Tottenham Hotspur’s hectic schedule continued with a trip to Old Trafford. Manchester United’s home ground hasn’t exactly been a happy hunting ground for Spurs over the years, with Tottenham dominating last year’s fixture but falling victim to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick to lose 3-2. United had also looked to be coming into some semblance of form after a rough start at the helm for Erik Ten Hag.
Spurs had been knocking off results of their own: though not exactly in vintage form, the performances of Antonio Conte’s men had been enough to continue securing points and the squad would have been confident heading into this fixture.
Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski were the two key injury doubts going into the fixture, with the Brazilian injuring his calf against Everton on the weekend. Due in part to this shortage of attacking firepower, Conte opted to roll with the 3-5-2 formation that worked so well in the second half against the Toffees, with a front 2 of Son & Kane and Bissouma coming into midfield.
Spurs looked confident in the opening minutes, moving the ball seamlessly from back to front and pressing high up the pitch. Bentancur made a run forward for an early chance, but struck his shot wide of the far post. Manchester United then started to grow into the game, and there was a bit of a scare for Hugo Lloris as he charged out to recover a Fred ball forward. Romero cleared, but it fell to Antony while Hugo was off his line. Antony took a shot which the Spurs keeper fumbled, and narrowly dribbled wide of goal. The United winger was involved once more as he cut inside on his left and curled an effort which struck the post.
Tottenham settled a bit after that, looking a little more comfortable in possession and pushing forward once more. There was another opportunity as Kane hit a gorgeous cross-field ball to Matt Doherty. He cut inside on his left to create a shooting opportunity but struck wide. United looked to strike back as Fred played an extremely good through ball to Rashford. Lloris redeemed himself from his earlier gaffe with an excellent save, followed by another from Bruno Fernandes’ free kick, and then yet another from a Luke Shaw volley.
The match was played at frenetic pace, with United employing an extremely high press, and Spurs looking to break forward when they could. A number of half chances ensued, especially for United who started to rack up their shot count, followed by a couple of head injury scares for both sides as Eric Dier took a shot from range squarely to the face. The half petered out, and United led 1-0.
The second half started poorly for Spurs. A long range effort from Fred was deflected by Ben Davies and dribbled past Hugo Lloris to put United into the lead. Lloris was then forced into yet another important stop as Rashford got free in the Tottenham box. Spurs looked to hit back though, as a snap shot from Harry Kane flew narrowly wide.
It all became a bit messy from then on as Spurs struggled to string passes together. Kane had a chance from close range but De Gea saved, and United broke forward, finding Bruno Fernandes at the top of the box. He curled his shot past Lloris, and United doubled their lead.
Hugo Lloris came to the fore again, as Romero made a bad giveaway and the ball fell to Rashford, who cut inside Eric Dier. His shot was well hit, but Hugo reached out and slapped it away. Spurs at this point were a rabble, totally unable to handle the United pressure and turning the ball over at will. Fernandes had the ball in the net once more after being found free in behind the Spurs defence and rounding Lloris, but he was offside.
Conte finally made a litany of changes with Davinson Sanchez, Lucas Moura, and Ryan Sessegnon entering the fray for Dier, Bissouma, and Doherty respectively, before Oliver Skipp and Djed Spence made late appearances. The substitutions had no impact on the overall result, as Tottenham limped to a 2-0 defeat.
- The jury is really out on the 3-5-2, with now a couple of strong sightings and a couple of poor ones. This one was REALLY poor; Spurs looked good in possession early on, though they struggled to recover possession when they lost it and looked a little open at the back. This devolved into a poor showing on both sides of the ball as they totally fell apart second half.
- With that said - going in, I did think the 3-5-2 was the right decision with the personnel available. God, do we miss Deki.
- No outfield Spurs player was good today, really. I thought we were going to have to have a conversation about the future of Hugo Lloris after his early brain explosion (and a couple of errors in recent weeks), but he stepped up and was the only reason Spurs stayed in the match as long as they did.
- Seriously, what is with Conte waiting until it’s far too late to make subs? It’s a hectic fixture schedule and what we were doing was clearly not working. It was bizarre, and seemed more like an attempt at damage limitation than getting back in the match.
- United pressed really high, and Tottenham just could not deal with it. First touches were poor, passes misplaced, and Spurs went into their shell. It’s a big concern that this seems to be somewhat of a blueprint now for playing Spurs.
- Things don’t slow down from here, as Tottenham host a strong Newcastle side on the weekend.