Toby Alderweireld and Romelu Lukaku in action during Man Utd 1-0 Spurs.

Man Utd 1-0 Spurs: implosions in the inside left channel

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.

Lukaku and Rashford split wide to force down the centre during Man Utd 1-0 Spurs.

Lukaku and Rashford split wide to force down 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.

Young looks for Lukaku through the inside left channel during Man Utd 1-0 Spurs.

Young looks for Lukaku through the inside left channel.

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.

Aurier and Alderweireld allow Mkhitaryan in during Man Utd 1-0 Spurs.

Aurier and Alderweireld allow Mkhitaryan in.

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.

Lukaku races in through the inside left channel during Man Utd 1-0 Spurs.

Lukaku races in through the inside left channel.

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.

Defensive errors allow Martial in to score during Man Utd 1-0 Spurs.

Defensive errors allow Martial in to score.

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.

Pochettino withdrew speed and replaced it with power. The rapid Son Heung-Min and Moussa Sissoko were taken off. The slow, but strong, Mousa Dembele and Fernando Llorente replaced them.

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.

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6 Responses to Man Utd 1-0 Spurs: implosions in the inside left channel

  1. paul blackaller 29th October 2017 at 7:40 pm #

    The keeper falls backwards again,Toby not tight Eric too deep which puts Jans position too far forward.A shame after so much hard work but you cannot make mistakes at this level and Dier should play in midfield

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th October 2017 at 11:33 pm #

      There were certainly plenty of errors made. Not so long ago conceding these types of goal was standard Spurs. We’ve come a long way given how disappointing shipping that type of goal was.

  2. YouShubes 29th October 2017 at 7:42 pm #

    Hey Mark

    I think it was always going to be the case that these difficult run of fixtures that started and ends with Real Madrid was always going to be a challenge. There is a bitter irony that the same quick long ball tactic that helped us beat Liverpool last week was our downfall yesterday. Jose is a master of these kind of trench warfare kind of games. United had the better chances and were deserving of their victory.

    I feel for Dier who had a solid game as the 3rd CB allowing Poch to keep Winks in the side. I think the speed of Sanchez would have makes it easier to form defending line of three and at 6’3 Lukaku was always going to win the aeiral battle vs Toby which Dier should have been ready for. I am hoping the positioning issues of Aurier can be resolved over the season if not by the RM game.

    As good as Sonny is he is not the frontman Kane is and any team would miss their goal scoring talisman…Be it Barca with Messi, Bayern with Lewdanwoski. I am hoping that Kane is fit enough for the RM game…Maybe Glenn Hoddle can put in a call to Eileen Drewery?

    What annoyed me about our away form vs the top 6 is that few teams have great records away from homes vs the top 6 which makes them the top 6. That said I have learned to tune our Jamie R and Souness after a while

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th October 2017 at 11:42 pm #

      Yes Jose tends to grind out these types of games by trying to make less mistakes than the opposition. Our one error was all they needed to get the only goal that they wanted.

      The second striker issue has reared its head once again. Son is not a striker and we have to look at ways to solve this either through promoting youth or bringing someone in. Both Janssen and Llorente are similar types of player, but neither has really performed at a high enough level consistently for Spurs.

  3. Erik Zen 30th October 2017 at 9:44 am #

    I agree the subs were misguided. Llorente seemed totally off colour but I don’t know if Son could’ve lasted 90 minutes at his high-intensity. What would you have done? I think Dembele should have replaced Winks and Sissoko should have stayed on. He is fast and powerful and seemingly can summon up a galloping run at any point, even when he’s been donkeying around all game.

    I thought we were frustratingly ponderous whenever we came into the final third. Was that just because United’s disciplined defense was closing off all options? Or was it the lack of Kane to provide a constant incisive option? It felt like few of our lot were willing to take a chance.

    Anyway we should not get carried away, losing a tight 1-0 at Old Trafford to the best United team since Fergie is not a disaster and the fact we are peeved that we didn’t scrape a win is testament to how far Spurs have come. Mou was very complimentary as well!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th October 2017 at 10:42 pm #

      I thought we should’ve started with Llorente and then brought Son on. Llorente seems to play much better from the start of games rather than as a sub. For me, he seems that he might just be one of those players that needs time to feel out a game and therefore needs to start rather than having limited time to make a quick impact from the bench.

      Like you, I would’ve changed Dembele for Winks also. Winks was beginning to flag, probably as a result of so many big games in quick succession, and he looked a little tired, both mentally and physically, in the last 20 minutes.

      I think Man Utd’s defence was disciplined, but we did lack someone running in-behind with the strength and power of Harry Kane. Kane has sneaky speed in that he is much quicker than he looks. He also is very strong and can knock defenders around, so he is a big miss for more than just his goals. It’s a difficult problem to solve without Kane in the team, but we did cause Man Utd issues when Dele was stretching their back line. Our best chance came from Dele’s run beyond their centre backs to meet Eriksen’s chipped ball over the top.

      We shouldn’t get carried away with the doom and gloom merchants, but with Man City motoring at the minute, we really needed at least a point to stay in the hunt.