Manchester United fell to a 2-0 defeat away to Tottenham at Wembley as Christian Eriksen scored the second-fastest goal in Premier League history (11 seconds) and a Phil Jones own goal compounded United’s misery. Spurs absolutely dominated the game, and United are now 15 points behind City, while more pertinently, Liverpool and Chelsea are only three points behind United, with Spurs a further two points back.
Here are some of the key talking points from the defeat:
Spurs rattle United
United were absolutely shell-shocked by the opening as they conceded a goal without having touched the ball. While that is usually not reflective of the game as a whole, this goal was as Spurs pressed United high and forced mistakes from their defence, which has been the best in the division so far this season. David de Gea was forced to kick long as the Spurs attackers were cutting off his shorter passing options, which led to a mistake from the Spanish keeper as he kicked straight to a Spurs man thirty yards from goal. While Phil Jones was on hand to deal with the danger on that occasion, he was soon hitting his head against the stanchion, having put the ball in his own net from a Kieran Trippier cross which he should have easily cleared. It was a shambolic display from United, especially from their two centre-backs, and Spurs could have easily scored a couple more goals.
There have been a number of United fans who have stated that the results against Liverpool, City and Chelsea would have been different if Paul Pogba would have been available. This was based mostly on the evidence of his display against Arsenal, where he ran midfield and set up two goals. On this evidence, however, it may be a little premature to make such claims, Pogba had no influence on the game whatsoever. He failed to impose himself against Eric Dier or Mousa Dembele, losing out too easily in physical duels, while his quality of passing was abysmal. Pogba does not seem suited to this 4-2-3-1 and Mourinho must look to a different formation if he is to get the best out of his French midfielder.
Matic needs a rest or a partner
United’s midfield was shockingly poor, and while Pogba’s travails have been mentioned above, his Serbian partner did not cover himself in glory either. His passing was atrocious as well, while he did little of his shielding brief in front of the defence, Spurs players found it too easy to go past him. Matic has played virtually every game for United this season and the workload seems to be showing up. He desperately needs a rest but his importance to the side means that this is unlikely. The alternative is to play three men in midfield, as any of Herrera, Carrick or Fellaini could slot in beside him, both liberating Pogba as well as easing the defensive burden on Matic. Mourinho needs to consider how best to use his Serbian enforcer to avoid burnout, both for the player as well as United’s season.