Alexis Sanchez scores a goal during Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham in the FA Cup Semi Final.

Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham: loss by left-sided overloads

The Red Devils overloaded on their left to advance to the FA Cup final by a score line of Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham at Wembley Stadium.

Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez were key to Jose Mourinho’s plans. The Man Utd manager sought to overload on their left side as the Red Devils conceded once, but scored twice. As a result, our FA Cup Semi Final clash ended Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham at Wembley Stadium as Mourinho got the upper hand.

Man Utd’s lopsided 4-3-3

Jose Mourinho went with his classic 4-3-3 formation. The Man Utd manager set a trio of Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba in central midfield. Pogba took up the most interesting position. He sat off to the left of the trio and was constantly looking to combine with the left-sided wide forward. Often this was Alexis Sanchez, but Jesse Lingard also filled this role.

Pogba was constantly seeking to create overloads on the left and this had both positive and negative impacts. In attack it would see Kieran Trippier overwhelmed as Sanchez and full back Ashley Young joined in. However, in the defensive phase, Young was frequently exposed and left to fend for himself.

The tactic saw Man Utd fall behind, but also score twice to win the match.

Tottenham exploit Man Utd’s left-sided plan

This FA Cup semi-final started at a frantic pace. We were quickly in to stride and our attack had two successful outlets, the wide areas.

Down the left Son Heung-Min was giving Antonio Valencia all he could handle. However, it was down our right that the game was really opening up. This flank saw Ashley Young left exposed as a result of Paul Pogba’s actions and the game’s first goal.

Man Utd had tried to squeeze Davinson Sanchez on the ball. Alexis Sanchez raced in to press him and Ashley Young tried to cover his out pass to Kieran Trippier. However, Sanchez then picked out an exceptional long ball downfield towards Christian Eriksen.

Pogba’s recovery run was late as he was caught by surprise. Eriksen was therefore on his way and in to the space that Young had vacated.

Young, Alexis and Pogba caught by Eriksen's run and Davinson's pass during Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham in the FA Cup Semi Final.

Young, Alexis and Pogba caught by Eriksen’s run and Davinson’s pass.

Eriksen’s cross was pinpoint. Dele Alli arrived right on cue to sweep home at the back post. Tottenham 1-0 Man Utd and the dream start had become reality.

Man Utd left-sided attack

Jose Mourinho had set his team up to overload the left flank and that is how they would hit back.

Paul Pogba was the key figure, but interestingly Jose Mourinho moved Romelu Lukaku to the right wing. Lukaku was constantly aiming to match up on the shorter Ben Davies aerially at the back post. The tactical shift let both Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez rotate in and out of the centre forward position vacated by Lukaku. It would be Sanchez, set up by Pogba, who would level the scores.

Mousa Dembele is always strong and positive in possession. He is highly difficult to relieve of the ball. However, he had a torrid time up against Pogba’s size and length. It caused him no end of issues and he always seemed to be ponderous and second-guessing himself.

It came to fruition as Dembele received the ball and instead of easily escaping up the line, dribbled right back in to Pogba.

Dembele dribbles straight back in to Pogba's challenge during Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham in the FA Cup Semi Final.

Dembele dribbles straight back in to Pogba’s challenge.

The Man Utd man relieved Dembele of the ball. Pogba turned and floated in a deftly curling cross. Not anticipating the turnover Davinson Sanchez was playing everyone onside, which allowed Alexis Sanchez to steal a march on both Ben Davies and Jan Vertonghen. His cushioned header was planted back across the helpless Michel Vorm and a previously under pressure Man Utd were somehow level.

Tottenham fail to capitalise

Jose Mourinho coaches his teams to play error free and wait for the big moments from the opponent’s mistakes in these huge contests. His team had profited from one such Spurs error and later they would capitalise on another.

Inbetween the goals, Tottenham did have chances, but failed to push the advantage home. Christian Eriksen was peeling off in to the spaces Pogba was vacating and trying to gang up on Ashley Young. On the other flank, Son Heung-Min was dribbling at Antonio Valencia, creating a cross that saw Phil Jones clear from the feet of the arriving Dele Alli. Earlier, Harry Kane had just failed to get to a deliciously inviting cross towards the far post.

On the stroke of half time, Eric Dier would hit the post, but that would be as close as we would come to going back ahead.

Long ball Lukaku

Man Utd 1-0 Spurs earlier this season saw us lose by a long ball flicked on by Lukaku for a runner to finish. We obviously hadn’t learnt from our lesson. The Red Devils would take the lead from again looking long for big Rom’s flick on.

Once more Man Utd were looking to get down the left. David de Gea sent a booming kick towards the axis of Lukaku, Pogba and Alexis Sanchez. Lukaku rose and beat Davinson Sanchez in the aerial contest. His flick on fell to the feet of Alexis who was able to fend off Kieran Trippier.

Alexis Sanchez’s pull back inadvertently turned in to an exceptional pass for the arriving Ander Herrera. Lukaku’s touch deflected the ball perfectly for the Spaniard to run on to. Jesse Lingard blocked off Ben Davies from challenging. Herrera’s shot went under the slow to react Michel Vorm. A big moment from another error had been taken advantage of. Suddenly the score was now Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham.

Man Utd narrows up

Taking the lead at Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham saw the Red Devils drop and narrow up. The 4-3-3 became a very compact 4-1-4-1, as Man Utd was content to play on the counter attack.

Space in the central zones came at a premium as Man Utd gave up room on the flanks. As a result Mauricio Pochettino introduced Lucas Moura. A wise move, but Moura was instructed to play in the inside right channel and leave Kieran Trippier on the wing.

Narrow defence leaves Trippier free but Moura in congestion during Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham in the FA Cup Semi Final.

Narrow defence leaves Trippier free but Moura in congestion.

The issue was that Trippier had the space but not the speed or tricks to take on Ashley Young. With stand-in full back Jan Vertonghen on the other flank, we lacked the pace in both wide areas that was required.

As a result, Man Utd could then junk the game. Time wasting and faux injury antics were supplemented by our frustrated and needless fouls. The contest was slowed right down and played at their pace with no rhythm rather than the quick tempo match we prefer.

Ashley Young was booked for time wasting. Antonio Valencia should’ve seen a second yellow for hauling down Dele Alli by the corner flag, before proceeding to waste three minutes with cramp and then being substituted. A Mourinho master class in match management.

Mauricio Pochettino threw on Victor Wanyama and Erik Lamela, but to no avail. Time ran out and with the score Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham it was yet another FA Cup Semi Final defeat. A bitter one to swallow given how well we’d played in large parts, but threw it away in two moments.

Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham overall

Man Utd’s ploy to use Paul Pogba to overload the left saw us take the lead, but then resulted in them winning the match.

Mauricio Pochettino got his initial tactics right, but needed to adapt the more Pogba came in to the game.

Pochettino’s initial selection of Michel Vorm was a curious one. Vorm has been the FA Cup keeper and although his distribution is streets ahead of Hugo Lloris, his shot stopping has always been inferior. He is too slow to get down to shots and then doesn’t have strong wrists to control rebounds or deflect the ball away to safety when he does.

As frequently happens in big game contests against Mourinho, he can fashion out more mistakes from the opposition than his side commits and exploit these moments. Once he is ahead, his team can slow down and break up any kind of flow to the game developing.

There are only so many times Spurs can keep putting these big occasions down to a learning experience. We’ve had enough of these tastes of big games now that we need to start learning how not just to play well in large parts of them, but also how to convert promising positions in to victories.

Final score: Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham.
Spurs MOTM: Jan Vertonghen.

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24 Responses to Man Utd 2-1 Tottenham: loss by left-sided overloads

  1. Luther 22nd April 2018 at 11:01 am #

    A few things:

    1. This didn’t hurt as much as the Juventus loss. & maybe-ish the West Ham Carabao loss. Those two matches felt much more winnable than this.

    2. Kane feels like a burden on the team. His return was too rushed. I was disappointed to see him subbed on against Chelsea when it was not necessary. The chase for the Golden boot is blatantly detrimental to the team; I don’t want him catching up to Salah mainly because Salah has been phenomenal. Poch must clearly see this but player power, I guess?
    I dare say Kane should only have played one of those 3 matches. The City game, from the bench

    3. The theme of spursiness is back. In all knockouts, we’ve led those matches before losing due to reluctance to either make in-game subs or tactical changes when the opposing team changes up on us.

    4. Our players were static against Utd in the last 15min. They seemed to expect Eriksen to pull something out of his ass while all standing still. I didn’t see any runs.

    5. Our fullback areas, are highly questionable. I’m looking at you Davies(for this match)

    6. Son made some good runs but non-consequential runs. Aside from his cross to Kane earlier on, he was easily muscled off the ball and never beat Valencia 1v1 effectively killing our counters.

    7. Moose had a 50-50 game. Just that his mistakes were lethal.

    8. I love you Jan!
    Deserves his place in the Team of the Year unlike Otamendi. Would have given Otamendi’s spot to Azpilicueta or Tarkowski

    9. I love you Eriksen!

    10. I love you Dele! (when the game was open)

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2018 at 2:32 pm #

      A few very valid points, Luther. Kane has been rushed back and while short term it probably seemed a good idea in the golden boot chase it may cost him with a longer layoff now, when the team needs him most. We had such success with Son as a false nine and Dele, Lamela, Eriksen behind, that I wondered if Poch would indeed go that way again. All in all it once more highlights the need for a good second striker. Poch and Levy should know the shopping list this summer!

      • Luther 22nd April 2018 at 2:47 pm #

        Kelechi hint hint

        I have noticed though that Kane isn’t as crucial against two teams in particular: Man City and Liverpool especially when Poch chooses to play his usual system. The one game where he abandoned it we won 4-1 against Liverpool.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2018 at 6:06 pm #

          Kane scored twice in that 4-1 game, but yes we did play 3-5-2 as Son operated as a striker. I would like to see us play more 3-5-2 against Liverpool and Man City and play long ball over their press up to the twin strikers. That approach worked very well against Liverpool and another heavy pressing team, Dortmund, in the Champions League.

  2. Andy B 22nd April 2018 at 11:31 am #

    Very thorough analysis, which sums it up well.

    I think this game was lost by Pochettino picking the wrong players and leaving players on, when they should have come off.

    It looked like Dembele picked up a knock, just before his mistake for their goal. He seemed to be hobbling around for a bit. He started the game brightly, but after the knock, was not the same. It may have been a coincidence, or he was carrying a bit of an injury. If he was carrying an injury, he should have been replaced.

    Kane was clearly not with it. Like I said for the last match, there is no way he should have been kept on, until the end of the game. It doesn’t matter how good a player is, if they are out of form, then they shouldn’t be playing.

    Spurs badly miss our best player Alderweireld, for both his outstanding defending and passing. It was a mistake to leave him out of the team, when he showed in the last game that he was fit enough to play. In fact, Alderweireld should have been brought back a few weeks ago.

    The Alderweireld situation, is the most disappointing part of the season, for me.

    Vorm isn’t as good as Lloris, so that was another mistake to pick him instead. Lloris has been a bit erratic lately, but does have the big game experience.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2018 at 2:39 pm #

      Spot on Andy B. Lloris should’ve played. Man Utd rarely pressed the keeper so its not like we’d have needed one with good passing under pressure. I’d have also fancied him to save the Herrera goal too.

      I’m really in two minds about Alderweireld. I’m not sure, having played against Brighton, if he could play so soon again. He looked decent at the AMEX on Tuesday, but still a tad leggy and rusty. Again, not sure if this is to do with rehab after his injury or if its purely from being left out due to contractual issues and he hasn’t had proper match fitness, merely training field fitness.

      Kane doesn’t even look like he is running correctly and even like he has a bit of a limp. This may cost us and him with some more time out. He should’ve taken longer to rehab fully. It could’ve been good to rest him after Brighton to give him a week and a half before Watford. He clearly isn’t the same player and leaving him out on the field for the full 90 there was detrimental to him and the team.

  3. Mark from Virginia 22nd April 2018 at 1:38 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis, especially MU’s game/time wasting strategy at the end – it really took the bite out of Spurs. As I mentioned in the Man City post, again I was hoping for a back 3 of Jan, Toby and Davidson in this game. This should have negated the overload and has the advantage of freeing up Jan to make his upfield runs which cause many problems for defenses.
    Ponchittino got it wrong for this one and his lack of flexibility and or ability to recognize when changes are required is getting tiresome. Yes the team is learning, but is he? I hope so!
    Thanks and Cheers,

    • Luther 22nd April 2018 at 2:03 pm #

      I think that he has regressed over this season.

      His handling of certain games stresses the point eg. the games against Man City and Liverpool this year come to mind

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2018 at 2:49 pm #

      Hi Mark. I’d like to see us return to the back three. Now Wanyama is back it is achievable. We were playing so well with it before Toby was injured and Wanyama was out so we subsequently had to switch to a back four. I think it’ll give more solidity in front of Hugo to help him with his dip in form. It’ll also get the best out of Trippier to give him more crossing opportunities along with Davies, whilst Aurier won’t have so much defensive responsibility. And if Kane does need some rest to heel his ankle, it may well be the better set up for Llorente or provide a solid base for three of Eriksen, Lamela, Son or Dele to operate as an out-and-out attacking trio.

      The reliance on 4-2-3-1 is again becoming predictable, as it was in Poch’s first two seasons. We need to get back to having flexibility. Remember when the team sheets were announced and we had no idea if Poch was going to play a back three or four? We need to get back to that as it upsets the opposition and their plans too!

  4. SonShine 22nd April 2018 at 6:01 pm #

    No matter how big my disappointment was, I keep believing that we’re still work in progress. It feels that we’re getting there. Unfortunately there’s always a ceiling that we need to punch on. It seems that all we know is outplay the opposition and score goals. How obvious we are if things doesn’t go our way..we look clueless. Our in-game management also were questionable at times. Many doubt that Pochy can take us to the next level. But keep in mind that this is a project, and we should keep supporting Spurs although it is painful sometimes!

    Dembele for me should be replaced. As good as he is said to be, he’s not creative or penetrative enough to aid our attack. Same thing happens when Sissoko plays in that central midfield. I like James Maddison. For me, he’ll be the perfect midfield for us. Or else, maybe Winks or Onomah will come good?

    Fullbacks/Wingbacks also needs new recruitment. Spurs said to be interested in Sessegnon and Kurzawa. A second playmaker e.g. Max Meyer or push Marcus Edwards as an alternative to Eriksen. If Llorente or Janssen is not retained next season, we should add a second striker such as Martial/Arp or Gareth Bale return!

    Where and who do you think we realistically should be recruiting in the summer? #COYS

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2018 at 6:19 pm #

      Good comment, SonShine. I think Poch is learning with the team. He is still a relatively young coach and gaining knowledge all the time. He has a very good base to start from as his philosophy and culture is spot on. He still has things to learn and Mourinho’s team gave us, and Poch, a lesson in how to upset the rhythm and tempo of a match to bring it to the pace that you want to play at. I’m sure Poch will be taking these big match experiences in and looking to address mistakes that he and the players made.

      Dembele still has plenty of mileage in him. He has been brilliant once again recently when many had written him off. He just made a poor piece of judgement and that was caused by Pogba’s presence throughout the first half. Dembele always goes left and in doing so ran directly back in to Pogba. A tough lesson to use your right foot and go up the line when in trouble if ever there was one! We do need to think about succession planning though and need to bring someone in that can be trained up over the next year or so. Maybe that is why Josh Onomah was loaned out to Aston Villa to fast track him a bit and see what he could do at Championship level?

      I think you have listed what we need. An upgrade in speed at left back, especially if Rose is off. Potentially a right back, depending on how big Poch is on Aurier. A playmaker to rotate with or even compliment Eriksen so we can play twin number tens against bus parkers. A ball playing centre back if Toby is off and we are committed to playing more of our three centre backs system. And, of course, the ever elusive search for a good second string striker.

  5. brian 22nd April 2018 at 11:35 pm #

    Hi Mark

    yet again a brilliant anylsis.Mourininiho;s did not differ,from when he has played other teams that he fears..Was quite content to mainly hit on the break.As with other on here,the one choice
    of player,I failed too understand,was the inclusion of Vorm.Yeslloris has been a bit of a libility of late.But is still the better keeper.And once agiain we failed to take advantage of when we were on top.We have been guilty on several occaissions now,of missed opportunities.
    Lets just hope it does not come back to bite us,in the run up to the end of the season.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd April 2018 at 3:30 am #

      Hi Brian, I didn’t really get the inclusion of Vorm either. With Man Utd playing on the counter attack, the time would come when we would need him to make a good save. He couldn’t and it was at a crucial moment. If Lloris wasn’t fit I could understand, but in this case he should’ve played.

  6. Iaiin 22nd April 2018 at 11:37 pm #

    Not sure how many more of these games we can take. I appreciate maybe trying to take the pressure off our players, but what is Potch on about when it comes to domestic cups. Yes winning the PL or CL is going to take us to the next level but we keep failing at crucial times because none of our players have won anything! And before long we are in real danger that will move on like Walker so that they do!
    I have to say this but we need a new GK. Vorm should never have played yesterday and Hugo, who I love, is just not cutting it at the moment. Maybe he needs pushing by a hungry keeper?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd April 2018 at 3:38 am #

      With Vorm’s contract expiring this summer we will have to be in for a new goalkeeper. Will be interesting to see who we are linked with and end up getting. I really think Hugo needs to play through this run and that we need to return to the back three to give him more protection. The most worrying thing is Poch’s comments yesterday. Thought he was ours for next couple of seasons at least, but concerned he may have been tapped up. Really strange change of direction from the usual “the project” stuff.

  7. Toby4eva 25th April 2018 at 12:22 am #

    Nailed it again Mark.

    Excellent reponses as usual.

    That was painful – it’s taken me three days to get to this site.

    We started like European champions and looked like Scunthorpe at the end.

    The Pogba dispossession of Dembele was the crucial moment that absolutely turned the game.

    The Moose hasn’t been pushed off the ball since before the first moon landing.

    Only positive for me from the game was our goal.

    It was almost on par with “some rest to heel his ankle”.


    Davinson’s (I can’t use his other name) long ball over the top to Chris was simply sublime – and the cross and finish were clinical.

    At least we had 12 minutes of world domination.

    But as others have already eloquently said, Mourinho knows how to manage the other 78.

    Eight semi final losses in a row!

    She’s filing her nails while they’re draggin’ the lake…


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th April 2018 at 4:27 pm #

      Great analogy! We did start like European champs and by the finish it was rather lower league. We were devoid of ideas given that the flow of the game had become so disrupted by that point.

      Bit concerned that Mousa was so apprehensive around Pogba. Never seen him anxious around another player. Interesting to see how it goes the next time those two face off.

  8. Erik Zen 25th April 2018 at 9:15 am #

    Painfully eviscerated by the two Manchesters, while Liverpool achieve their apotheosis, exploding into a chariot of fire…

    Harry: I wonder if it was the injury or the absolute media drubbing he received after claiming that goal? Could it have dented his hitherto unshakeable self-belief? Anyway it will be a learning experience…

    Hope we get some pride back in the last few games. COYS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th April 2018 at 4:32 pm #

      Great point! It could well be the media drubbing. Harry has looked unflappable throughout his career. It may well be that the media has got to him on this one. Hoping he can answer the critics by going on a goal scoring spree!

  9. Toby4eva 25th April 2018 at 11:42 pm #

    The tone and quality of this site continues on a strongly positive trajectory.

    I thought THFC had a better chance of winning something before I ever saw both “eviscerated” and “apotheosis” used in a single sentence on a football site.

    That impressive!

    And good point regarding the Harry “goal”.

    Given all of the supposed improvement in club culture that we have been constantly reminded of under the reign of King Poch, that incident was beyond bizarre.

    Well into the realms of arrogance – and plain embarrassing.

    Imagine the debacle that would ensue if Kane and Salah end up tied for the GB!



    • Naz 26th April 2018 at 12:11 am #

      I do feel that this game has become even more decisive in how our future will pan out in the coming months.
      Taking Poch’s comments in the more negative spectrum? This looks like the first public friction between our brilliant manager & Levy.
      One thing that has made their relationship work so well is his “Arsene Wenger” like praise of the club and thus Levy, contrary to previous managers.
      After working a miracle and adding huge amounts to the value of our squad with a fraction of what previous managers have spent; he seems to be pointing to Levy to invest in the players contracts that we need to keep.
      As well as add players that are either the right experience ( to blend in with the youth) or coming in to the club at the right time in pre-season so as to contribute from game one.
      Pochettino has been the best thing to happen to spurs for a very long time.

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th April 2018 at 4:43 pm #

        This was the first sign of friction and I wondered if this was Poch realising that he won’t win a Premier League without the spending power of a Russian Oligarch, if Levy has been meddling again or some team like Real have tapped him up with an obscene offer? Levy and Poch seemed to be getting on very well prior to this, may be the best relationship between Levy and any manager. However, this was the first public sign of displeasure. We will see how this plays out. If it was purely a burst of post match frustration or if Poch really is off…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th April 2018 at 4:34 pm #

      Would be great if the golden boot ended a tie or even better if Kane wins by one! The media meltdown would be epic!

  10. Antonyj7 29th April 2018 at 1:55 pm #

    Given that our next few games are critical to Champions League next season it is important to play our back three again, to improve our defence.

    If on the other hand we do not then failure to stay in the top four, would be a mega failure of management and really hard to accept.

    Let’s see what we do tomorrow!