Constant attacks through the inside left channel wore down our defence as it finished Man Utd 1-0 Spurs at Old Trafford.
In a match where good attacking chances were in short supply, a single goal was always going to decide the winner. Tottenham had the opportunities, good ones too. However, relentless attacks through the inside left channel saw us succumb to defeat by a score of Man Utd 1-0 Spurs.
Man Utd’s twin strikers
Mauricio Pochettino has been the master of team sheet deceit with his surprising formations recently. Shockingly, Jose Mourinho pulled one here. The Manchester United manager went with three centre backs, but also twin strikers. Marcus Rashford started up top alongside Romelu Lukaku rather than in his usual wide forward role.
The formation gave us trouble to start with as Man Utd were pressing high with their twin strikers to make it difficult for us to bring the ball out. Lukaku and Rashford were often siphoning Spurs towards the centre.
Positioning themselves wide to force the ball down the middle then saw the waiting Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic waiting to pounce.
The tactic meant that Man Utd gained an immediate upper hand. However, after 15 minutes, Spurs became used to it. The counter was to drop Harry Winks deeper to occupy Mkhitaryan. Moussa Sissoko, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli then buzzed around Matic and Herrera. Consequently, Spurs gained better possession higher up the field.
Attacks in the inside left channel
Manchester United showed their hand early with their twin strikers approach defensively. In possession of the ball, it took them precisely one minute to indicate their intentions.
The inside left channel was going to be their target. Toby Alderweireld was stationed alongside Serge Aurier on this side of our defence. Man Utd had identified that Aurier’s high positioning would leave Toby Alderweireld isolated. One minute in to the game and Ashley Young chipped the ball over Alderweireld’s head for Lukaku’s run. Aurier was closing down Young, leaving Alderweireld with space to defend.
Lukaku raced down the channel and cut the ball back across the box for the arriving Marcus Rashford. Fortunately, Hugo Lloris was quickly down to intercept the pass as it skidded through his six-yard box.
The pattern was set, but Man Utd would have to wait longer for their next opportunity through this channel, namely the second half. However, the attacks through here became increasingly frequent. Henrikh Mkhitaryan twisted and turned before skidding a shot that Hugo Lloris coughed up. Ben Davies was luckily on hand to pounce and clear in front of an empty net. Seconds later and Mkhitaryan was in once more. This time Young’s pass sprang him in to acres. Aurier had become massively separated from the rest of the defensive line. Mkhitaryan tore in and ringed a shot off Lloris’ near post.
Sensing this would be their avenue to success Lukaku brought a further save from Hugo Lloris. Lukaku was in the inside left channel once more and looking for the through ball as Alderweireld had become separated from Dier and Vertonghen.
Dangerous Dele Alli
Man Utd were attacking our inside left channel, but Dele Alli was our most potent threat. Dele has been used in a more withdrawn role, but was much higher up supporting striker Son Heung-Min.
Dele’s high positioning was key for Spurs. He was involved in all of our best chances. He was right on David de Gea to force some poor handling and lay the ball off to Moussa Sissoko in the first half. However, Sissoko blazed horribly high over the bar with a great chance to open the scoring.
After the interval and Dele would be involved again. Christian Eriksen’s lofted ball over a narrow Man Utd defence drifted deliciously in to Dele’s path. Unfortunately, he went with the outside of his right foot, making minimal contact and the ball squirmed past the post.
Dele then had the ball in the net. However, Serge Aurier was flagged offside despite being able to look along the line. Aurier was too eager to square for Dele to tap in.
Imploding in the Inside left channel
Dele had the ball in the net, but Aurier’s offside decision led to Man Utd’s move that won the game. David de Gea’s downfield kick was flicked on by Lukaku and finished by Anthony Martial.
There were numerous errors from our usually staunch defence. Toby Alderweireld was drawn out by Lukaku going short, freeing the space in the inside left channel behind him. Eric Dier was slow to recognise the danger or see Martial coming across from behind him. Jan Vertonghen’s starting positioning was too high and he failed to go with Martial as he ran past in to the channel.
The finish was scuffed, but it gave them a crucial goal to lead, Man Utd 1-0 Spurs.
Substitutes lack sustenance
In a grinding encounter such as this, Mauricio Pochettino’s changes were a little suspect.
Whether Mauricio Pochettino had one eye on Real Madrid and also considered that Sissoko and Son had played against West Ham is a possibility. However, once the two quicker players were taken off, Spurs lacked any kind of speed to stretch Manchester United. As a result, the game pace slowed, which benefited the Red Devils and allowed them to keep the playing area smaller and more congested.
The game ended Man Utd 1-0 Spurs with us offering little threat despite chasing a goal.
Man Utd 1-0 Spurs overall
Mauricio Pochettino said we needed to be switched on for the full 90 minutes and he was correct. Man Utd lead the Premier League in goals scored during the last ten minutes and they notched their tenth such one here.
The damage was often done through the inside left channel. Man Utd were using one of their twin strikers to run through here looking for the space beyond our high line. Lukaku and Rashford – Martial after he replaced him – were always seeking to run this channel with Toby Alderweireld often left isolated by Serge Aurier’s positioning.
A disappointing game and way to concede the decisive goal. What’s more, its further ammunition for those who seek to paint us with the “Harry Kane team” brush or our grim away record against the top six.
Final score: Man Utd 1-0 Spurs.
Spurs MOTM: Christian Eriksen.