Manchester United kept up the heat on cross-town rivals Manchester City with a crucial win over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. Anthony Martial proved to be the hero in the last few minutes of the game after coming off the bench for Marcus Rashford.
Here are 5 talking points from the game.
5. Bailly and Jones’ returns prove crucial
Eric Bailly has been out of action for around a month now, and his presence has been sorely missed at the heart of United’s defense. Smalling has been a good fill in but is still prone to a lot of errors and can be an unsettling presence at times. After Jones pulled up short in last week’s game against Huddersfield, which then led to United’s instant collapse after Victor Lindelof’s double fiasco, Mourinho would have been very worried with a game against one of the Premier League’s top clubs coming up.
The likes of Eriksen, Alli, Son and Kane have been flying this season and it was imperative that one of United’s first choice center backs came back for this game. Kane missed the game with a slight hamstring pull and United will have been absolutely delighted by their luck, as both Bailly and Jones were passed fit for the crunch clash at Old Trafford.
Bailly and Jones started alongside Smalling in a three man defense, with Valencia and Young having a more advanced role. How crucial has the Bailly-Jones center-back pairing been? To put it into perspective, this was the first time United have kept a clean sheet in all of their first 5 home games of the season since the 2007-08 season. The modern-day Rio and Vidic, anyone?
4. Ashley Young was the star of the show
With every week that passes by, Ashley Young continues to endear himself to the Old Trafford faithful with superb and consistent displays, and he kept that up yet again against one of the best sides in the league. Young hasn’t always been on the good side of the fans, with many wanting him gone for years now. But since turning into a left-back, he has proved to be a useful back up player but he isn’t just that anymore. Despite the depth of options Mourinho has at left-back, the Englishman has made the position his own in recent weeks.
Against Spurs, he was full of life, running tirelessly up and down the flanks as if he had a third lung. Attackingly inventive, defensively air-tight, it was almost a perfect display and he was deservedly given a standing ovation when he came off in the dying minutes of the game. Fantastic.
3. No Kane, no gain
Harry Kane has been flying this season, and United would have been relieved that he wasn’t taking part in the game. Fernando Llorente is a great striker, but he just isn’t Kane and his absence was felt, as United’s defense wasn’t really troubled by the striker. Eriksen, Alli and Kane have had almost a telepathic sort of understanding so far this season and with one of the trio missing, the decisive factor was too. The other two almost scored the opener with a magnificent piece of play but Alli brushed his shot narrowly wide. Would Kane have scored that? Probably.
2. Martial redeems himself
Anthony Martial has had a very tough time trying to prove his worth to Jose Mourinho this season. Every time he is used as an impact sub, he makes a magnificent contribution, adding more life, creativity and energy into the team. He plays so well that it seems incomprehensible that Jose doesn’t start him. Yet, when the Frenchman does start, he suddenly seems a different player and cannot make a difference.
Last week, Martial was shockingly bad against Huddersfield having started the game, and as a result, suffered the ignominy of being substituted at half-time. He received a lot of stick from fans for his dire performance, and he couldn’t have picked a better way to hit back.
Coming on for Marcus Rashford after 70 minutes, Martial sought to redeem himself and he did just that in what was probably United’s most crucial fixture so far. He made an instant impact, running at the defense and adding a few brilliant flicks to take Spurs defenders out of the game.
As the game approached the final ten minutes, up popped the 21-year-old whose brilliant run saw him in the right place at the right time and he slotted it past Hugo Lloris for the winner. Jose would have absolutely loved that one. Martial redeemed.
1. Spurs stutter, United restore hope
This game was a crucial one for both clubs as the Premier League table starts to take place heading into the Christmas period. Going into the match, United and Spurs were level on points, with the former being ahead by virtue of goal-difference. Manchester City are racing away so early in the season and a draw was not an option for either side if they wanted to keep up the pace with the league leaders. The Londoners came into this game as the in-form side, while United were coming off the back of a shambolic display at Huddersfield.
Harry Kane’s absence in a crunch fixture played a part without a doubt, but Mourinho’s men looked the part from the start and always looked the likelier to score first. As the result shows, that is exactly how it panned out. City take on West Brom at the Hawthorns later on, but United have the advantage over Spurs for now.
Manchester United fan, Wayne Rooney is his role model. Passionate writer who has written for several sites in the past. He’s also an aspiring pianist and creates background music for BlameFootball’s Youtube channel.