With the Premier League midweek games truly kicking in once again ahead of a busy December schedule, the main focus was solely on the feisty and interesting fixture between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, where Jose Mourinho would be making a return to take on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men. A victory for either side would help them push towards the top four positions.
Going into the game, Mourinho would have mainly wanted the three points to get his side to at least fifth-place in the league, as well as to prove himself to the United board and Ed Woodward, who actually sacked him this time last year. Meanwhile, Solskjaer’s situation was a difficult one, as it looked like his days at the club are numbered and he was on borrowed time, so a win for him was required more than ever.
Overall, the host were more effective and productive with the ball despite not dominating the possession, and were able to get attempt and complete more shots on target. On the other hand, the visitors had some good periods with the ball in United’s half, but were lacking the cutting edge and the final third quality to break down the opposition.
United were on the front foot from the start, winning the key battle in midfield whilst using their pace and movement on the flanks through the likes of Daniel James and Marcus Rashford. Fortunately enough they took the lead through the latter and his high confidence of shooting from different angles, as his quick snap shot took Paulo Gazzaniga by surprise and went into the net.
The home side continued to pile on the pressure and were looking quite determined to doubled their lead, but did not find great success in getting past the Tottenham defence. Spurs managed to complete only two shots on target in the first half, with the most important one coming from Dele Alli in 39th minute of the game, where he created a moment of brilliance by beating both Ashley Young and Fred to the ball in the penalty box before calmly slotting it passed David De Gea.
After the half-time break, it didn’t take long for the Red Devils to take the lead again, as Rashford was fouled in the penalty box Moussa Sissoko and went to confidently taking the penalty to score his ninth league goal of the season. With most of the main action being covered by the hour mark, there wasn’t much to it in the final third of the game, as both sides became sloppy and poor on the ball.
In the end, Spurs were enjoying the fair share of the ball were could not do much about it, as United were being patient defensively and were looking for some moments to counter successfully. Though, the game came to an end with Solskjaer picking up the much needed victory and also doing a number on Mourinho, allowing United to move up to fifth-place as Spurs went down to eighth-place.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…
Marcus Rashford is a man on a mission
Since the final days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at Old Trafford, no player has scored more goals for Manchester United than Marcus Rashford (57), which is more than impressive from the 22-year-old who was only given his official debut two years after Sir Alex had went into retirement. And both his goals were well-taken last night, with one being from a tight angle and the other from the spot.
The questions were raised about the key chances he has missed this term and his ability to be a clinical goal-scorer, which he is now proving to the critics and to those who doubted him, as he has bagged nine goals and four assists in 14 league games. Given the lack of attacking options and depth within the department, Rashford will be heavy relied on from now till the end of the campaign.
The midfield duo Fred and Scott McTominay continues to impress
When looking at Tottenham’s midfield compared to United’s quality in the middle of the pitch, one would have thought that the control and dominance in the midfield battle would have been one-sided and in the favour of the away side. However, it was the midfield duo of Fred and Scott McTominay that came out on top, as they were constantly outstanding on and off the ball.
Looking into Fred’s performance, it was arguably the best one he has completed in a United shirt as far as the Old Trafford faithful were concerned, as he was progressive with the ball at his feet and was getting into the defensive duties when required. On the other hand, the return of McTominay was huge for the side and the manager, as his physical presence and ability to protect the ball in midfield was much needed, as the United midfield in recent weeks have been poor and deficient.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to fight for another day at Man Utd
For sure, the main focus has been on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and how much more longer he will be at the club for, but the credit has to be given where it’s due, as he managed to overcome a strong side in Tottenham Hotspur that is managed by Jose Mourinho. Surprisingly, Solskjaer’s record in the big games have been more positive and effective than in the games against the middle-table sides.
If he wasn’t able to recently get a result against Spurs and one potentially in the Manchester derby on the weekend, he would have surely been sacked by Ed Woodward before the December fixtures had kicked in. With the United fanbase being fairly even on if they want Ole out or not, they will want him to motivate the players to perform like they did on a more regular basis, where they play with urgency, fast tempo on and off the ball whilst having the mentality of being on the front foot.