Tactical Analysis of Manchester United’s Narrow Win Against Tottenham Hotspur

Manchester United inflicted only the second defeat of the season on Tottenham Hotspur after the Red Devils managed to hold on to a 1-0 first half lead. Manchester United went ahead in the 29th minute through Henrikh Mkhitaryan and showed some really good defensive resilience to win all three points against an underwhelming Tottenham side at the Old Trafford. Manchester United won their first game at Old Trafford after their win against Leicester City on September 24th.

Stats overview

Stats overview (source:squawka)

First Half

Manchester United started really brightly as they forced Lloris into a wonderful save from Pogba’s strike near the edge of the box. After that, Manchester United continued to gain momentum with Tottenham having their moments in the game too. Manchester United finally managed to break the deadlock with a fine strike from their rather underused player Mkhitaryan as the Armenian lashed from inside to find the back of the net.

Tottenham tried really hard to find an equaliser but weren’t able to get through United’s midfield and when they did, they failed to deliver a decent ball into the box. Harry Kane was quite isolated which often forced him deep to see more of the ball.

Second Half

Tottenham were fairly toothless in the second half too despite a decent amount of possession. Wanyama missed a glorious opportunity at the beginning of the second half as he failed to head in from close range after he was found unmarked by Christian Eriksen.

Manchester United continued to threaten on the counter and forced a low save near the post from Pogba. Manchester United also hit the woodwork after Dembele fouled near the edge of the box and Pogba hit the post from the resulting free-kick.

Moussa Sissoko’s introduction injected Tottenham with some pace and energy from the right wing. Sissoko made some really good runs doing everything right but failed to get decent crosses into the box for Harry Kane and the others to take advantage of.

Manchester United were able to see out the time and took all three points from the game to close the gap between them and Tottenham to 3 points.

Toothless Tottenham

Although Tottenham have shown signs of their old self, they have failed to consistently deliver on the offensive front. Eriksen and Alli have been patchy, to say the least while Dembele too hasn’t lived up to the standard set by him last season. Despite winning the majority of the midfield duels, Tottenham have often lacked the creativity to hurt the opposition and have been rather slow and ponderous in transitioning from back to front. This has often rendered one of their most lethal weapon from last season, counter attack, toothless.

The same happened in this particular game as Manchester United managed to smother their forward movement through the centre. United clogged Tottenham’s midfield and forced them wide after which Tottenham were clueless in penetrating from wide areas. Even after Sissoko was substituted on and made some decent runs, he failed to get in final balls into the box.

Mkhitaryan's passes

Mkhitaryan’s passes (source:squawka)

Martial's passes

Martial’s passes (source:squawka)

Mkhitaryan’s magic

Manchester United have often found it difficult to get through opposition’s defences but Mkhitaryan’s resurgence has given them the creativity and pace to enable them to threaten defences.

Against Tottenham, United moved the ball really quickly and made some really good runs to torment Tottenham full-backs. Mkhitaryan’s runs were a constant theme throughout the game as the 27-year-old was a nightmare to defend against. Rose found it really difficult to match the Armenian’s pace and creativity. Mkhitaryan was rewarded for his hard work when Herera sent him through with a wonderful ball and the former Dortmund player lashed it past Lloris to give Red-Devils the lead.

Mkhitaryan and Martial complemented each other really well as they formed a really good partnership. They formed a pair of a conventional winger and playmaking winger which helped them dismantle Tottenham’s defence. As shown in the above graphic, Martial’s most touches were all concentrated in wider areas while Mkhitaryan’s touches are distributed rather all over the pitch.

Unfortunately, Mkhitaryan had to be stretchered off after injuring his ankle after a tackle from Danny Rose.

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