Top four hopefuls Tottenham welcomed second place Manchester United to Wembley for a monumental Wednesday evening Premier League clash. Spurs knew they needed a win to keep pace with Liverpool after the Reds won away at Huddersfield. United meanwhile look unlikely to catch their City rivals before the season ends, but they too wanted a positive result in this game in order to maintain their lead over Chelsea.
Eriksen grabs an extremely early opener
With neither side wanting to make a mistake early on, Manchester United experienced the worst possible start, conceding to Christian Eriksen after just 11 seconds. A long ball wasn’t dealt with by Phil Jones, and Dele Alli nipped in to play a square ball to the Dane, who slotted it home coolly into the bottom left corner. To their credit the visitors responded brilliantly to the early setback, and Jesse Lingard almost drew United level immediately after being played in by Paul Pogba, but Hugo Lloris was out quickly to deny the England international. What the early goal did do was open the game up, and it became an attacking affair from the get-go.
For two teams that have been defensively solid all season, both Spurs and United allowed a lot of side in behind their back lines early on. The likes of Heung-min Son, Dele Alli, Alexis Sanchez and Lingard all saw lots of the ball in the opening 20 minutes, and Jose Mourinho’s men looked particularly dangerous on the break. Tottenham’s incredibly high defensive line allowed United’s pacey forwards to have a run at the defenders, but the home side dealt well with the pressure despite the space.
A Jones own goal doubles Tottenham’s lead
Having soaked up attack after attack from the visitors, Spurs almost managed to grab a second goal of their own on the counter attack. Eriksen played Harry Kane in on goal with a brilliant pass, but the striker’s effort was uncharacteristically weak and did little but sting the palms of David De Gea in the Manchester United net. Mauricio Pochettino’s side also began to exploit the space brilliantly, and the movement of Dele Alli in particular wreaked havoc amongst the centre backs.
It wasn’t long before Tottenham’s spell of good pressure allowed them to find an opening once again, and it was Kieran Trippier who was the architect. The fullback found himself in a lot of space down the right flank, and his low drilled cross ricocheted off the foot of an unaware Phil Jones, ending up in the defender’s own net. The awful moment doubled the home side’s lead, and gave United an even bigger mountain to climb.
The second goal buoyed not only the Spurs players but also the Wembley crowd, and rather than sit back and defend their lead they elected to push for a third to kill the game. They almost found it courtesy of an Eric Dier header from an Eriksen free-kick, but the defender couldn’t quite guide his effort inside the near post. In truth it was all Manchester United could do to hold out for just a 2-0 deficit heading into the break, but they managed it, and the Tottenham heading into half time with a comfortable lead.
Spurs continue to outclass United
While the second half didn’t start in quite as explosive fashion as the first, the breakneck tempo of the play resumed instantly, and both sides were keen to grab an early goal in the second period. Tottenham were the first team to go close, with Son dragging a low shot a few inches wide of the far post, but it was Dele Alli who continued to be the star of this game. The midfielder won every contested ball, made the perfect runs all evening, and linked up brilliantly with Son, Kane and Eriksen. Spurs looked hungry to add a third goal to the score sheet, and United struggled to deal with their intensity.
To their credit Manchester United responded well again to the pressure from Spurs, and Lukaku had a golden opportunity to grab a goal back as the hour mark approached. The Belgian was played in by a great looping ball from Pogba, but his powerful effort was stopped superbly by Lloris, who preserved his side’s two-goal cushion. Past the hour mark it looked as if United would begin their own spell of attacking pressure, but the withdrawal of Pogba and Lingard took some of the sting out of the Red Devils’ front line. The pair made way for Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata, and it was Tottenham who began to look the more threatening once again.
Tottenham see out their classy win
As the clock ticked down it was indeed Spurs who seemed the most likely to get a goal to add to their tally, and Son really should have provided that goal. The South Korean found himself in an excellent position in a channel down the right, and he slammed his shot towards the near post rather than squaring it to Harry Kane or driving it towards the far corner. With little time left the miss didn’t look as if it would cost the home side, but Kane was furious that he was denied his 100th Premier League goal.
Intriguingly Maroune Fellaini, who had only been on the pitch for seven minutes, was taken off by Mourinho, perhaps exemplifying United’s calamitous display. Even with just 10 minutes remaining there was little attacking impetus from United, and still Kane searched zealously for a goal. In the end the striker’s efforts proved fruitless, but those of his team certainly did not, and Tottenham ran out as deserved 2-0 winners in this high-profile encounter.
This crucial win for Tottenham not only allowed them to keep pace with their top four rivals, but also gain ground on both Manchester United, who they thoroughly outclassed in this game, and Chelsea, who were routed by Bournemouth. Spurs looked scintillating in this game despite Harry Kane not being at his best, and that is a scary prospect for the teams around them going forward.
It is not often that Manchester United are beaten quite as emphatically as they were by Tottenham in this game, but in truth Jose Mourinho’s side never looked like winning this game. Going forward they found a lot of space but never quite managed to find a killer pass or clinical finish, and defensively it just wasn’t their day. With their hopes of winning the title all but gone, United will instead have to turn their attention to keeping hold of a top four spot.
Tottenham: Lloris; Trippier, D. Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembele (Wanyama, 90+1’), Eriksen, Alli (Sissoko, 87’), Son (Lamela, 80’), Kane
Manchester United: de Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Young; Pogba (Mata, 63’), Matic, Lingard (Fellaini, 63’, Herrera, 69’); Martial, A. Sanchez, Lukaku
Goals: Eriksen (1-0, 1’), Jones OG (2-0, 28’)
Referee: Andre Marriner
Yellow Cards: Dembele (13’), Jones (38’), Young (73’), Alli (85’)
Red Cards: None
Tottenham: Lloris 7.5; Trippier 8, D. Sanchez 7.5, Vertonghen 8, Davies 8; Dier 7.5, Dembele 7.5 (Wanyama n/a), Eriksen 8, Alli 8 (Sissoko n/a), Son 7 (Lamela n/a), Kane 7
Manchester United: De Gea 6; Valencia 6, Smalling 6, Jones 4.5, Young 6; Pogba 6 (Mata n/a), Matic 6, Lingard 6.5 (Fellaini n/a, Herrera n/a); Martial 6, A. Sanchez 6, Lukaku 6
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