Manchester United found their path to winning ways again, after beating Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at Old Trafford on Saturday. Anthony Martial scored the only goal after coming off the bench in the second half. It was not the game of the highest quality, but plenty of running and rhythm meant it was not dull.
Jose Mourinho opted for a 3-5-2 formation in order to suffocate Tottenham in key areas of the pitch. Without Harry Kane, Mauricio Pochettino went with the speedy Heung Min Son, but the three centre-backs were always going to stop him with more ease than a regular 4-2-3-1.
All of this meant Tottenham had more of the ball throughout the match, but the Portuguese manager was ready to leave it to them. Manchester United seemed compact for the whole match, with the exception of a great chance Dele Alli had several minutes before Martial’s match-winning goal.
Anthony Martial Shows His Worth
And Martial was the one that showed how good he can be. Once again the Frenchman scored this season after coming off the bench. This was his sixth goal of the season, fourth in the Premier League. The accomplishments are even bigger knowing he made a mere seven starts this season. Martial’s efficiency must be a good enough reason to watch him more often in the starting XI.
Mourinho has not been convinced by Martial recently, but he showed his case once again after finishing off a simple three-pass attack to score the only goal of the match. His impact coming off the bench is always felt and the boss could start him in Champions League against Benfica next week.
Three At The Back Works Fine For Manchester United
Once again, Manchester United showed they can play in different formations. During pre-season Mourinho flirted with both 3-4-2-1 and 3-5-2 and this time he opted for a mixture of the two. His eagerness to stop attacking threats from a vibrant Spurs team materialized as David De Gea kept another clean sheet at Old Trafford.
The back three of Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling looked comfortable throughout. Son struggled against more numerous defence and his pace was neutralized properly. However, it was also important that Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera excelled in this formation as well. Matic played in a 3-4-2-1 last season at Chelsea and this duo really pressed well Spurs players during the second half.
Tottenham Miss Kane As Mourinho Shackles Alli
This had another implication. Dele Alli was not given enough space for most part of the match. The young Englishman was unable to find spaces in a similar way he was allowed against Liverpool. Mourinho obviously knew how dangerous Alli is and made sure his team did not make the same mistakes.
Harry Kane’s absence was also felt today. He is an important part of this Spurs team, but that does not necessarily mean he would actually score today. Manchester United were well organized throughout and did not have lapses in concentration. Mourinho won this battle after a poor outing in Huddersfield. The players can now breathe again and stem confidence from an important win.