It was a classic Jose Mourinho encounter for Tottenham Hotspur, who were fortunate to keep up a 1-1 draw against Manchester United. Despite a good run of early pressure and strong possession from the visitors, it was fresh signing Steven Bergwijn who broke the deadlock in the 27th minute for Spurs.
United had to then wait for Paul Pogba to be subbed on and win a penalty within the final thirty minutes in order to permit Bruno Fernandes to bury the ball via a penalty kick. A second penalty could have been awarded to the Red Devils but VAR ruled it out as Fernandes’ in-box foul appeared unintentional.
1. Team without Pogba vs team with
The headlines would have certainly written themselves when the game kicked off with Paul Pogba on the bench. Given that the Frenchman had been out of action for several months longer than his teammates, it is understandable that Solskjaer did not wish to take risks with his fitness and affect general team chemistry.
However, it cannot be denied that Pogba’s introduction to the game made a heap of difference for United and the fact that he won the penalty that Fernandes scored could technically be chalked up as the first assist of a successful midfield partnership. He also nearly created a brilliant Marcus Rashford goal with an excellent long pass.
Where will Pogba start the game during United’s next fixture?
2. The Jose Mourinho advantage
Manchester United clearly still struggle to penetrate teams that sit back and absorb pressure. The sole goal they conceded was a result of a mistake and their defense was particularly wobbly during counter-attacks.
As such, Mourinho’s default style of play worked brilliantly as he had no issue in lining up his team to do the same and it certainly worked.
Incidentally, there is a good chance that the lack of spectators worked to the Portuguese gaffer’s advantage here as there was no crowd to critique and spur on the side to play more ‘exciting’ football.
This is an issue that Solskjaer must solve quickly lest it becomes the go-to tactic to render his versatile front line moot.
3. Harry Kane needs several more games, Son looking to return to form
Mourinho’s bigger woes will be getting his attacking players back to their erstwhile impeccable form. Harry Kane was clearly not used to the kind of intensity a full ninety minutes of football requires. The very sight that he was not subbed off despite the fact that he was struggling towards the end and Spurs having three more changes available to them is certainly intriguing. The English striker will certainly take time before returning to his usual antics.
In contrast, Heung-Min Son looked sharp in his return and caused United some worry on multiple occasions.
Being bereft of Dele Alli also seemed to affect the penetrative intent of the side.
4. Goalkeeping antics
It was certainly an intriguing night of goalkeeping performances from both sides. To start off, David De Gea could have put in so much more effort in keeping out the opener.
The Spaniard himself proved that point when he made an excellent and acrobatic save minutes later to deny Spurs a textbook headed-goal.
On the other side, Lloris was excellent on his toes and bettered De Gea by keeping out what would have been a picturesque goal from Anthony Martial. However, his prowess wasn’t enough to keep out Fernandes’ penalty.
5. United are still unbeaten with Bruno Fernandes
The side’s newest maestro didn’t disappoint and continued with his brilliant pre-lockdown form. The penalty was excellently taken and for much of the game he was the chief engineer of all threats that the side posed.
As such, it is no surprise that he is yet to taste defeat in a United shirt and that the club has him to thank for much of their now 12-games unbeaten streak.
He was also arguably the finest player on the pitch and fans will be expecting him to flourish.