What We Learned: Manchester United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

And so the winning streak comes to a crashing halt and this season’s rather poor records at home and against the Premier League’s top sides worsen a little further in the process.

Happy New Year, everyone!

In a disconcerting repeat of last season’s 2-3 defeat, Spurs gifted United the majority of possession and struck gold with lethal counter attacks whilst the home side struggled to break down a dogged defence. Here’s what we made of it;

Conservative starting XI = Conservative start

tom-cleverley-vs-arsenal

Starting with Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley is the opposite of a statement of intent, unless the statement is “we’re relying on our wingers.” This central combination has struggled against well-marshalled defences, and time hasn’t altered this fact. This left the onus on United’s wingers almost throughout the game. To his credit, Antonio Valencia looked determined and frequently delivered good crosses in the first half, but with Wayne Rooney frequently dropping deep to help in the build-up and Welbeck lacking in physical presence, there were hardly any threats to aim for. Matt Dawson and Vlad Chiriches dealt with mostly everything that came their way without too much concern.

It’s crushing to note that there was barely any menace or urgency to the home side’s play until Christian Eriksen had doubled Spurs lead, and even though the initial response was swift, United gave themselves far too much to do in order to get a result. David Moyes had the common sense to switch things up with an hour gone and with chances at premium with the attacking substitutions gave his side a much more threatening look, but by that point, Spurs were defending doggedly. The reality is that a second goal never looked a certainty, partly due to Spurs’ well-organised defence and partly due to a lack of threat.

Diving Young given no quarter

Whether or not Ashley Young managed to shoot at goal before Hugo Lloris clattered into him feels somewhat irrelevant. Looking at replays of that second half incident (a luxury Howard Webb and his assistant didn’t have last night), it’s clear that there was contact and as Young’s shot didn’t hit the back of the net, a penalty should have been awarded. God knows what was going through Webb’s mind, but in those instances, when dealing with a player who has shown an incredible tendency to flop over at any given opportunity, it’s perhaps no wonder that the benefit of the doubt went to Lloris in this instance. With Young having conned several referees in similar positions already this season, it’s tough to argue with the karmic smackdown he received last night.

Januzaj providing too much spark

This isn’t a suggestion for the 18-year-old to reign his talent in and let one of his teammates shine in his stead, which would appear to be a disastrous suggestion at this point. The issue is that as soon as Januzaj switched to the right-hand side with Antonio Valencia behind him, not only did he look far more dangerous but he ended up carrying United’s greatest threat.

adnan-januzaj-vs-norwich2

Admittedly, Moussa Dembele’s man-marking job on Wayne Rooney took him out of the game, even when switched to central midfield, but no one was showing the same sort of incisive instinct or desire as Januzaj with United chasing the game. The pass to set Danny Welbeck away for United’s only goal was superb, Javier Hernandez almost touched in his low cross after a dance into the penalty area and he terrorised Danny Rose repeatedly. Did he dive late on? Initially, it appeared so, but replays suggested that there was contact (either way, perhaps his biggest mistake was not playing a decent cross before he went over). Still, even with that ignominious moment, Januzaj, a player who hadn’t made his first-team bow until this season, is showing up a few too many teammates of late.

If you’re going to rest Rooney, rest him now

With two ties with Swansea and a League Cup quarter final against Sunderland on the horizon, this is perhaps the best time to allow Rooney’s groin injury to heal. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of United’s options in his absence, and the two wins against Stoke and Norwich recorded in his absence have hardly been comprehensive, but with a visit to Chelsea a little under three weeks away and the Champions League set to resume next month, this is as good a time as any for United’s talisman to rest.

Of course, if this happens and United lose their next three games, you know who to blame.

Moyes can’t be blind to United’s deficiencies

It’s all very well and good suggesting that David Moyes’ side need reinforcements now, chiefly some form of threat in central midfield, before the harsh reality of recruiting top-class talent in January with many teams reluctant to part with their best assets mid-way through the season sets in. All through this term, we’ve seen Untied stutter in games against the league’s top sides bar Arsenal, and it’s a trend likely to continue if the same rigid reliance on plucky wingers and Rooney dropping deep to make up United’s attacking threat isn’t shaken up.

david-moyes-watching

Simply put, United need to be considering any option that will strengthen their chances of attaining a top-four finish this season, because retaining the league title is a fallacy. At present, this crop of players doesn’t appear to be up to that task, at least not under this manager, and Moyes is essentially shooting himself and the club in the foot if he refuses to upgrade. Whether or not he gets the opportunity, or the players he wishes, is a different story. Regardless, surely no one was fooled by his highly complimentary appraisal of his team’s performance last night.

12 Comments

  1. Januzaj was better on the right than the left simply because we seem to constantly send the ball down the right, regardless of who is there. It’s not just that everything goes down the wing, it all goes down the same wing!

  2. I wonder how sir Alex thought Moyes can fit to united? He’s destroying united. We can’t see what Fegi is telling us.

  3. In the first half particularly, Rooney was coming deep to get on the ball, but because of pressure from his marker, was often forced to pass the ball backwards or sideways. Given that Carrick and Cleverley already spend their time passing the ball that way, then not much was being created. Fletcher should have started ahead of one of them.

  4. United have all chances to win but the very truth is that we lack focus and we need players.wayne rooney have always been the keyfactor of manutd wether we like it or not,so we better go sign a senior man striker that is hungry for goals,a midfielder,defender to relief rooney of running helter-skelter!we need our winning spirit back for christ sake.

  5. What goes up must come down as they say.It,s a drag being a United fan just now,not because they are not in the top four but because they are not playing beautiful forward counter attack footie.We are supposed to believe they played well because they hung onto the ball in the second half.Fergie said that rather alot:we kept the ball well.what about gettin it in the other teams net for###¤¤ sake.

  6. Looking at the form table United are nr 4 and there are 8 teams in it before points take a dip.There are still 18 games left.United still have a chance of the top4.Lets hope something clever happens.

  7. Its a strange time for United fans, here we sit on the cusp of a disappointing season but through it all we must stay behind Moyes and back him, if not to continue the United way (otherwise we may as well be the next powerhouse to sack manager after manager) but also to remember what our previous manager wished and reminded us that he started with 3 trophyless seasons.

    Moyes will come good, I will say he has perhaps a year or two to do that, after which we will see old Ole and Giggs sniffing around the club and whos to say that will be any better.

    One thing is for certain as United fans it is our duty to ride out the hard times and to come out on top.

    Relentless!

    • True, as Moyes is here we shouldn’t rush to sack him. But when Fergie says he had 3 trophy-less seasons we must remember that he came from Aberdeen who he led to the Scottish League Title breaking the Rangers/celtic stranglehold that existed for 15 years before him and has largely existed ever since. He also won the European Cup Winners Cup with Aberdeen and the European Super Cup. These were phenomenal achievements given Aberdeen’s position in the football world – almost up with what Brian Clough achieved with Nottingham Forest.

      So when he came to United we knew he was a winner.

      We have replaced him with a mid-tabler. I only hope that has not been a massive mistake.

    • Agree with CharlieC and I will add that when Fergie arrived at O.T., United hadn’t won the League for 20 years. Moyes inherited the reigning champions.

      Also, riding out the hard times is not the issue, it’s whether we have the right man in charge. Yet to be convinced he is up to the job.

  8. I do worry when Moyes says we played really well when we didn’t. Is he saying to support his players or to cover his back or is he deluded?

    We had the same issues we have had most of the season:

    Too slow to attack (though we improved once 2-0 down) preferring to stop the ball and look around for a while – a Moyes thing? Hence we often have better possession but do less with it.

    Slowness of attack often also means Rooney is far too deep and unable to be where he should be – in a goal scoring position

    Tony Valencia is great at getting up the wing but not all that good at then getting the ball in the box.

    The centre of our midfield is very slow a distributing the ball properly and quickly – Cleverly is not good enough for Man United and Carrick is not tough or quick enough.

    Even basic training and communication seems to be lacking – Kagawa loves to play a ball move get the ball back at the other point of a triangle and then redistribute it. That is how he plays, I Germany it was very effective. When you watch the games at OT you can see him doing it but not getting the return pass or the pass going into no-mans land. I can see what he is doing from where I sit – not sure why his team mates can’t cotton on.

    When we don’t have the ball the midfield is to slow and too soft, the defence are a too slow – Evra in particular gets beaten in the chase quite a lot. We have been saved on a number of occasions by the poor finishing of our opponents.

    We need an impressive, influential midfielder. Not just as a ‘you-don’t-get-past-me’ character but also as pivot. Someone to look to.

    I am not looking forward to City and Liverpool at OT as unless we sort things out before then I can see a couple of very humbling defeats.

    I can’t think of another major club (especially one which is one of the biggest in the world) that would replace the most successful manager in English (probably world) club football with someone who has won nothing.

    • Spot on comments, top analysis.

      When in desperation, Moyes threw on his subs. against Spurs, there was no shape nor structure to United’s attacking play. It was individuals doing their own thing, no cohesion, just hit and hope.The major tactic appeared to be to get the ball to an 18 year old and hope he can safe us.

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