Ten Hag’s United.
Spurs started the league New Year with a draw away at Old Trafford, which would normally be seen as point gained but it even being behind twice it was more of two points lost.
Yup you’d normally see getting a point at a ground where you usually acquire none as a Brucie Bonus, but as Ten Hag seemed to claim his side dominated and deserve more than a point, you look at the match stats and think, sit down baldy, as Spurs had twice as much of the ball, nearly twice the attempts and three times as many shots on target as the hosts.
That with three first team picks on international duty, and a number out with injury/illness, which saw Lo Celso and Kulusevski added this week to that long list.
So there was changes, plenty of them, the one good thing being the Ange back four was back, with both Romero and Micky back from injury. But the midfield was now a three, with Skipp, Hojbjerg and Bentancur, with a front line trio that now included January loan signing Timo Werner.
But it’s United and Spurs initially played like it was United of old not the current mob. Doing that fannying about and just inviting them to get on top and into the game early.
The opener came just three minutes in and it looked like a back four that hadn’t played with other ever, never mind just a few weeks. Udogie did get the ball off Rashford but Romero was so intent on having his arms out of the way, behind his back he really couldn’t move or position himself quickly enough to block the shot that flew past Vicario.
Spurs then finally got into things, Werner had a header from a corner that was headed wide by United’s Evans. Evans who gave Hojbjerg and elbow to the face as they were grappling in the area. You know the type of thing Sky would have repeated repeatedly if it had been the other way round, with Gary Neville going apoplectic until VAR intervened. Of course none of that hear but Romero breathes on someone too strong. I didn’t class that as a good chance for Werner but more on that later.
from the resulting corner he did show that he’s gone, for my mind. A header from Bentancur and a striker on form, in the space he had at the back post would have been pouncing but Werner hadn’t a clue. Some nice build play saw another corner for Spurs and this time Porro’s ball was headed in the far post by Richarlison.
I’m surprised a little later that a penalty wasn’t given. It must have been the diving action of the player that stopped the ref. He was being held, it is a foul but you don’t fall in that direction if you’re pulled that way. Udogie then could have retaken the lead for Man U as he head a cross against his own post. United weren’t causing Spurs any problems. It was all Spurs doing. The narrow back four was just inviting crosses and players to run into the box. Which led to their second not long before then end of the half.
Spurs could have equalised before the break as Romero had a header, from yet another corner, crash off the bar. Before that Werner had his chance. A break out saw Skipp’s ball cut everyone out and saw Werner pick the ball up and get a one on one, he went to his left and then skewed the shot across the box and well wide of goal.
And that’s it. It was his one real decent chance and he blew. He had to score his first chance, he had to take it because he’s got no confidence, the team where he made his name have binned him off on loan, after his return from Chelsea where he missed chances like that time and time again, when he wasn’t offside, after he didn’t do much back in Germany. Had to score his first attempt or he’s a busted flush.
Someone asked what Spurs needed to do for the second half. I said that Bentancur needed to step up more, more forward balls and fewer sideways/back passes, what with Skipp and Hojbjerg. From the kickoff, Spurs passed the ball back and then about at the back before Hojbjerg lost possession, with Rashford coughed up for a goal kick. From that it went out to Romero and one pinged ball by him cut straight through the midfield to Skipp, As Werner was heading inside, Skipp the ball wide of him, causing him to have to angle back out. Bentancur was charging forward, then ran inside, before heading into the box and pointing where he wanted Werner to put the ball, which the German did, before he lifted the ball past the united keeper with his left. A cracking goal.
The second half saw Werner come off after 80 minutes. Don’t know if it should have been him to depart. Johnson, who came in for some stick, had a poor game. He has the talent, he was getting into the positions but he seemed scared to do anything when he got there. Crosses were either over or under hit and decisions were just the wrong ones. You know he can do it, we’ve seen him do it. Needs to be better.
Following seemed like one of those head scratcher subs as new signing centre back Radu Dragusin came on for Skipp. Shortly after Micky van de Ven went down but luckily it was just cramp, so he made way for Emerson Royal as they went back three with Dragusin falling back into his usual position. But it was an indication that no matter how attacking Angeball is he does go hold what we have quite a bit. They held it, a couple of close shaves but United didn’t manage a shot on target after their second goal.
Ten Hag can say what he wants but Vicario was a spectator for the most of that game… it was Spurs that wasted the chance of three points against a team that were there for the taking… even with Spurs missing all those players…