Having produced a horrendous display at Cardiff and a superb performance at Leverkusen, United stopped halfway between the two today, delighting and infuriating in equal measure.
Twice trailing to a Tottenham side with worries of their own – Spurs, so far at least, prove that spending £100m in the transfer window doesn’t necessarily guarantee the expected step forward – United twice bounced back thanks to this summer’s number one enemy – Wayne Rooney, that is – but failed to snatch all the three points.
A draw at White Hart Lane wouldn’t normally be cause for concern, let alone recrimination, but United seem to be developing a tendency that prevents them from truly imposing themselves in big away games.
Buoyed by Wednesday’s rout against Leverkusen, David Moyes opted for exactly the same formation, with Nemanja Vidic, Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley replacing Rio Ferdinand, Nani and Ryan Giggs.
That allowed Shinji Kagawa a second consecutive game in his favourite number 10 position, but the Japanese was nowhere near as effective as he had been on Wednesday, courtesy, in no small part, of Spurs’ relentless pressing in midfield, where Paulinho, Sandro and Mousa Dembele looked to deprive Phil Jones and Tom
Cleverley of space and time on the ball.
Having strung together a couple of neat passes and having largely looked in control of their own destiny, United went behind with 19 minutes played, as Kyle Walker’s free-kick squeezed in under the wall and beyond David De Gea, who, like Chris Smalling, celebrated his 100th United appearance today.
The goal lifted the crowd – Spurs, mysteriously, are another one of those teams that seem determined to up their game when United are in town – and hadn’t it been for Roberto Soldado’s wayward finish and De Gea’s save on Aaron Lennon, United could have been 2-0 down.
Still, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger and United bounced back just after the hour mark as Phil Jones won the ball in midfield, before his cross was inadvertently directed into Rooney’s path who fired it past Hugo Lloris.
The fact that Jones has been United’s most consistent midfielder this season tells a sorry tale, one made even worse by Tom Cleverley’s performance.
The United midfielder, not for the first time, offered nothing to the game, as he was dispossessed too often by his counterparts and displayed all the composure of a car crash as Sandro turned him inside out before unleashing a superb effort that flew past De Gea to put Spurs in front again just after the restart.
Three minutes later, Rooney’s brilliant through ball found Welbeck, whose foot got to the ball a split second ahead of Lloris’ hand, and as the Frenchman brought down Welbz not even Mike Dean had any doubts in awarding United a penalty, despite Michael Dawson and Andre’ Villas-Boas’ reaction at the decision.
Rooney drilled the penalty past Lloris and, for a while at least, United looked set to push on for a winner which did not arrive, not even when Ashley Young and Nani replaced Welbeck and Kagawa. If anything, the changes disrupted United’s momentum and the Reds were left defending for their lives in the final stages, but still managed to secure a point which extends their unbeaten run to 13 games in all competitions.
Granted, it wasn’t the result that we had hoped for, but a point at White Hart Lane is not a bad result, considering the circumstances. United are nine points adrift of Arsenal and face two must-win games over the next seven days at home against Everton and Newcastle.
Consistency might be at a premium, but it has to become the rule, rather than the exception.
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Tags: Match Reports