Hope was in the air as Tottenham Hotspur hosted Manchester United for their first home match of the 23/24 Premier League season. Ange Postecoglou’s side would have been disappointed to drop points away to Brentford, while United had a shaky start of their own, laboring to a win over Wolverhampton Wanderers and looking poor in the process.
Ange made two changes to the XI against Brentford, with Pape Matar Sarr coming in for Oliver Skipp, poor against the Bees, and somewhat of a surprise switch, with Pedro Porro starting in place of goal scorer Emerson Royal.
The match took on a topsy-turvy tone soon after kickoff. A quick attack early resulted in a shanked volley for Son before a Pedro Porro giveaway just outside his own box gave United a chance of their own, which Antony skied over the bar. United had another chance soon after as Marcus Rashford was played through into the Spurs box but Guglielmo Vicario made himself big and blocked the shot. Rashford was looking dangerous for the Red Devils and had another headed chance off a dinked pass from Bruno Fernandes, but couldn’t land the shot on target (and was marginally offside).
Tottenham fans were probably mildly concerned at how things were progressing, and a VAR check for a handball by Cristian Romero wouldn’t have helped the blood pressure much. Fortunately, in this case the call Oliver had made on the pitch stood. Spurs immediately broke up the other end, generated by James Maddison from his own box, before some good work by Richarlison found Sarr, whose shot was well saved by Andre Onana.
Perhaps the best chance of the half came when Mason Mount played in Bruno Fernandes behind the defense with a chipped through ball. The Portuguese midfielder had a free header 8 yards out, but his attempt was poor and looped past the goal as the home crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Spurs were the next side to nearly break the deadlock. Son made a dangerous run into the box before laying it off to Pedro Porro: his strike was true but could only clatter the crossbar, and Sarr followed up with some woodworking of his own as his deflected effort hit United’s post. The Lilywhites continued to build pressure late in the half, but the first 45 minutes came to a close with the scorers untroubled.
Tottenham started the second half sharply and soon put themselves into the lead through Sarr. Dejan Kulusevski attacked the 18-yard box, before cutting the ball back. The pass deflected off a defender and Sarr burst into the box late to smash it home off the half-volley.
The back-and-forth nature of the match continued, as United immediately drove up the other end, Antony cutting inside Mickey Van De Ven and rattling the Tottenham goalpost, before Destiny Udogie had an attempt saved by Onana, with Richarlison only just unable to reach the rebound.
Casemiro was the next player with a chance to score as both teams continued to rack up shots. Vicario made an excellent acrobatic save to cheers from the crowd, before following it up with an excellent diving stop on a curled effort from an offside Fernandes shot.
Spurs weren’t letting up though, and some smooth interplay between Bissouma, Sarr, Son, and Maddison found Son jinking through the box. It looked like it opened up for him to shoot on a couple of occasions but when he finally did his attempt was blocked.
Manchester United made a triple change to try get themselves back in the match, and Spurs followed with a double substitution of their own: Ivan Perisic came on for Richarlison, with Son shifting centrally into the striker role, and Ben Davies entered the fray for Udogie, who was on a yellow card. Christian Eriksen was one of the United players to arrive on the pitch, and the ex-Spurs number 23 was nearly responsible for a second Tottenham goal, as his slip nearly resulted in the ball falling to James Maddison in the United box.
Postecoglou continued to make changes to stay on top of the match, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg the next player to make an appearance. Sarr was the man to make way, as the N17 locals applauded an excellent performance.
It wasn’t long before Tottenham doubled their lead, with two of the substitutes combining to increase the margin. Ivan Perisic ran onto an excellent pass forward from Maddison before playing it into the box for Ben Davies, who had made a late run forward. The Welshman totally scuffed his shot, barely getting a feather on it, before Lisandro Martinez covering in behind was unable to sort his feet and knocked the ball past a stranded Onana. Owen Goal had his first of the season, and Spurs were up 2-0.
Late appearances from Manor Solomon and Emerson Royal helped close out the match for Spurs, as did Guglielmo Vicario - making a huge save at close range from Raphael Varane. Varane was offside, but it was a nice cherry on top to close out a competitive match with a clean sheet and secure the three points.
- I missed a Tottenham team that was easy to cheer for.
- This wasn’t one-way traffic though: United had a number of chances, especially in the first half - but Spurs turned up the heat in the second half and United eventually wilted.
- Spurs really struggled to play out in the first half, with a number of turnovers and United often getting to second balls first. I’m not sure what actually changed at half-time to wrest more control Tottenham’s way at the half (I’d have to watch it back) but I think it was partially due to dropping Sarr slightly deeper to get more involved with build-up, and letting Porro get a little higher.
- Speaking of Sarr - he had an absolute fantastic performance today. Took his goal well, involved in moving the ball up the pitch, and just owned that channel on the right-hand side, regularly breaking up attacks from United. It was night and day vs Skipp’s play last week, and I think it’s pretty unlikely the Englishman breaks back into the starting lineup for a while.
- Bissouma had another strong match, as did Vicario, whose performance will have calmed a few jittery Spurs fans. On the other hand, Van de Ven looked a lot more shaky than he did last week, and Richarlison hasn’t silenced any doubters: a couple of nice pieces of hold-up play aside, he struggled to get himself into positions to finish off a number of Spurs’ attacking moves.
- Manor Solomon: Human Victory Cigar
- An encouraging performance, and a great three points to open up our home account. On to Bournemouth!