Manchester United and Erik ten Hag looked to get back to winning ways against Antonio Conte’s Tottenham at Old Trafford after the disappointing draw vs. Newcastle on Sunday.
Ten Hag fielded a similar starting XI as he did against the Magpies, with the exception of Marcus Rashford who came in for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Christian Eriksen was not deemed fit enough to start and had to contend with a place on the bench against his former North London employers. Fred partnered Casemiro again in the heart of United’s midfield, the two Brazilians forming the Red Devils’ pivot.
Here are three things we learned from United’s 2-0 win against Tottenham.
Exceptional first half
To say that United were dominant in the opening 45 minutes feels like an understatement. The Reds were superior in almost every aspect compared to Spurs.
To highlight the team’s ascendancy over their opposition, Ten Hag’s men mustered an enormous 19 shots at goal, with five being on target. Spurs on the other hand could only manage a single shot on target that barely tested David de Gea.
The players pinned Tottenham back to their own half throughout the first half, limiting them to a few incursions into United territory.
A defensive masterclass from the back four supported in this regard by Casemiro and Fred saw United keep Tottenham’s dangermen, Harry Kane and Heung-min Son quiet with only scraps to feed on.
There were a few outstanding performers in the first half, but Antony on the right flank stood head and shoulders above his teammates. The 22-year-old constantly looked like a threat and was a thorn in the side of the Tottenham defence.
His bag of tricks was on full display, at times leaving the helpless Ivan Perisic that was tasked with keeping him quiet on the floor.
Fred was another that was formidable in his duties against a star-studded Tottenham midfield boasting of names such as Yves Bissouma and Rodrigo Bentancur. For his exploits, Fred would later go on to break the deadlock early in the second half, his shot taking a slight deflection off a Tottenham player to go past a static Hugo Lloris.
The team plays better without Cristiano Ronaldo
In Ronaldo’s absence, United played arguably their best half of football. The attack looked well-gelled and in sync with each other. This extended to large parts of the second half.
The press was coordinated far better and the players were able to sustain long and continuous spells of pressure without the Portuguese present to cede possession as he always does.
The movement and passing of the ball were more fluid and controlled. Rashford who led the line was also decent in his secondary role.
The Englishman could have had a few goals to his name and should have done better with some of his chances but on the whole, had a spirited showing that in the eyes of Ten Hag, aligns more with his football philosophy and the way he wants to play.
However, Rashford as the number nine is not ideal. He thrives more on the wing and despite the fact that he can do a job as the central man when required, this should not sway the club from reaching into their pockets and procuring a talisman in January.
Ten Hag’s imprint on the team is steadily taking shape
United tonight had a complete performance throughout the 90 minutes – a far cry from recent matches when the team would only register one superb half of football.
This is concrete evidence of the manager’s impact taking root and shaping the team in his image.
There have been glimpses of these as witnessed against Omonia, Everton and Newcastle, but it culminated into a more masterful and outright 2-0 victory against Tottenham.
Hopefully, this goes on and the players continue to be steeped even further into the Dutch boss’ tactics. A similar performance will be required against worthy foes in the form of Chelsea over the weekend.