Steven Bergwijn. Lucas was arguably Spurs’ best attacker on the field and the substitution was truly a straight-swap of wingers.

A handling mistake from Oliver Skipp led to United’s second goal where Spurs were completely opened up via the combination of Ronaldo and hardened veteran Edinson Cavani. After a run of impressive performances from Skipp, both he and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg were pretty poor in this game. Nuno seems pretty set on keeping this defensive-minded midfield pivot but Spurs’ attack is looking extremely flat in large part because of it.

A third goal from Marcus Rashford completely put the game away, but perhaps the most concerning aspect from this game, among many, is that Spurs did not have a shot on goal. That is despite the fact that nearly the entirety of the second half was played in United’s half of the field.

Boos were loud and heavily felt towards the end of this game, ultimately pointing to the fact that the wheels seem to be coming off for Nuno and this coaching staff.

Let’s play another game of rose, thorn and bud to address and reflect the performances and takeaways from this game. As a reminder for those of this game, see the definitions below:

  • Rose: A highlight, success, small win, or something positive that happened.
  • Thorn: A challenge you experienced or something you can use more support with.
  • Bud: New ideas that have blossomed or something you are looking forward to knowing more about or experiencing.


Truthfully, the only positives from this game were the performances of new arrivals Emerson Royal and Romero. When the game was even, both defenders were doing a real good job of quieting Ronaldo and keeping the game at a deadlock.

Perhaps the duo of new arrivals will signal to Fabio Paratici and the board to continue to look towards refreshing the team. Outside of these two performances, the team overall was poor and quite meek. Son made his runs and Moura was creative at atimes, but the end product in attack was woeful.


Woof... where to begin on the woes? Let’s start with the game plan from Spurs. There seemed to be no plan in the attacking phases of the game. Spurs players looked to be focused on creating entirely by themselves, signaling that even they did not have a plan to fall back on. Looking at the substitutions, Bergwijn came on for Lucas around the 55th minute, but he did absolutely next to nothing in his cameo. Nuno’s substitutions look the complete opposite of creative.

To be quite frank, they have the feeling of suggested substitutions that the game of FIFA provides. All substitutions were straight swaps and the presences of all players brought in were not felt at all.

Next, Davies. No matter the opponent, whether it is the Red Devils from Manchester, Vitesse, or whomever, the individual mistakes from Davies feel like they’re endless. Offensive possessions end with Davies, and defensively he is not athletic enough to withstand attacking threats from the outside. It was a performance to forget for him.

If I had told you that during this game, Spurs had supposedly one of the best strikers in the world playing on the field, you would tell me I was lying. Harry Kane was absolutely nowhere to be found in this game. It felt like he never touched the ball and if he did, he dropped so deep that United’s centerbacks did not really have to worry about him. All of the goodwill that Kane built up with supporters over the years is really going down the drain before our eyes. The star striker looks half the player he was last season. He looks disinterested and lacking confidence. Spurs played a dangerous game in keeping Kane this past summer. And so far, it looks like they lost out big-time by not cashing out on their biggest asset.

We spoke briefly about it above, but the problems with the midfield pivot of Skipp and Højbjerg were felt immensely in this game. Skipp has a ton of potential for Spurs, but he did not look deserving of a start. Spurs have been pretty reluctant to use both Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele on the field at the same time, but for the sake of their attack, they may simply have to opt for it despite the potential drop in defensive stature.


There really are not any bright spots for Spurs to look forward to. Potentially this game could be yet another example for Spurs’ board to look at as they evaluate everything that is going on at the club. From top to bottom — manager and players — the club is showing once again to be in a position where continued refresh is needed in order to improve.

Because Spurs look extremely lost and low in confidence, perhaps it would be wise for Spurs to feature a heavily-involved first team in Thursday’s UEFA Conference League tie at home against Vitesse.

I feel like we keep saying it, but it cannot get much worse — can it?

Follow me on Twitter @RyanSRatty.