‘Fantastic’ Spurs show they can beat the big boys
A goal from Christian Eriksen after just 11 seconds sets Mauricio Pochettino's men on the way to a stunning win against Manchester United
01 February, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
SPURS 2 (Eriksen, 1, Jones OG 29), MANCHESTER UNITED 0
IT has long been said that Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs side need to improve their record against other top-four challengers and that when it comes to playing their direct competitors they freeze. There is a feeling that without fixing this, they will struggle to be regular Champions League attendees.
Earlier in the season, when they bossed Liverpool off the Wembley turf, it was considered to be more about the state of Liverpool’s dire defence than Spurs showing they could mix it with those around them in the upper echelons.
But tonight, against second-placed Manchester United, they were simply unplayable – and could even afford for talisman Harry Kane to have a rare off day in front of goal.
United could not handle Tottenham when they went forward – the men in red were nowhere near Spurs in midfield, and, when Jose Mourinho’s team did manage an occasional foray out of their own half, they met an impregnable defence.
Pochettino was understandably pleased with his team as they started a sequence that sees them meet Liverpool, Juventus and Arsenal – and squeeze in a Cup replay against lowly Newport, too – in the coming nine days.
But speaking after the match, Pochettino, as he always does, tried to downplay the lesson his team had given Mourinho’s charges.
“I think, yes, we were fantastic,” he said. “But it is important to keep going, keep consistent – we have to play again in four days and we will need to use the whole squad. Now, we need to rest up and make sure all the players are in good condition.”
Pochettino praised the composure after going a goal up after just 11 seconds.
He added: “You have to try and manage the game – and they played like it was still 0-0. They kept focussed, they concentrated.”
It could not have started better for Spurs. Straight from the kick-off, a long ball was launched forward, and a knockdown fell for Dele Alli. As he fought for the ball, it landed at Christian Eriksen’s feet. The Danish midfielder smashed his effort home.
It gave Spurs belief.
Pochettino’s men looked dangerous every time they attacked and within the first 20 minutes the home side could have killed United off. On 10, Heung-Min Son nearly made it two when a quick move saw Alli get past the defence and send a slide-rule ball to his teammate that was a nick of a boot away from reaching him with the goal gaping. And then, after 28 minutes, Kieran Trippier hit a first-time cross into the mix that Phil Jones could only turn it into his own net to double the lead.
United simply couldn’t handle Spurs and moments after increasing their lead, another great run by Trippier carved them open. His pass was inch perfect for Alli – but he was sent flying by Antonio Valencia. It looked a nailed on penalty. Somehow, referee Andre Marriner thought otherwise.
More was to come. Kane beat two defenders and forced de Gea into a low save, Eric Dier nodded over from an Eriksen free-kick and only a mixture of desperate defending and a slice of luck kept the score as it was.
It was as good a half as Spurs have played this season, and had Pochettino’s trademark style all over it – his team pressed, harried and broke with speed. It was unfortunate for the record home crowd of nearly 82,000 that they weren’t enjoying a rugby score lead when the break came.
Whatever Mourinho said at half-time, it didn’t work. Spurs tore into their visitors again and created a series of good opportunities. De Gea had to be smart to get down to a Kane shot, then Ben Davies tried his luck which de Gea also had to be alive to. It set the pattern for yet more Tottenham dominance that left United looking utterly ragged.
Son, Kane, Alli and substitute Erik Lamela all could – perhaps should – have increased the cushion as the match wore on. Losing by just two flattered United. As the final whistle went it felt extraordinary that, on paper, the score didn’t humiliate United – as Spurs had done on the pitch.
Spurs: Lloris, Trippier, Vertonghen, Sanchez, Son (Lamela, 79), Kane, Dier, Dembele (Wanyama, 90), Alli (Sissoko, 87) Eriksen, Davies.
Subs not used: Vorm, Rose, Llorente, Walker-Peters.
Man Utd: De Gea, Jones, Pogba (Mata, 62), Sanchez, Lukaka, Martial, Smalling, Lingard (Fellaini, 62, Herrera, 69), Young, Valencia, Matic.
Subs not used; Romero, Rojo, Rashford, Shaw.
Attendance: 81, 978