Manchester United’s perfect start to 2018 was brought to a sudden halt on Wednesday night when they succumbed to a disappointing 2-0 loss at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium. The Reds’ goal was breached for the first time this year after just 11 seconds, when Christian Eriksen profited from a poor headed clearance to curl the ball past David de Gea. Midway through the second half, Spurs doubled their lead courtesy of a Phil Jones own goal, when the centre-back turned Kieran Trippier’s low cross into his own net.
United made just one change to the side that secured all three points away to Burnley in their last Premier League outing, with manager Jose Mourinho handing Alexis Sanchez his first league start since joining from Arsenal last week, as Juan Mata dropped to the bench. Spurs, who came into Wednesday’s clash on the back of a disappointing 1-1 draw away to Newport County in the FA Cup, made a bright start under the Wembley floodlights.
Talisman Harry Kane flicked on a long ball played to him straight from kick-off into the path of Dele Alli, before it fell to Eriksen, who was unmarked inside United’s penalty area. The Denmark international made no mistake and fired the ball past a motionless de Gea. Whilst the early goal stunned United, the visitors responded in positive fashion, with Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial creating a couple of half chances to remind Spurs there was plenty of life left in this contest. Upon his return to North London, Sanchez cut a lively figure on the visitors’ left flank and was a constant threat to the Tottenham defence.
The home side, however, were superior in every department, with Alli and Kane particularly impressive, their sharp and fluid movements greatly contrasting the Reds’ hesitant and ineffective forward line. There could have been few complaints when Spurs did double their lead on 28 minutes. Tottenham right-back Trippier, who put in a lively performance and did well to keep Martial in check, fizzed in a low cross which Jones really should have dealt with. Whilst a left-footed clearance should have been enough to divert the ball away from United’s penalty box, the England international opted to go with his right-foot, succeeding only in guiding the ball past a hapless de Gea and into the net.
Just a few minutes later, the home side felt they should have had a penalty when Alli was brought down in the box by right-back Antonio Valencia, only for referee Andre Marriner to wave play on. United went into the half-time break deservedly behind and in need of a serious talking to by Mourinho if they were to get anything out of the second 45 minutes.
As it turned out, the visitors were just as toothless in the second-half as they were in the first and never looked like seriously troubling Hugo Lloris’ goal. Whilst Spurs created a number of glorious goalscoring opportunities, the Reds’ only real chance came when Romelu Lukaku powered his way past the Tottenham backline before seeing his left-footed half-volley tipped over the bar by the Spurs custodian.
It was little surprise to see Mourinho make a double substitution midway through the second half as he brought on Marouane Fellaini and Mata on for Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba, respectively. Pogba, who came into this match in good form, put in hugely disappointing display and was largely anonymous at Wembley, with Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier emerging victorious from their midfield battle. Spurs had a hatful of chances to add to the scoreline, with a number of those chances falling to Kane, who was in search of his 100th Premier League goal, although the England international fluffed his lines repeatedly.
As the final whistle went, United could have had few complaints with regards to the scoreline, although Mourinho will be rightly furious at the poor performance put in by a number of the Reds’ stars. The defeat to Spurs not only saw United’s great recent run come to an end but also saw Manchester City extend their lead at the top of the table to 15 points between them and their cross-town rivals.
Next up for United is the visit of Huddersfield Town to Old Trafford on Saturday and Mourinho will be looking for an immediate reaction from his men, as they gear up for a hectic month of football.