By Victor Opone (@epha01)
It’s always nice to see a coach stick to his philosophy/tactics at all times (no matter the weather).
The statement above will be revisited at some other time. But for now…. Mourinho has always been known to sit deep against bigger oppositions in a bid to soak the pressure before trying to hit his opponents on the break. Even Tottenham have suffered from this plan previously.
But in the game against Spurs this week, Pochettino’s boys knew about this and did what Mourinho didn’t expect, press from the start! The move from kickoff was clearly a predetermined and organized one. It was made more obvious with the way the Tottenham players stormed into Manchester United’s half of the field at the blast of the referee’s whistle.
Their plan worked. Their opponents became disorganized and stupefied. The plan worked well for Tottenham as Manchester United players never recovered from that early blow.
This brings us to the United defense. This wasn’t the first time this has happened to Man. Utd. Last season, it was the 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea which had almost an identical start with the one at the Wembley Stadium earlier this week just that this time around, it was Jones with a poor clearance and Mr. Smalling recovering late to block Kane’s attempt which rebounded into the path of Eriksen.
Same Smalling was also caught out late when pairing Bailly in that Chelsea drubbing.
At the start of a match, concentration levels and alertness are supposed to be at top level. But for Smalling, I think the opposite is the case. He is always looking laboured in whatever efforts he puts in. From putting undue pressure on his partner to his goalkeeper, Smalling def knows how to rock! To Mr. Mou, a 3-man defense would easily have covered these flaws for parts of the game.
Moving over to the attack, one name jumps to mind: Alexis Sanchez. The big man. The elephant in the room… that had little, next to nothing to do…..asides being kicked about. He was supposed to be the extra creative force asides Pogba that United had been lacking in games. Tottenham had other ideas. Remember when Hazard was targeted against Manchester United?
Tottenham were really up for this game. They were all over from start to finish. They really wanted to make a statement which they did!! But that was only because they had learnt lessons, lessons that came from a stinging defeat in the hands of every other club’s uncle in the Premier league presently- Manchester City.
The high pressing, midfield choking, blocking of channels, constant probing… They could’ve and should have scored more had it not been for profligacy (what’s up Harry Kane?) All of Pogba’s lingering touches were chuffed. Sanchez was almost totally shielded away from receiving the ball… Martial….. Next!
The questions raised about Sanchez’s coming were majorly on the effect it would have on Martial and Rashford. But if this game is anything to go by (which I’m sure Mou would count as a big point), Martial has done himself zero good. Almost anonymous in a game where he was supposed to shine under the radar of the bigger boys.
He started on the right but slowly drifted to his preferred left side.. Still he had no effect on the game, well, asides the one shot he forced Lloris to save- though several Manchester United fans felt he could’ve passed that ball to either Lukaku or Sanchez who looked better placed.
I haven’t talked about United’s midfield because it almost looked like as if they did nothing in the game. Matic and Pogba looked more like pedestrians than footballers. They were just bypassed at Spurs’ whim and pleasure. Alli even had the opportunity to try an outrageous sidefoot pass!
Asides the margin on the scoreboard, did Manchester United, in any way, dominate in any department in the game against Tottenham? The answer is a resounding no. That is telling on Mou’s increasingly loosening grasp on big games.
No Plan B for a fast and furious opponent when your players are looking for inspiration. I don’t know what the halftime team talk was…but I’m sure there was nothing motivating in there.
This season, we’ve seen Bailly rushed back into action despite just returning from injury, same as Rojo, yesterday was Fellaini. Can almost say same for Zlatan.
All these players suffered another injury afterwards. Rojo even came back and picked up a rather envious amount of bookings that would make Lee Cattermole proud.
If the first XI was uninspiring, what word would be used for Mou’s subs?
But then big kudos to Pochettino and his boys. Boy, were they wonderful?! Even Dier was spirited…Dembele got over his tackling problems, Eriksen looked unhidden.
Let’s end this with a common ground. The fact that the game occurred simultaneously with Chelsea’s game at home to Bournemouth was a blessing in disguise for United fans.
From first-half trolling to trolling the trollers! Sure banter was made for nights like this!
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.