United will reflect on a first half in which they failed to capitalise on a number of good chances before a more disjointed performance after the break saw the game drift to what, earlier in the game, had looked an unlikely goalless draw.
United began the game with much of their attacking flair from Boxing Day still in evidence but this time they failed to convert it into goals. Falcao passed up United’s first real opportunity when Mata’s pass put him through on goal, but his shot was straight at Lloris. Shortly after, at the other end Kane went close and Townsend forced an important, if routine, save out of De Gea. After a period of rapidly fluctuating possession, United re-asserted their dominance and went close when a free kick from Mata struck the post and Van Persie failed to pounce on the rebound before a panicking Spurs defence hooked it clear. Jones then looked to a have brought goal line technology into play when his header was cleared off the line, but a linesman’s flag made the call academic.
As half-time approached, a series of good chances fell the Reds’ way. Van Persie found himself through on goal but his attempt to control the ball gave Lloris a chance to recover and deny him. An excellent right footed cross from Young then found the head of Rooney, who also found the Spurs keeper in the way before Young’s cross-shot was also clawed away by the Frenchman as it header for the top corner. The Reds
went in at half-time very much on top but disappointed not to have made the most of their superiority.
United were forced to make the first of three defensive substitutions at half-time when Rafael replaced Valencia. The Brazilian offered far less of a threat going forward and, with Young more effectively marked, the Reds offered less of an attacking edge in the second half. When opportunities did arise, to Van Persie and the otherwise excellent Mata, both produced shots that were woefully off-target. Spurs were seeing more of the ball and De Gea was forced into a fine save from Fazio that the Spaniard characteristically made look easy before dealing with similar efficiency with a dipping Eriksen shot. There was little he could do, though, when Mason latched onto a pass from Mason and the United defence watched with some relief as his shot cleared the bar.
The result extends the Reds’ unbeaten run to nine games, but Van Gaal will be disappointed that the clinical finishing that has been a feature of his resurgent side was so absent today. While Spurs’ performance in the second half will probably leave them feeling that a share of the points was a fair reflection of the game, there’s no question that, had United been less wasteful in front of goal in the first half, they may well have put the game beyond the home side.