Jose Mourinho’s lineup reflected a familiar front six with another defensive alignment change. The writer’s room was discussing this and how many times Spurs have changed things up in the back. We got our answer from Jonathan Veal on Twitter and the number is kind of wild:
Jose Mourinho has selected 16 different defensive combinations in the Premier League this season. The latest of Aurier, Rodon, Dier and Reguilon enjoyed its only previous in a 0-0 draw at Chelsea in November. #THFC— Jonathan Veal (@jonathandveal83) April 11, 2021
This match had the opposite start of the prior meeting this season where it was goals aplenty. Spurs and United traded possession with only a couple of chances in the first fifteen minutes. An early corner with a Sonny scuff was arguably the best opportunity. Spurs focus seemed to me limiting midfield touches, specifically to Bruno Fernandes.
Tottenham managed to keep their shape and stifle the United attack when the visitors had possession. Tanguy Ndombele was the standout as he tried to set a record for the number of stepovers in a single possession on a couple of different opportunities. Neither side could unlock each other’s defense regardless of what they tried as the match cleared the 30th minute.
Manchester United thought they got the opening goal in the 34th minute as the Red Devils built up an attack. Scott McTominay managed to feed the ball to midfield but, in the process, hit Son Heung-Min in the face. One pass later and Edison Cavani was in behind the defense and slotted the ball into the goal. VAR checked the build up, including a sideline look at the monitor, and ultimately ruled the goal disallowed because of the foul.
That scare woke up Spurs. Taking possession post-foul, the build up started in the back and worked to Giovani Lo Celso. He found Ndombele, who fed Harry Kane. Victor Lindelof missed the interception to free up Lucas Moura, who selflessly passed it across the box to Sonny. One touch later, Spurs were up 1-0. Edison Cavani let his frustration boil over after his disallowed goal not long after, fouling Joe Rodon and then getting into a pushing match with Eric Dier, earning a booking in the process.
Neither side made a change to start the second half. United seemed to change their tactics a bit and work the flanks more, trying to release Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka to loosen up the Spurs defense. The tactics worked enough to free up Cavani in the 50th minute, getting a shot away but one that was well wide of the target. United had a much better chance five minutes later as McTominay was fed a shot from Wan-Bissaka from distance, forcing Hugo Lloris into a diving save.
Sadly for Spurs, it was third time’s the charm in the half for United. The Red Devils never lost possession and put together a string of passes to release Cavani again. His shot was saved by Lloris but the rebound fell to Fred, scoring top shelf to equalize.
Spurs fired back after the restart, putting a good possession and attack together that got Sonny a decent chance from ten yards out. Dean Henderson wasn’t fooled this time as he made a kick save to keep the match level. Hugo had to do the same on the other end just a couple of minutes later on a long distance effort by Fernandes. With chances coming both ways, it felt like there was a winner for someone.
It took some time, but shortly after Mourinho subbed out Ndombele for Erik Lamela, United found the go-ahead goal. United kept working the flank to get Mason Greenwood a chance to cross into the box. Cavani completed a diving header past Hugo to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Mourinho opted to bring on Gareth Bale for Lucas Moura after giving up the goal, clearly needing at least a goal to salvage a point after surrendering the lead. Spurs almost got their equalizer on a corner kick in the 84th minute where Sonny’s kick in almost deflected into the net, but instead went off the far post.
Six minutes of stoppage were given somehow, though it didn’t matter much. United maintained the possession necessary to keep Spurs away from the attacking third after the close call on the set piece. United brought on Nemanja Matic to shore up defending for Bruno Fernandes while Spurs struggled to find any way forward in the dying embers. United put the nail in the coffin in the 96th minute as Mason Greenwood scored from a Paul Pogba pass.
Thoughts on the Match
- The first half was arguably the best Spurs have played in a long time. They held possession and defended well, VAR disallowed goal aside. Then halftime came and something changed. It’s not hard to figure out, as Seb Stafford-Bloor pointed out when the equalizer came:
Just 26.8% Tottenham possession between taking the lead and giving it up.— Seb Stafford-Bloor (@SebSB) April 11, 2021
- For as good as Spurs looked and as well as they maintained possession, the second half was a mess. While I can understand if Gio can’t go 90 minutes yet, bringing on Sissoko was such a poor decision. The midfield fell apart and Spurs basically had no answer.
- Sergio Reguilon has not been good for a while now and I really hope this is just a run of poor form, but he got beaten up today as did a lot of players.
- There’s no sugar coating this: I’m over the Jose Mourinho experience. I want him sacked for turning this team into one of the most boring and joyless sides. You can hand-waive a lot of things when you’re winning, but Spurs aren’t winning and are threatening to fall completely out of Europe. That’s unacceptable.
- Before anyone asks, I don’t care who the caretaker is, but giving Ryan Mason the reins to end the season is fine by me. He’s done well with the UEFA Youth and we know the club think highly of him. Most importantly, he falls into my main category of “Not Jose Mourinho” so he immediately becomes a favorite.
- Spurs face Everton on Friday and I pray that someone other than Mourinho is in the coaching box, but I know I’ll almost certainly be disappointed.