Tottenham Hotspur put in another impressive performance against Manchester United this season and arguably deserved to take more than one point from a game of football that was largely affected by the snowy conditions. Here are five quick observations…
Manchester United could have taken to the field in a midfield diamond with Phil Jones holding and Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick playing either side of him. Instead, United were more of a 4-4-1-1 and far more defensive in terms of their set up. Carrick and Jones started in central midfield, with Cleverley wide left and Danny Welbeck starting on the right wing. Shinji Kagawa played in behind lone striker Robin Van Persie. United’s approach to this game was one of caution with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side more than happy to sit deep and give Tottenham possession, in order to strike quickly at turnovers.
Kagawa was the standout player in the first half and at the heart of the vast majority of United attacks. The Japanese international did superbly well when floating in between the lines to lose Scott Parker and find space to receive the ball, turn, and play a simple 5-10 yard pass – Kagawa’s role was not to play killer through balls but simply to keep the ball moving when United tried to attack directly and at pace.
Tottenham were the better side in the first half, but went in a goal down after conceding a well worked goal on 25 minutes. A deep Cleverley cross from the right hand side of the 18 yard box met the head of Van Persie who headed emphatically past Hugo Lloris. Before the ball had been shifted wide Michael Dawson had found himself pressing ten yards ahead of his defence and the resultant goal came down his side of the pitch with right back Kyle Walker left to mark two players at the far post.
Gareth Bale was given plenty of freedom in attack to wander into central areas of the pitch for Tottenham, with Jermaine Defoe more than happy to occasionally move over to the left wing. When Bale did drift inside, left back Kyle Naughton wasn’t particularly willing to push on in attack however, which was a shame as it would have been interesting to see how willing Welbeck would have been to track back. On the other flank, Lennon provided his usual excellent width and seemed to enjoy receiving the ball out wide and running at Patrice Evra.
The second half was dominated by Tottenham but they seemed to lack penetration in between the lines. Clint Dempsey struggled for his side – playing in the most important position for Tottenham in terms of creativity, he completed only 61% of his passes. It was clear that the signing of Lewis Holtby is needed sooner rather than later, if possible, and it looked as though Tottenham would fail to find an equaliser. However in the 93rd minute it was that man Dempsey who found himself in space in the six yard box to finish, following a weak David De Gea punch. Tottenham finished the match with 25 shots to United’s five and more than deserved their point against a United team that seemed unusually cautious and happy to hold onto a one goal lead.
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