Tottenham Hotspur continued its impressive Premier League campaign with an efficient 3-0 win again Manchester United which saw the visitors conjure up only one shot on target. While beating United is not a big deal at the moment, the way Spurs grew into the game as United tired and then raised the tempo and scored three goals in a flash was a stunning exhibition of how Spurs have evolved under Pochettino. United on the other hand were decent in the first half but with some weird substitutions and dropping energy levels, they simply couldn’t compete with Spurs.
Man United were slightly more dominant in the initial period with Morgan Schneiderlin particularly effective in closing down Eric Dier and Dembele and not allowing the Spurs midfield to settle down. Timothy Fosu-Mensah tracked Christian Eriksen all over the pitch and was highly effective in preventing the Dane from influencing the game. Lamela from the right made some overlaps to the left but Daley Blind diligently followed him most of the time except for once when Lamela had a free header but missed the target. United, when attacking looked to get the ball to Martial but the Frenchman was wasteful most of the times. Lingard and Rashford,playing in the middle struggled to get involved and when they did, struggled to hold the ball. It made no sense for Lingard to play in the middle as he was not comfortable in tight spaces and doesn’t possess the technical skills to operate as a number 10. Someone like Lingard can be used a defensive No 10 when the opposition’s main playmaker plays deep like when Ferguson used Danny Welbeck to stop Xabi Alonso. Where as on the right, Mata was pushed back by Danny Rose and was struggling to get involved in United’s attack. Mata has got a lot of criticism recently, but he is still someone who can play the killer pass and he is the leading assist maker for United. The Spaniard was struggling to track Rose’s runs who had the whole field to run with Eriksen’s lateral movement inward. It was obvious to anyone watching the match that Mata was losing the battle and a change needed to be made.
Van Gaal did make a change but it was Ashley Young for Marcus Rashford,a straight swap. Ashley Young, a winger who is coming back after a long injury was asked to play as a striker against the meanest defence in the Premier League. Young struggled as expected and United’s attack didn’t improve a bit. As United was tiring, Spurs were getting stronger and their improved fitness was showing its effect here. Rose was finding more and more space down the left and even Walker who was pushed back by Martial in the first half started to get forward. But the biggest change was Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s injury which brought Matteo Darmian on to the pitch. Eriksen immediately found himself free on the left and played a delicious ball to Alli who made no mistake and scored the first goal. Darmian conceded the foul for the second and didn’t close down Rose when he put in a cross for the third goal. Juan Mata was immediately replaced after the third goal by Memphis Depay and it looked like Mata was being made the culprit as Rose found himself free on the left before setting up the goal. But it was so obvious to everyone in the stadium except to one man that Mata was being wasted on the right wing where he is not effective especially in a 4-2-3-1. Mata had been brilliant for Chelsea at times in a 4-3-3 where his defensive responsibilities are lessert. Here he was essentially a defensive winger against the rampant Rose, a role perfectly suited for someone like Lingard.
Lingard wasn’t substituted till the end and it only showed that Van Gaal doesn’t easily accept a failed experiment. One can call it ego or over-confidence, but there have been many instances where Van Gaal has got things wrong and its so obvious that he has to change but he doesn’t. United most likely will find themselves in the Europa League unless City collapse, so Van Gaal, after two years and spending a bucketload of money is going to leave United exactly in the same situation as it was, when he took over. For Pochettino and Spurs, this is a clear indication as to how far this team has come, they may not win the Premier League this season but the future looks bright. A few signings in the summer will be needed to bolster their squad for the next season with Champions League set to return to White Hart Lane.