Manchester United moved within a point of the top four teams in the Premier League following a dominant 2-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
In the end, after failing to score the goal they deserved in the opening half, United broke the deadlock in the 47th minute, when Fred’s effort from 20 yards deflected from Ben Davies. Bruno Fernandes then made the goal secure with less than 20 minutes to go after hitting an excellent first-time shot over Hugo Lloris from just inside the penalty space.
The win, with Cristiano Ronaldo confined to a role of spectator from the bench, accelerated United’s momentum in the right direction under Erik Ten Hag after an uneasy beginning of the campaign. United remain in fifth position within the Premier League but are now only one point behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
Tottenham remain in third place however they missed an opportunity to move ahead of Manchester City and move to only one point ahead of the top two teams Arsenal.
“I am pleased with the team,” Ten Hag stated. “I believe it was the best team performance we have had this season..
“You have seen how we are advancing. We are able to see the way we play, and we improve on the field every moment. Spurs are a magnificent team at this point in the season I told the players in the dressing rooms that it was enjoyable watching you.
“It was a squad performance. What we have seen today, we have 11 players who defend and 11 who attack. I am pleased with that. I will not say that I am totally satisfied. That has to be the standard at Manchester United.”
One thing that was not good in the game for United was Ronaldo taking off his bench and walking into the tunnel just before the full-time whistle. Ten Hag has said he will “deal with” on Thursday.
The first period was completely one-way traffic and saw Lloris being forced to make a string of grabs inside his Tottenham goal to ensure the game was scoreless.
For the first 25 minutes by himself, Lloris had to be attentive to stop attempts from Fernandes, Anthony, Fred, Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw.
It was Rashford who started in the place of Ronaldo and who was the one with the best chance. The forward could be better off after having been given a clean pass by Fred but he was able to get near enough in the direction of Lloris that it let his French stopper to take a step to turn his ball back.
The only time Lloris was defeated in the first half, Anthony, cutting inside with his left foot and scurrying towards the opposite corner, saw his shot hit the outside of the post.
However, after all the United’s disappointment during the first half, it was only an hour into the second quarter for the home team to get their first win with a little luck.
Fred’s shot on the first attempt from Jadon Sancho’s push back outside the penalty box appeared innocent until it slipped on the back of Spurs Defender Davies to cause Lloris to fall flat on his back and unable to find the net.
Tottenham appeared poised to score an unlikely goal at the end of the first half after a cross was able to find the calm Harry Kane alone at the far post. However, the England striker’s effort was blocked with a goalkeeper error by David de Gea before the offside flag was raised to stop the match.
In less than a minute Man United’s lead multiplied. The magnificent Fred was involved again and he stepped into the box prior to the time Eric Dier got a foot into. The ball fell easily to Fernandes who left Lloris nothing to do with his exquisite precise finishing.
United might have been able to make their win more eloquent, but Rashford was once again stopped by Lloris even though it was his turn to score.
Ten Hag’s side scored 28 shots in the game the most shots ever of any team in the Premier League game this season. It was also the highest number of shots the team that is that is managed by Antonio Conte has faced in an elite game, and it was the 318th league game that Conte has been in charge of with Serie A and the Premier League.
“We have to be honest, United deserved to win,” Conte declared. “They played very efficiently. On our side we were not able to begin the game well. It was very difficult to win, as we made numerous mistakes.
“The table is quite good however, every time we play a top quality game it is a struggle. I’m going to be honest with you -that is the case with Chelsea. Chelsea we are struggling, and we were defeated against Arsenal as well. Manchester United we lost.
“In this type of game, I think that you need to arrive and not make big mistakes, with great concentration, great focus. You need to be ready to fight a war, or you die against your opponent. The level is very high, we are struggling.”