Manchester United finally profited from good attacking and quality defending with a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan made the difference with a very good goal that separated the two sides. United’s raw technical ability was well-matched by Spurs’ intense pressing game, as United spent a lot of the first half relieving Spurs’ heavy pressing. However, the game opened up when United scored the goal and both sides were able to attack freely, with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo showing their qualities as they comfortably outplayed Tottenham’s defensive duo of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
Manchester United got off to a good start in the second minute, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan cleverly found Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who fashioned a chance for Paul Pogba at the edge of the box. Pogba’s effort was well saved by Hugo Lloris, but United would take encouragement from a bright start. Nothing much happened after that, as both teams struggled to evade the press of the other side, until the 18th minute, when Spurs had a chance from Christian Eriksen’s promising free kick that David de Gea also did well to save.
A wonderful passing movement from Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Anthony Martial and Pogba in the 22nd minute created a chance for Mkhitaryan, whose effort was cleared for a corner. United’s effort from the corner flag was dangerous, but not quite profitable. Ibrahimovic set Martial free in the 24th minute, but Martial struggled to get a touch on his incredible overhead pass.
Manchester United was finally rewarded for their efforts as Ander Herrera’s sublime through-ball allowed Henrikh Mkhitaryan to score one-v-one with Lloris in the 30th minute. Herrera and Mkhitaryan both played their part in a very special goal, but back to the action United went as Antonio Valencia was booked for a cynical foul on Danny Rose.
United, playing with confidence, earned a chance as Valencia’s swinging cross found Ibrahimovic in the 34th minute, but the Swede had a tough angle and couldn’t get much out of Lloris. On the other side, Heung-Min Son had an excellent effort from outside the box, saved well by de Gea for a corner. That represented the final relevant effort of the half, and United looked good value for their lead at the interval.
Christian Eriksen’s free kick in the 55th minute introduced the second half, with a clear chance for Victor Wanyama, who couldn’t head into the goal one-v-one. This was a sign that United needed to attack the match more, as they had retreated immensely since the first goal. Spurs, showing intent to score, replaced Son with Moussa Sissoko.
Paul Pogba had a chance to score United’s second from a free kick as the Frenchman smashed the bar, and United’s football quickly ended up in another chance for the Frenchman, but he was denied by a ridiculous save from Lloris. One could hear many United fans yelling “it’s happening again” already.
Scenes got darker as Mkhitaryan had to be stretchered off after a challenge from Danny Rose, and he was replaced by Eric Bailly. Fellaini and Rashford also ended up coming in as substitutes as United saw out the match with relative comfort. Spurs was able to threaten, but ultimately United earned the win and were good value for it, finally earning points for outstanding efforts.
Goals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan 29′
Assists: Ander Herrera 29′
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Rojo, Darmian; Carrick, Herrera (Fellaini 90+6′); Mkhitaryan (Bailly 84′), Pogba, Martial (Rashford 71′); Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Blind; Mata; Rooney
Bookings: Antonio Valencia 32′, Paul Pogba 63′, Henrikh Mkhitaryan 75′