Lucas Moura celebrates scoring a goal with Christian Eriksen during Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham in the Premier League.

Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham: Eriksen diamond shift wins the game

Repositioning Christian Eriksen in Pochettino’s diamond proves decisive as it finished Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham in our Premier League clash at Old Trafford.

Man Utd threw an awful lot at Spurs. An unpredictable setup and an energetic closing down game initially hindered the effectiveness of Mauricio Pochettino’s diamond formation. However, a change to move Christian Eriksen from the top to the right point allowed him to shine and Spurs to win. The match finished a rather more comfortable Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham as the unshackling of Eriksen allowed Lucas Moura to steal the show.

Man Utd 3-5-2 vs Tottenham diamond

Mauricio Pochettino kept faith with the 4-4-2 diamond formation given its success during Tottenham 3-1 Fulham. The setup allows Lucas Moura to be a real factor, buzzing around and running off Harry Kane rather than being pushed out to play as a wide forward.

The formation affords Pochettino domination of the centre of the pitch, an area of the field he wants to control. Pochettino tinkers with the quartet in the middle. Mousa Dembele started at the base with Eric Dier at the right point. Early Man Utd pressing saw these two switch roles after 20 minutes.

Eriksen as a number ten in Pochetino's 4-4-2 diamond during Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham.

Eriksen as a number ten in Pochetino’s 4-4-2 diamond.

The key move though was to unleash Christian Eriksen. Operating initially as a number ten, Eriksen was starved of space as he was often overpowered by Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic. Shifting Eriksen to the right point and making Dele Alli the number ten setup Tottenham for victory.

Jose Mourinho was even more radical in his tinkering. Lining his team up in a 3-5-2 with Ander Herrera as the right centre back in a three caused initial confusion.

The 3-5-2 formation also gave us a load of trouble. The diamond was anchored in the centre of the pitch, but affording space on the flanks. It was therefore no surprise that Man Utd’s chances predominantly came from here. Luke Shaw providing crosses for Lukaku to head wide and scuff at Hugo Lloris. However, it was Danny Rose’s poor back pass when outnumbered out wide that gifted Lukaku his best opportunity.

Danny Rose under pressure gifts the ball to Romelu Lukaku during Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham.

Danny Rose under pressure gifts the ball to Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku rounded Hugo Lloris, but scuffed horribly wide with the goal gaping.

Pressing errors

Errors from pressure created the best chances throughout this game. Danny Rose’s poor back pass gifted Man Utd the opportunity to take the lead. If Lukaku had scored it we may well have seen a shift to the usual Jose Mourinho bus parking tactics.

Mousa Dembele also gifted Lukaku a glorious chance. Dembele’s heavy touch allowed Lukaku to fizz a shot towards Hugo Lloris’ far post. However, Lloris’ diving save was enough to get a glove on the ball and deny Lukaku once a gain.

Spurs were also benefiting from mistakes and miscues. Dele Alli closed in on Nemanja Matic and relieved him of the ball. As Dele bore down on goal he got caught in the headlights and neither found a pass to Harry Kane nor got a shot away.

Dele would do better in the second half after pouncing on a Victor Lindelof under hit back pass. After rounding David de Gea, he unfortunately couldn’t find a finish to ice the game.

In a match heavy on mistakes, the biggest error came from Craig Pawson. The referee waving away claims for a penalty after Phil Jones felled Lucas Moura. Jones got caught wrong side and shoved Moura to the turf for a blatant penalty. However, nothing was forthcoming from referee. Jones wouldn’t get away with his next mistake though.

Eriksen diamond shift wins the game

The match was level at half time and Mauricio Pochettino made a change. Christian Eriksen had struggled to be effective at the head of the diamond against the presence of Pogba and Matic.

Pochettino therefore switched Eriksen out to the right side of the diamond and moved Dele Alli in to the number ten position at the top. Suddenly Spurs could get more men in the box as Dele supported Moura and Kane. Eriksen then became the supply line as he got behind Man Utd wing back Luke Shaw and down the side of the three centre backs.

The strategy paid off after just four minutes of the second half. Kieran Trippier’s pass around the corner found Eriksen sneaking in-behind Shaw and down the side of the three centre backs.

Eriksen gets in to the space beyond Shaw and outside the centre backs to win a corner during Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham.

Eriksen gets in to the space beyond Shaw and outside the centre backs.

Eriksen’s pinged ball in found the arriving Dele Alli, who could burst forward more easily from the number ten position. Dele’s shot was blocked and went out for a corner.

The ensuing set piece was brilliantly executed to free up Harry Kane. Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld raced towards the near post to take their markers away. Whilst this was going on, Lucas Moura ran a loop around them and then out towards the edge of the box to lead Luke Shaw out from his position.

Dier, Alderweireld and Moura make their moves to free Kane to head in a goal during Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham.

Dier, Alderweireld and Moura make their moves to free Kane.

As a result, Harry Kane was left one-versus-one against Phil Jones. Kane shrugged him off and met Kieran Trippier’s inch perfect delivery to cushion a magnificent header back across goal.

The ball nestled just inside the post and Tottenham had the lead.

Eriksen at it again

Two minutes later and it was almost an identical passage of play. Trippier drew Shaw and released Eriksen in to the space beyond the wingback. The Man Utd centre backs were once more in disarray, as Ander Herrera hadn’t pushed out alongside Jones and Smalling, playing everyone onside.

Trippier releases Eriksen in to space once more during Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham.

Trippier releases Eriksen in to space once more.

Eriksen’s measured cross once more found its target as Lucas Moura stole in to sweep home. A brilliantly fashioned goal from Trippier’s nutmeg pass on Shaw through to Eriksen’s patient cross and Moura’s exquisite finish. Man Utd 0-2 Tottenham.

Man Utd defensive errors

Jose Mourinho responded by making changes of his own. The Ander Herrera experiment was brought to an end as they went to a back four. However, the introduction of Victor Lindelof made an already shaky defence begin to creak.

The Swede first gifted Dele Alli a glorious chance to wrap up the game with an under hit back pass. Lindelof then got caught hopelessly out of position, leaving Chris Smalling isolated and exposed to the pace of Lucas Moura.

The passage of play started with the ball at the feet of the dangerous Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean had given Trippier a tough time after his introduction. Sanchez’s clipped cross was cleared and Spurs swept forward. Fred got caught under the ball. Lindelof was then unnecessarily drawn in and gave Kane an easy pass to Lucas Moura. The Brazilian was now isolated one-against-one with Chris Smalling.

Smalling was no match for Moura’s speed or change of direction. Lucas tore past him and smashed the ball beyond the despairing dive of David de Gea, right in front of the jubilant away fans. Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham and all three points were headed back to north London.

Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham overall

After playing 4-3-3 throughout preseason, the diamond has surprisingly emerged as Pochettino’s new weapon.

The setup really benefits the hardworking pace of Lucas Moura. He can get in to advanced central spaces where his speed and sudden changes of direction can hurt opponents.

A tweak to shift Christian Eriksen from the top to the right played a major part in the first two goals. Eriksen could then find space for him to operate away from the congested central midfield zone. The shift proved the difference and allowed Lucas Moura to be the star of the show.

Final score: Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham.
MOTM: Lucas Moura.

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34 Responses to Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham: Eriksen diamond shift wins the game

  1. Andy B 28th August 2018 at 6:31 pm #

    Another top write up.

    Kane’s goal was superb and Moura’s 2nd goal looked like I was watching Maradona.

    I am so happy that Alderweireld is back in the team. He is a genius player and the best central defender around, in my opinion. Vertonghen is also fantastic and was our best player last season, by miles.

    It must be the best central defensive partnership in the premier league. Long may it continue.

    Massive game for Son tomorrow.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 11:21 am #

      If we can get Alderweireld to sign a new deal then it’ll be massive. His partnership with Vertonghen makes them the best duo in the Premier League and for all that Toby brings individually, the pair of them are much better combined.

      Massive game for Son. I’m eagerly anticipating whether Poch will switch him in to the role Moura was playing as well or if he’ll revert back to 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-2-1 when he plays?

  2. Mark from Virginia 28th August 2018 at 10:17 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    Well said as always! I love reading your posts- especially after putting a team like MU to the sword. Alderweireld and Vertonghen were outstanding as was Dembele.
    Trippier and Rose both had trouble getting forward – Shaw and Valencia did a job but moving Eriksen to the right allowed spurs to exploit the space behind Shaw which was key – I knew you would mention this!
    This is 2 games in a row in which Ponch has shown a new found ability to make well thought out tactical changes. The sky’s the limit if he continues this tactical prowess!
    Lucas Moura is a revelation- he is unplayable right now and defenses are going to have tremendous difficulty stopping Moura and Kane – what a great problem to have. Thanks for the analysis Mark, they are always a pleasure.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 11:25 am #

      Hi Mark, interestingly Poch mentioned before the game that the ability to switch formation and players in-game and seamlessly on the fly was a key thing he’d been working on over the summer. The shifts here and against Fulham back that up. His lack of a plan B was a common knock on him over the first few seasons, but this and last season he has definitely stepped up his in-game tactical changes. This will take us to another level.

      Moura has been fantastic these last couple of games. I remember the hype when he came to PSG from Brazil, but he never really fully backed that up. He seems to have found his stride and long may that continue!

      • Zaph Mann 29th August 2018 at 6:18 pm #

        It’s not just that Poch has a plan B and C, it’s that he has the coaching staff and players drilled to be able to switch. It was startling that Mourinho – who has been great at this in the past – was unable to revert EFFECTIVELY to any original style after the 3331 needed changing.

        The Fulham boss also cited the tactical switch in their match was decisive “we couldn’t cope with it”

  3. Mos 28th August 2018 at 10:35 pm #

    Hi mark, Great post,

    Had a feeling we would get something from this game just because of how Jose is reacting. But definatly didn’t expect a clean 0-3.

    I was really frustrated with Rose though. Felt like he was lazy out to the ball a number of times, and on another day we could have been punished. Hoping that Davies is back in from next week.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 11:29 am #

      Hi Mos, Rose doesn’t look like the same player anymore. I do wonder, having seen that Michael Owen interview where he talks about playing well within himself to avoid further injury and more time on the sidelines, if Rose is maybe doing the same? He looks half the player he was and at times on Monday night was very casual. I’d love to see him back at peak Rose flying up and down the wing, but I don’t think he is going to be that player ever again as the injuries have taken their toll both physically and maybe mentally too!

  4. Chas 29th August 2018 at 12:37 am #

    Does anyone else think this newly developed Moura/Kane partnership mirrors Klopp’s Salah and Firmino?
    I remember saying here last season during Llorente’s disappointing fill-ins when Kane was out that it had been reported that Moura could fill in as a striker if needed. With a pre-season under his belt and a double at Old Trafford, that may well be the case.
    Toby looks to be back in Poch’s good books and posting positive things on Twitter.
    And Winks is getting time on the pitch.
    Ain’t life grand just now?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 11:37 am #

      I did think in preseason that Poch was preparing the 4-3-3 formation that we saw to counter Liverpool and City to have two rapid, dribbling players off of the striker. City do it with Sane, Sterling, Mahrez or Bernardo flanking Aguero or Jesus. Liverpool do it with Salah and Mane off Firmino. Seeing as Liverpool have given City the most problems since Pep took over, I thought that Poch in preseason was preparing a 4-3-3 with Son and Moura off a central striker too – Llorente in preseason but Kane once the season kicked off.
      That 4-3-3 we saw in preseason has changed with Poch’s introduction of the 4-4-2 diamond, which is different to the 4-3-3 formations run by Liverpool and City. However, maybe it is to fulfill Poch’s objective of introducing speed to stretch opponents whilst still retaining control of the centre of the pitch with four players. This is his main objective to control the central zone. The diamond four trumps the trio of a 4-3-3 so maybe this is Poch’s move to combat Pep and Klopp?

  5. Brian 29th August 2018 at 6:10 am #

    Once again Mark,and very Comprehensive analysis.
    While in the first half,we appeared to be dodgey, defensively.With Poch tinkering with the system at half time.We came good.Thought most of Uniteds opportunities came from rebounds of Tottenham Players,with the exception of Rose;s back pass,that is.Most of the players appeared to work their socks off,and the team spirit looked great.Lets hope this is the forerunner to even greater things.

    Many regards Brian

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 11:42 am #

      Hi Brian, it was a real positive result that can propel us forward. A big momentum boost for us, whilst also knocking the wind out of the sails of a rival that is already rocking. Tough game to come at a tricky Watford side this weekend. We’ve always had success there by using wingbacks. I wonder if Poch will revert to 3-5-2 for this match to keep the Moura and Kane partnership, but also to get wingbacks in play?

  6. Zaph Mann 29th August 2018 at 7:25 am #

    This was a very “spursy” game – but upside down. We’ve attacked and upset teams in the past and missed our big chance (Lukaku) and half chances only to have the more clinical team win later —- many times. Spurs reversed this.

    The signs were there in the first half, Dele needs to be more incisive?

    Dembele was immense and his one per game major error was bailed by Lloris

    Pochettino donning the Simeone ‘don’ look

    It could become a thing…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 11:47 am #

      Dele played well, but there were several moments where he didn’t execute. The steal on Matic and chance to play Kane in during the first half. Then there was the long cross-field switch from Trippier, which put him in acres of space, but his shot was blocked by Herrera. After the interval there was the Lindelof back pass that he pounced on. It’s encouraging that he is getting in to these situations and i expect him to execute as the season progresses. He played the world cup injured and I wonder if there has been any hangover from that or if he has recovered but is still working up to speed? He looks just a tad off the pace at the moment.

  7. Toby4eva 29th August 2018 at 9:19 am #

    Great work Mark as usual.

    What a result!

    Our boys struggled early doors and Utd looked like a very good team.

    0-0 at HT was most acceptable!

    But a different game presented in the second stanza,

    Plenty of positives that have been nicely articulated by all contributors as usual of course.

    But two were most glaringly evident.

    1. Toby was back to his imperious best.

    Davinson is an unpolished chunk of the most concentrated form of pure carbon in the natural world, but Toby sits in the prime spot in the window of Tiffany on the Rue de la Paix!

    And Jan is marginally to the left of him.

    You are 110% right Andy B – my position is totally biased and supportive! The Belgians are the best!

    2. The Passenger was nowhere to be seen. We had 11 talented and purposeful players contributing at all times. Well, apart from Danny Rose who was pretty much woeful.

    But this is no time for nit-picking or unadulterated player assassination.

    Especially in a blissful SFZ*.

    Great start!!!

    Death Star into the Black Hole!

    And come on Sonny!

    Come on Son!


    *Ed – SFZ = Sissoko Free Zone

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 11:54 am #

      Toby was immense and looks like your handle could have some more mileage in it when Alderweireld leaving in the summer looked extremely likely. Having him fit, healthy, and by the looks of things committed, is a massive deal for us!

      Danny Rose doesn’t look 100%. As said to Mos, I do wonder how much being out injured is affecting his game from a mental standpoint and if that is having physical knock-ons? ie he is not running as hard or going in to challenges fully.

      Come on Son! I’m sure he is going to return and well see him and Moura blazing on the outsides of Kane at the spearhead of a 4-3-3. Eriksen, Dele and Dier in the trio behind. I think this team is going to be highly exciting to watch!

  8. Matt 29th August 2018 at 11:01 am #

    Thanks Mark, perceptive as ever. While it was a great result and good to Poch s in game responses working; why do you think we looked so vulnerable in the first half? But for Lukaku s lamentable finishing we could have been 2 or 3 down and game over.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 12:00 pm #

      Hi Matt, the issue with the 4-4-2 diamond is that it gives up space out wide where the full backs are often left to fend for themselves until the side player of the diamond can get over and help. Wingbacks are the best formation to counter a diamond and so Man Utd had the perfect setup, and that proved to be the case as Shaw and Valencia were creating chances, its just Lukaku couldn’t put them away. Their best chance – the Rose back pass – came from Man Utd having three players around Rose, leaving him no option but the keeper. So Man Utd had what they wanted, but failed in their execution. We could well have been a goal or two down, which made the 3-0 scoreline look a lot more comfortable than the game really was.

  9. YouShubes 29th August 2018 at 12:20 pm #

    Dele is a very clever player, but he looked bit cumbersome when he missed that chance after going round de Gea but then trying to turn back and hit it with his right foot rather than putting it away immediately with his left foot. Seemed reluctant against Fulham to use his weaker foot as well… Part of the learning curve I guess.

    For the last 6 years most teams played 1 up top, it seems we are seeing a return to two upfront?

    Saw your earlier post about the 433 counter vs Liverpool and City, my worry is that it needs Aurier at FB (who is erm questionable his positioning and decision making make Kyle Walker look like Franco Baresi) and rose who is struggling to recapture his best form?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 1:34 pm #

      I’m not sure we’re seeing a return to the classic two up top, but I think managers are going to be more creative to get attacking players forward so that they can also press and hound a defence to keep the ball in the opponent’s final third. Guardiola and Klopp do this with front threes. Poch seemed to be sending Dele Alli to close down the third Man Utd centre back along with Kane and Moura, so maybe this is his approach.
      I think we’ll see more managers playing 4-3-3 and others opting for 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 in order to achieve the objective of having more players in the final third for attacking and then counter pressing to regain the ball. This seems to be fueled by more teams wanting to play out from the back and therefore liable to turn the ball over. Most teams play out with a third player dropping in, so 4-3-3 or as Poch was doing by sending Dele Alli along with Kane and Moura achieves this.

  10. Toby4eva 29th August 2018 at 1:04 pm #

    …making make Kyle Walker look like Franco Baresi…



  11. Toby4eva 29th August 2018 at 1:12 pm #

    Nice one Sonny!

    Nice one Son!

    • Andy B 29th August 2018 at 3:01 pm #

      Sonny is in the final. Wow!

      Japan or United Arab Emirates to deal with on Saturday.

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 3:36 pm #

        Hope this is being shown somewhere on tv?

      • Zaph Mann 29th August 2018 at 6:30 pm #

        footy1 dot slash eWiK1vMhLa goals – we should sign Lee

  12. Toby4eva 29th August 2018 at 3:29 pm #

    Son Rise v the Rising Sun.

    Intriguing contest.

    Rarely has a Tottenham player had do much to play for.

    Get in there my son!


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th August 2018 at 3:37 pm #

      So much at stake! Should really be a movie made about this!

  13. Toby4eva 29th August 2018 at 3:39 pm #

    The MAIN man is BACK!



  14. Toby4eva 29th August 2018 at 3:44 pm #

    Indeed boss – incredible pressure for Sonny.

    Beating Japan in the final would completely redefine the concept of “a good Korea move”.

    (I’ve got a well worn James Brown gag left and then I’m all out of chips….).


  15. Erik Zen 30th August 2018 at 11:50 am #

    Son Rise v the Rising Sun. Nice! Japan is genuinely treating it as an U-23 comp though so you’d think it should be do-able.

    Comprehensive piece about Son’s predicament here:
    Even on BBC they were saying he’d have to go play for the military-backed team in the K-League if he did service, whereas in the article it appears it’s actually not possible and he’d have to do a desk job.

    A desk job – for two years in the prime of his career! That would be a serious waste of national resources!

    Superb analysis as always Mark, it’s scintillating to watch how our talented footballers can move into different areas of the pitch and aid the team in a totally different way. This is clearly the result of sticking with the same, extremely talented, first team for so long. Poch can be much more adventurous with his formations because the boys all know each other so well now.

    Interesting to see how Kane has dealt with defenses getting wise to him over the past year or so. He drops back much more now, happy to play provider and take one or two chances when he gets them. If he still manages to score more than last year it will be very impressive but Moura is going to rival him for top scorer in this form.

    Sánchez must feel a tiny bit hard done by… He was so good all of last season. Hope he will get plenty of game time.

    Watford next, one 100% record is going to have to break!


  16. Toby4eva 30th August 2018 at 1:36 pm #

    Lo-cal Man-ches-ter so-shal-meeeeeed-jah strong-lee soo-jest-ing that Tott-en-oom were fyooo-ell-ed by poo-ten-shall “Nyoo Dest-in-at-shun” (ed-“ill advised”) sponsors product at half time,

    Lucas Aid?


  17. Erik Zen 30th August 2018 at 2:15 pm #

    I tried to submit a long, brilliantly written post but it never went through. So I’ll have to leave this short shoddy one instead.

    Great analysis Mark! This fluid diamond is incredible. Advantage of playing for so long with the same players, Poch can play 5D chess, moving them around in a bewildering variety of killer combinations.

    Kane seems to have dropped deeper in the last year or so to avoid being mobbed by defenders. He is content to be more of a provider and pop up with one or two chances where it matters. Moura looks like a rival for golden boot. Imagine Lucas & Sonny either side of Kane – dynamite.

    Speaking of Son’s “good Korea move” (brilliant) great piece on his predicament here: He wouldn’t even be able to play for the K-League military-backed football team because of some stipulation… Meaning he’d have a desk job for two years during the best period of his footballing career. Criminal waste of national resources.

    Watford next, one team’s 100% record will break! COYS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th August 2018 at 11:19 pm #

      Sorry Erik Zen, I had to fish your excellent comments out of the spam filter as any comment with a URL link in goes directly in there as it’s usually spammers and link droppers.

      Kane’s roll in this new system will be fascinating to watch. As you point out he is not focussed on just being a scorer and so his goal numbers may drop but it could well be more than made up for by increasing others goal outputs, therefore improving the team. With goals from more sources, it’ll make us harder to stop.

      Hopefully a win against Japan will render all this Son stuff moot. Strangely, it feels like one of the biggest and most eagerly awaited games in Tottenham history!

      • Shuban 31st August 2018 at 1:05 pm #

        Think Harry will burn out less just because he has help more closely to him… Dele did a great job as does Eriksen but none have that direct pace that Lucas has…I was surprised to see this but apparently before Neymar came he was top scorer behind Cavani for PSG

        Poch tried something similar vs liverpool a few years ago but Jansen does not have the pace or the skillset to play that role.

  18. Toby4eva 2nd September 2018 at 1:02 am #