Manchester United take on Tottenham Hotspur in what is a very interesting matchup for one statistic in particular. Both sides have six draws already this season, along with Middlesbrough, which is the most amount of draws in the league. United need to switch that form up to get their season back on track, as a win would get them within striking distance of Tottenham for fifth place.
United started the game on a high tempo, pressing Spurs when out of possession, and slowly began to play quick attacking play. This paid off after Ander Herrera won possession in midfield and plays a long direct through ball for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who makes the most of the opportunity and opens the scoring for United with a powerful finish. United gradually began to ease off attacking to defend the lead, but never to the extent of previous games, and Tottenham never got a great goalscoring chance off United.
Credit for that has to go to United’s centre-back pairing Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo. Both of them have been seriously doubted by most fans before, but have been putting in solid performances, and if anything this one would go a long way to prove doubters wrong. Both and Rojo, in particular, were very composed and assured, strong in the tackles when needed.
The goalscorer also can’t go without mention. Mkhitaryan was easily United’s best attacking outlet, with his direct and skillful running and ambitious attacking passes. United’s attempt at faster attacks played into his style perfectly.
The player carrying the most weight in cancelling out Spurs, however, is Herrera. When I mentioned United’s pressing, it was really him, quickly closing in on midfield players, as well as pushing up to their defence and even covering out wide. All that with the discipline and positional awareness, not to mention the effectiveness to not be caught out of position when Spurs try to wriggle out of his pressing with quick passing.
He played the way Spurs like to play, with intense pressure, and they did attempt that. But Herrera’s doggedness combined with his intelligence managed to beat them at their own game, and one instance of his pressure resulted in the match winning goal. Mkhitaryan would be the one grabbing the spotlight, and no one should fault that, but Herrera’s performance in the midfield was the bullet that killed Tottenham’s game plan was massively influential and that simply cannot be ignored. Try as they might, Tottenham certainly couldn’t.