Premier League 2018-19: Manchester United vs Tottenham- How it all unfolded
The whole of last week, in the buildup to this high profile clash, was centered around Manchester United's pitiful showing at Brighton, their defending woes and the very cold interaction between Mourinho and the press in the pre-match press conference. However, by the end of the night, all the chatter was about the sheer clinical performance by the Spurs side.
Tactics, Gameplan and Formation
As the match drew closer, news of Nemanja Matic getting into the starting lineup for United started filtering in. Though a key midfielder coming back to fitness would have excited many, there were reports suggesting that he would play in central defence, another statement to the board by Jose.
The United boss then went on to surprise us all, giving Ander Herrera the defensive role in a a 3-5-2 which played out more like a midfield diamond of Matic, Fred, Pogba and Lingard with Lukaku up top and the full backs providing the width.
Tottenham on the other hand lined up with a 4-4-2 diamond as well, but much more structured and at ease with their system.
One of the points of focus around which most of the commentary and post match discussion has revolved is the intent shown by the home team. In stark contrast to the previous defeat, United had a degree of aggression and intensity which worked very well in the first half. The high press by United put Spurs under a lot of pressure intially, almost leading to a goal by Lukaku.
The change in approach was visible right from the off and after the first minute effort from Fred the crowd fed off the same and sensed a special evening where they had an equally important role to play as the players.
A match which looked to be slipping away from Spurs was flipped on its head less than 10 minutes into the second half. Harry Kane's very well taken header from a Kieran Trippier corner was followed up in quickfire fashion by Lucas Moura. He finished off a neat move involving Eriksen down United's left exploiting the space between the center back and the full back.
In many ways the match was even in all other departments except the efficiency of the finishing. United had 5 shots on target,attempting 23 in total in comparision to Tottenham needing only 9 to shots in totality to get the three goals.
Lukaku's open goal miss in the first half sums up the scoring form showed by the Reds.
Defensive errors strike again
3 of the back 4 had been changed by Mourinho in the aftermath of the schoolboy defensive acumen displayed by Bailly, Lindelof and co. It seemed to be going well too, with Smalling looking in control in the first half and Herrera doing a decent enough defensive job.
This experimentation came back to hurt United. The second goal not only highlighted Ander Herrera's lack of defensive nuance but also gave us an insight into the panic stricken decision making of Chris Smalling who exhibited little awareness of his surrounding.
When Lindelof came on for Jones in the second half, he tried his best to reinforce Mourinho's desire to bring in a new center back by playing a weak back pass which was extremely well saved by De Gea.
What all these events did is drive the Jose needs new center backs narrative more fiercely even after the transfer window is closed leaving the fans in limbo as to who the culprit is - Mourinho, Woodward or the players themselves.
Not all hope lost
A dismal result when supposedly playing well is exactly the kind of thing that turn fans against the manager and the team, but the United fans, as Jose rightly pointed out knew better and chose to appreciate the effort. In response, we got a moment post the game where Jose applauded the Stretford End for a good minute, soaking in what had just happened and perhaps thinking of reigniting the season so to say from the next match onwards on a tricky trip away to Burnley.
The post match press conference containing references to who's won how many titles seemed a little extra, a similar fiery return to the pitch next week wont be too bad though.
On to Burnley next week, a chance to get things back on track for Jose and his men, till then the advisory for all United fans is to avoid all football related conversations till the 2nd of September.