It was an unsettling first half hour at Old Trafford. United broke first with a nice linkup between Mikhitaryan and Zlatan giving Pogba a real chance from the edge of a box. A more clinical finish would have put Spurs behind then and there. We righted the ship for a while with Dele and Son providing most of the impetus and a couple of free kicks by Eriksen testing first United’s back line and then DeGea. One felt as though there was something just a bit off—Alderweireld missed a couple of passes as one would expect given his prolonged absence—the attack fizzled. Martial almost broke vs Walker in but for a bad initial touch.
And then Harry Kane inexplicably gave the ball away near the center line and United quickly made him pay with a strike from Mikhitaryan. It was a foolish careless mistake by a player who should do much better. Now Spurs would have to carry the action forward, all the while risking a counter from the likes of Pogba, Martial and the goalscorer. Not the game Poch wanted to play. One sensed from the beginning that this was a “let’s see if we can get the first goal and then the real game begins” approach—very tentative and not what flatters this particular team.
The second half was an improvement as there was urgency from the beginning. Eriksen could have done better after a nice back pass from Walker. Wanyama was gifted a header goal on the subsequent free kick and bottled it. Sissoko earned a corner ten seconds after his entrance into the game. All the while it seemed one of those situations where you had to wonder where the brilliance would come from. Dele had several problems retaining possession—Sissoko was active but imprecise in his delivery. When Zlatan outjockeyed Vertonghen for a long ball and Pogba then won a free kick, one sensed it was game over and but for a fortuitous post and rebound it would have been as Pogba left Lloris flatfooted. Two minutes later Pogba almost sealed it again but Lloris was equal.
There was one good stretch of five minutes of pressure but without a real chance. Sissoko in particular created problems for United down the right. Alli got the ball breaking from the left and fizzled it, yet a minute later another Sissoko run found Kane and he earned a dangerous free kick just outside the area. Eriksen went low opposite corner and once DeGea was equal—just– to the task. Not our day—one grievous mistake and a lot of near misses. One knew that United has been profligate late with leads and that another good opportunity might come. It didn’t. Our lack of clinical finishing was apparent throughout and it might be that more than any other failing which denies Spurs a repeat placement in the Top Four. I would say we deserved a point from the run of play but if you are the side making the crucial mistake and if you can’t find a goal from numerous chances, I don’t think a point is merited.
We’re in fifth place, and it might be a while. Settle in, folks.
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