Manchester United lost their first match of 2018 against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night. It was a great performance from Spurs in all departments, getting their revenge for a 1-0 loss at Old Trafford earlier in the season. The match started with an early goal, a very early one, as Spurs scored after just 11 seconds. United did have a decent spell during the first half, making a reaction to the conceded goal, but that was far from enough.
In second half, Tottenham completely controlled the match. Christian Eriksen showed one of his vintage performances, while Harry Kane hassled and pressured United’s centre-backs into mistakes. This was the match which epitomized just how much Jose Mourinho and his players need to work when they face toughest Premier League sides.
What Was Wrong Against Spurs?
First of all was the imbalanced midfield. The duo of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic was expected to play as a rigid, well organized central midfield partnership. Problems, however, occurred with Pogba not being a rigid, well-organized central midfielder. His free spirit was making him wander around, running everywhere and nowhere, making it thus much harder for his team-mates to keep their structured organization.
With Ashley Young playing at left-back, Spurs got another place in United’s team where they could press and press and press. They did that with Trippier and Eriksen on Young, but they also did that with Ali and Kane on Jones and Chris Smalling.
Then, there was Romelu Lukaku. If anyone even wondered, he did play, but due to lack of real support and his lack of mobility without the ball his performance was almost non-existent. Some may say that is because others not offering much, but the truth is always a mixture of things. Lukaku’s displays against the Big 6 teams are appalling and it is almost impossible to not see that.
Manchester United Against Big 6
The matches against Big 6 sides have shown everything that is wrong with this team. That is not to say this is a bad team. It is just an indicator that, despite sitting in second, Manchester United are making plenty of mistakes against top teams.
United might be in second, but they are still not playing great football on a constant basis as it was expected in August. Chelsea are much worse than last season, Liverpool are having their usual issues. Spurs were better last season in getting their points week in, week out. Arsenal have struggled in basically every match outside of the Emirates.
This only shows that sitting in second is good, but not a reason for not looking at deeper issues. Manchester United against top 6 teams often look meek, bland and lethargic. The energy levels against Spurs were in totally different tiers. United never looked “awake”, while Pochettino’s boys went buzzing around.
Two wins in six matches against the Big 6 teams are not a great result. Those wins were a 1-0 victory against Tottenham, where United won in a Mourinho-like way through Spurs making unusual mistakes. The one against Arsenal was a very lucky win, as David De Gea collected 14 saves, some of them indeed miraculous.