On Monday, 27th August, Manchester United faced Tottenham Hotspur at the Theatre of Dreams, on a night that concluded with a half empty stadium, crying Red Devils’ fans, and scores of traveling North Londoners who made sure that Manchester knew that they had been beaten at home as they took the celebration to the streets. In losing 3-0 to Spurs on Monday night, Jose Mourinho suffered his worst home defeat in any competition as a manager as pressure increased on the shambolic Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho with an emphatic victory at Old Trafford.
Mourinho was hoping United would bounce back from their woeful defeat at Brighton, but Spurs managed to sweep this one from under United’s noses as two goals in as many minutes in the second half saw the visitors take a 2-0 lead in a contest that was seemingly progressing in a balanced manner. As for Tottenham, they maintained their winning streak in the Premier League season as they grabbed their third win in as many games.
United are only three games into the new season and hence it is very early for blips to be showing up on the radar, but there is no escaping the fact this has been a disappointing start for this side that Mourinho has assembled so expensively and they look in no shape to challenge for the title.
The manner – as well as the margin – of this loss only increases the feeling of discontent around Old Trafford since the summer.
The system Mourinho employed after making significant changes to the side that played Brighton had Ander Herrera, a central midfielder, operating as a right-back in a defence featuring recalls for Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw were deployed as wing-backs while Paul Pogba and Fred had modified roles either side of Jesse Lingard in the positions directly behind Romelu Lukaku. In total that meant half a dozen changes from the side that lost to Seagulls, with Anthony Martial not even making the bench. Eric Bailly was also left out of the squad and Juan Mata was another notable by his absence.
One thing is certain, that there was no lack of effort from United’s players. In fact, United were able to sustain the pressure on Spurs until the end of the first half. However United appeared to collapse after their efforts were to no avail and Spurs struck twice so quickly early on in the second half that United found it very difficult to get back on their feet and against a very well organised Spurs side.
Spurs after a slow start grew in authority with their two goals in rapid success laying the groundwork for the rest of the half.
Kane’s goal came from Kieran Trippier’s corner and a brilliant display of centre-forward play to skip past Jones as he kept his eye on the ball, direct a looping header past David de Gea. This was Tottenham’s first goal at Old Trafford in 433 Premier League minutes. The next goal arrived within two minutes, with Eriksen supplying the pass from the right and Lucas firing in a low shot. Mourinho brought on Alexis Sánchez and Marouane Fellaini as he hoped to find dominance in attack. The ploy failed to work and Victor Lindelöf, who replaced the injured Jones, almost gave away another goal with a back-pass that Alli intercepted. De Gea saved that one but soon afterward Kane sent Lucas running through the middle. Smalling’s challenge was weak and when Lucas buried his shot. This made Lucas became the first player to score a double at Old Trafford in the Premier League since Sergio Aguero in April 2015, and his fine start to the season continued with a vibrant display.
The final whistle felt massive. Spurs players celebrated a convincing victory on the pitch while Mourinho went to applaud those fans who had stuck around till the end
Asked whether he thought the fans applauded the team despite the defeat because there was finally some attacking football on show, Mourinho agreed. “We work very well during the week, we play very well. At halftime the result should be two goals difference minimum,” said Mourinho in his post-match TV interview.
United took more shots (23) against Spurs than in their previous two games combined (17). However, only five were on target. Mourinho’s side were getting into advanced positions and getting efforts away at goal. Furthermore, they were pressing high up the pitch. That nearly resulted in the opening goal as Rose’s backpass to Hugo Lloris gave Lukaku a relatively simple chance to score. But Man Utd also made 113 failed passes, a significant jump from the 87 against Brighton and 86 against Leicester.
“We were the best team, the offensive team, the team that pressed hard, that created chances and missed chances, but then from the first corner that Tottenham had they scored one goal and immediately that team was in the game,” said Mourinho.
For all the talk of Mourinho and missed transfer targets, it is worth remembering Pochettino did not buy any players this summer and can now reflect on three wins from three games this season.
In the process, Spurs joined Liverpool, Chelsea, and Watford as the only teams with an immaculate record from their opening three games.
“It is only the start of the season and we need to be consistent. We need to be realistic but want to keep pushing and building our fitness. A lot of our players have only had three weeks training but we want to build something special.” said Pochettino.
Before this victory, Spurs had won only one of 12 league games against the so-called ‘big six’ since beating Manchester City in February 2016, so this result will surely do wonders for their self-belief as they attempt to take the next step in their search for silverware.