Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to use the word ‘outclassed’ in relation to a Manchester United opponent, but it’s entirely fitting here. Spurs will unquestionably have come to Old Trafford with expectations of getting something from the game, but left completely outfought in every area of the pitch. Harry Kane was restricted to a single half-chance in the entire ninety minutes, brilliantly marshalled by Jones and Smalling, both of whom gave easily their best performances of the season.
But that was true of so many of United’s players. The victory was orchestrated by Carrick, whose penetrative passing and quick tempo was the basis for the Reds’ mastery of their opponents. It was Rooney, rather than Kane, who looked the complete centre forward, while Mata’s slick passing, Young’s intelligent wide play and Fellaini’s disruptive influence again in an advanced role made Tottenham look anything but the top four team they aspire to be.
If this is how Van Gaal ultimately envisages Manchester United playing, there will be few further complaints from the Old Trafford faithful. Having always been in the ‘give him time’ camp I will say, however, that I do remain mystified, along with so many United fans, that it took him so long to give Herrera a decent run in the side. Here, the work of the Basque in central midfield was a crucial element in his side’s domination of the game, breaking up whatever Spurs attempted to create and giving Carrick the room he needed to operate in.
Unquestionably, an early goal is also helpful as the basis for a confident performance and United only had to wait nine minutes before opening the scoring. Fellaini latched onto a Carrick ball and his left foot shot was steered expertly beyond the reach of Lloris. The two players were involved in United’s second goal, when Fellaini got his head to a Mata corner and Chadli’s clearance only found Carrick, who headed home.
United might easily have added to their total before Rooney made the game safe before half-time, picking up the ball from deep and finishing sublimely, a fine solo effort from a player clearly enjoying his return to forward duties of late.
United controlled play in the second half, and, although they concentrated their efforts largely on preventing their opponents from getting a foothold in the game, still looked the side more likely to score. Blind had a shot blocked on the line and Herrera hit the side netting but, while a fourth goal would have been fitting given the home side’s domination, it didn’t come. Three goals, however, certainly left Reds fans in happy mood, knowing that a win at Liverpool next week will leave their side suddenly looking very strong candidates for Champions League football next season.