Manchester United 2 (Nani, Kagawa) Tottenham Hotspur 3 (Vertonghen, Bale, Dempsey)
1. Wrong team, wrong tactics. Sir Alex Ferguson might have masterminded our successes over the past 25 years but yesterday he got it wrong. We set up with two pedestrian midfielders against the energetic Sandro and the ever impressive Dembele – we gave them the middle of the park.
We hit the woodwork twice and had two penalty decisions turned down. Tottenham certainly had their luck in.
We got punished for it with an absolute hiding in the first half and despite restricting Tottenham Hotspur to less than 40 passes in the whole of the second half, we couldn’t turn the game around.
Don’t let the quality of the second half performance hide the fact that we were diabolical in the first half. Testament to Tottenham though, they played fantastic.
Against Newcastle, we set up with a dynamic 4-3-3 formation with Fletcher sitting in front of the defence which let Anderson and Cleverley pull the strings in the middle – and it worked fantastically well. Why didn’t we do that against Tottenham? We played into their hands by setting up with such a slow midfield.
Also, why in the world did Ryan Giggs start? The last thing we needed against a ferociously fast Tottenham side was Giggs. I’m not sure what Sir Alex was thinking of when he put him in the starting line up to be honest.
2. We’ve got midfielders, why not use them? Anderson and Cleverley played great against Newcastle in the Capital One Cup. Their energy and tenacity brought a breath of fresh into the midfield, precisely the same energy and tenacity we were lacking against Tottenham.
By the end of the Newcastle game, Anderson could hardly walk he had run so much so I accept that he might not have been fit enough to play the full game but Cleverley should have played.
Remember people, we didn’t miss Paul Scholes until Anderson and Cleverley got injured last season.
If Carrick sat in front of the defence with Cleverley and Scholes running the show from in front of him, we would of had so much more protection from the pacy runs that sliced our midfield open so easily on Saturday.
3. A lack of pace exposed. Rio Ferdinand got torn apart on Saturday in particular. Gareth Bale galloped past him with consummate ease, although he would do with almost any defender, and Jermaine Defoe had him in his back pocket with his quick movement in the build up to Dempsey’s eventual winner.
All over the park we were entirely pedestrian. Giggs, Scholes, Carrick, Ferdinand et al.
I’m trying not to be too pessimistic about the lack of pace in the future but Tottenham really exposed us on Saturday. With an aerial weakness already common knowledge, teams will be happy to play with aggressive fast football after seeing how successful it was for Tottenham. Playing United doesn’t seem to carry that fear that it used to this season and teams believe they can get a result now.
4. Rooney and Scholes changed the game. Prior to Rooney gashing his leg against Fulham, fans were happy to see that he got benched and rightly so after his woeful performance against Everton – but my how we’ve missed him.
We might have won six games on the trot before Tottenham beat us but we have been far from our imperious best. Rooney’s introduction yesterday at half time completely transformed the team.
Alongside conductor Scholes, who completed an unbelievable 91% (148) passes yesterday, Rooney’s link up play, movement and incisive passing were the springboard for the onslaught which saw us get into Tottenham’s penalty box 35 times (they got into ours six).
He looked really sharp and with tough away trips to Cluj and Newcastle coming up, we might get our first glimpse of Rooney and van Persie starting a game together. Mouthwatering.
5. An Old Trafford of old. It was absolutely rocking. Three goals in three minutes made sure of that but it wasn’t just after the goals that the fans were in superb voice.
When we were 2-0 down, the fans was getting right behind the team and it helped them up the level. So often these days, you could hear a pin drop in Old Trafford on match day but not yesterday. The noise was deafening.