Analysis – Man United vs Spurs


Tottenham put in a solid performance to defeat Manchester United 2-3 at Old Trafford, scoring their first goal within 90 seconds and ending the first half 0-2 up.  The hosts depleted defense were in shambles and even with a resilent effort in the second half, United were unable to pull off one of their famous comebacks this time around.  With the woodwork denying them on a few occassions and their new striker missing a few, it just wasn’t meant to be United’s day.  Andres Villas-Boas and Spurs on the other hand left Old Trafford with a victory, 23-years after the last time that happened.

Match Report – BBC

BCC’s Howard Nurse writes in his match report: Tottenham ended their 23-year wait for a victory at Old Trafford as they held on to take the points against Manchester United in a pulsating encounter. Spurs looked to be in total control after first-half goals from Jan Vertonghen and Gareth Bale gave them a comfortable advantage at the break.

But United, who were awful in the first period, hit back through Nani before Clint Dempsey restored Tottenham’s two-goal advantage. Shinji Kagawa immediately struck again for United as they poured forward in a bid to maintain their long unbeaten run against Spurs. United pressed hard with substitute Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick hitting the woodwork and they saw several appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Chris Foy.

It was a victory which delighted the large contingent of Tottenham fans who last saw their side win at Old Trafford in 1989 when Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker scored the winner for Terry Venables’ side. For United, it was their second defeat in six Premier League games, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson could have more defensive injury problems after Jonny Evans finished the game in some discomfort.

Comeback Kings?

Comebacks have a capacity to overshadow everything that precedes them. They have an irresistible momentum. They provide compelling drama. They forge identities as inveterate adventurers, where no situation is so desperate, no cause so doomed that a rescue effort is in vain. And so it was, on the 11th anniversary of perhaps the greatest ever fightback of Sir Alex Ferguson’s long reign, that Manchester United attempted to stage a sequel.

Wayne Rooney was rampaging, Robin van Persie creating. Pushing 38, Paul Scholes seized control of the game, setting up wave after wave of attack. Having trailed 2-0 and 3-1, United threatened a repeat of the September day in 2001 when they trailed 3-0 to Tottenham and won 5-3, or the 2009 clash when Spurs’ 2-0 lead was transformed into a 5-2 deficit. They scored twice, hit post and bar, appealed for penalty after penalty and drew save after save. Spurs were besieged though not ultimately beaten.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Gareth Bale – A game of two halves could have had men of each period, but Bale had an impact in both. Despite suffering from flu in the week, he was devastating before the break and also had a hand in Spurs’ crucial third goal. It was also the third to involve him. How Ferguson, who was interested in the Welshman when he moved to White Hart Lane, must wish he had bought Bale.

MANCHESTER UNITED VERDICT: The combination of Rooney and Van Persie offered much for the future, but it only served to reinforce the impression that this is a side which may be potent going forward but has problems further back. They are down to their last two central defenders and one of those, Evans, finished the game with a dead leg. Ferdinand requires more protection, something a one-paced midfield is ill-equipped to offer. Scholes was superb in the second half but his limitations were apparent before then. Antonio Valencia was missed, if only for what he offers the team defensively, while there is a case for playing a more energetic central midfielder, especially if Darren Fletcher returns to his best.

TOTTENHAM VERDICT: Terrific. With solidity in the middle and speed on the flanks, Villas-Boas’ gameplan was excellent. Dembele and Sandro are shaping up to be one of the best central midfield partnerships in the country while William Gallas merits a mention for his second-half resistance. This Villas-Boas team, unlike the last, has real spirit.

Read the rest of Richard Jolly on a comeback too far.

Tactical Analysis – Zonal Marking

An excellent first half performance put Tottenham in control, and they hung on with a fine defensive performance in the second half. Sir Alex Ferguson brought Paul Scholes back into the starting line-up and used Ryan Giggs on the left. Wayne Rooney was on the bench.

Andre Villas-Boas chose Clint Dempsey ahead of Gylfi Sigurdsson, and played Jan Vertonghen at left-back with Steven Caulker coming into the centre of the pitch. Brad Fridel continued in goal. The halves were completely different – Tottenham were excellent going forward before half-time, before gradually sitting deeper and deeper in the second half.

Formations: Dempsey provided alot of energy as did the rest of the attacking Spurs players which helped in United not finding their rhythm. United were trying early on to get the ball to Nani so that they could exploit Vertonghen who was playing out of position at let back.

It was Vertonghen who got the early breakthrough, however, with a direct run at the heart of the Manchester United defence, and this sums up what Spurs did well throughout the first half – they dribbled directly towards goal and took United by surprise.

Tottenham’s directness on the ball was highly impressive, epitomised by Dembele’s second excellent performance at Old Trafford in just over a month, and replacing a passer like Luka Modric with a dribbler like Dembele has changed the way Tottenham play in that zone. For the second week running, United’s lack of a ball-winner was an obvious weakness.

United were very poor in the opening half, unable to provide reliable service to their forwards. United haven’t had a player like Kagawa for a long time (arguably, never before in Ferguson’s tenure) and they’re unaccustomed to basing their play around a direct number ten.

ZM also looks at how United’s changes resulted in them looking more fluid; how and why Spurs dropped deep and how they coped or did not cope with United’s pressure. Read Zonal Marking on how Spurs attack directly and then defend deep.

Fans View

Over at ESPN Soccernet, Mark Payne for Man U writes on how Kingmaker Scholes shines as United falter. Manchester United’s run of playing badly and winning had to end at some point. This result was long overdue for Tottenham, but they only half deserved it in the end. To be specific, they deserved to win the first half. After the break, United murdered them, but to no avail.

What made that opening period all the more alarming is that United put in a stupendous performance after the break. The discernible change was the introduction of Wayne Rooney for Giggs. Suddenly, we were a different team.

The lethargy at the start was appalling, but this breathless game of football will live long in the memory. For all the positives we can draw from the excellence of our forwards, this is a very early juncture of the season and we have lost two games already. In some seasons, that would cost you the league. We can only hope this isn’t one of them.

Dan Fitch however feels that Why Spurs won’t have to wait another 11 years for a win over Manchester United. I wasn’t in the least bit nervous when Spurs took on Manchester United yesterday. Not because I thought we would win, but because I was pretty certain that we’d lose. In contrast, the final half-hour or so was like a particularly nasty and effective form of mental torture.

History has taught Spurs fans not to get too carried away with a 2-0 lead, especially against United, but we somehow managed to hold on against their onslaught. The resilience and team spirit shown made a mockery of the headlines in The Sun, which proclaimed that Spurs were in crisis on the morning of the game.

Read the full Man U blog and the Spurs blog on ESPN Soccernet.

We would like to hear from you, so please feel free to comment below on the match.

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