Manchester United delivered a hugely valuable performance for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as they beat Tottenham 3-0 in London on Saturday.
A run of one point from four Premier League games, culminating in that embarrassing 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool last week, had left the Red Devils manager knowing a bad result at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could have left his position untenable.
Solskjaer responded with a change to his system, starting with a back three and partnering Edinson Cavani with Cristiano Ronaldo, who broke the deadlock with a fine finish shortly before half-time.
The front pairing showed their value midway through the second half when Ronaldo set up Cavani to score his first Premier League goal of the season, with substitute Marcus Rashford slotting home a late third to pile the misery on Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 30, 2021
After something of an anxious start in which a blocked Cavani shot in the box was the best of the openings, Son Heung-min wasted a great chance when he poked the ball over the crossbar after taking down Lucas Moura’s ball.
Cavani glanced a header from 12 yards wide of Hugo Lloris’ right-hand post before Cristian Romero bundled the ball in from Eric Dier’s flick-on at a Spurs corner, although the assistant referee’s flag was correctly – if belatedly – raised.
There was no question of disallowing Ronaldo’s opener, though, the Portugal star timing his movement to perfection to meet Bruno Fernandes’ precise delivery and volley low beyond Lloris.
A spectacular second for Ronaldo after the restart was ruled out for offside, as Spurs showed some renewed attacking endeavour without managing to threaten David de Gea’s goal.
United were happy to wait for their opportunities and duly took the next when it arrived. After Fernandes robbed Oliver Skipp in midfield, Ronaldo’s clever turn and precise pass sent Cavani through, and his strike partner provided a delicate finish past Lloris.
Nemanja Matic, brought on to strengthen United’s grip on the game, provided the telling throughball that sent Rashford into the box where he calmly finished his second goal in three league appearances.
34+ – Cristiano Ronaldo setting up Edinson Cavani is the first time two players aged 34 and over have combined for a Premier League goal for Man Utd since Paul Scholes assisted Ryan Giggs vs Newcastle in August 2010. Feet. pic.twitter.com/fgC9CrKgkL OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 30, 2021
What does it mean? Solskjaer earns a reprieve – for now
United’s win lifted them back up to fifth in the Premier League, only three points behind Manchester City, who were earlier shocked at home by Crystal Palace.
Solskjaer is likely to be back in the firing line should his side lose the derby next week when the champions visit Old Trafford, but his job certainly appears safe for the time being.
Spurs, with five wins and five defeats from 10 games, are two points further back in eighth.
Deadly duo keeps Solskjaer alive
There was certainly far more stability about United with their change in system, but another real plus point was the partnership between Ronaldo and Cavani.
Their finishing was immaculate and the interplay for Cavani’s goal superb, while the extra body further forward helped to negate the need for the high-risk pressing that left United so exposed against Liverpool.
Trouble builds for Nuno
There were loud boos from the home fans when Lucas was substituted for Steven Bergwijn nine minutes into the second half, which said plenty about the difficult position in which Nuno finds himself.
A third defeat without scoring in four games means pressure is mounting on the Portuguese as Spurs head into what looks to be a kinder run of fixtures.
Key Opta Facts
– Manchester United earned their biggest away league win against Tottenham since February 2007, when they won 4-0 at White Hart Lane.
– Tottenham have now lost two Premier League home games by at least three goals this season (also 3-0 versus Chelsea) – they had only lost by such a margin at home once in the seven previous campaigns combined (3-0 versus Liverpool in 2014-15).
– Having won each of their first three Premier League games 1-0 this season, Spurs have now conceded at least once in their last seven. It is their longest run without a clean sheet since a run of 10 between September and December 2019.
– Tottenham have not had a shot on target in their last two hours and 16 minutes of football, since Harry Kane’s effort in the 44th minute against West Ham. This was the first time Spurs have failed to have a shot on target in a Premier League home game since December 2013 against Liverpool.
United head to Atalanta in the Champions League on Tuesday before next Saturday’s home derby with City. Spurs face Vitesse in the Europa Conference League on Thursday and then head to Everton next Sunday.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!