That monkey is finally climbing down from the back of Jose Mourinho. And home win at long, long last, and a big one at that. Besting Mauricio Pochettino today was critical if United were to keep hope alive for a Champions League place by Christmas time and leave scope for improvement, and after the complete farce that was Everton last Sunday, how nice it is to be mostly happy. Here is what we learned this afternoon at Old Trafford.
A weak left side of defence needs addressing
I’m going to get the moan out of the way nice and early because it’s nice to build up a good feeling. There can be no real complaints bar this one today, and it was fortunately not taken advantage of by a rather toothless Tottenham side. Thankfully Eric Bailly is fit once more because having Marcos Rojo playing centre-half has a massive potential for big mistakes. Today he was good, and his no-nonsense approach is the one that suits him best. He isn’t a footballer. He and Matteo Darmian together isn’t a combination that inspires confidence in myself, Darmian was skinned time and time again by both wingers he faced and the game plan from Spurs was to exploit this. Improvements have to be made down there, and Bailly and Shaw may well be the answer.
Attack was the best form of defence
Sitting on a 1-0 lead has bitten arses every time it’s been attempted. Every time. The reason? The defence isn’t nearly strong enough to cope with wave after wave of attack from the opposition. The remedy would be to take the onus from them and press high, and that is exactly the course Jose Mourinho chose to take. High pressing from the word go ensured pressure couldn’t build and the defence weren’t overrun, Mourinho may have to wiggle about some of his philosophies and thought processes, but until the defence is of the quality required using the intensity of Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba to close down opponents is the way forward.
Mkhitaryan masterstroke or attempted redemption?
Was it actually a wonderfully executed ploy by Mourinho to leave Henrik Mkhitaryan on the sidelines for so long, or has he sought redemption to devastating effect? None of us bar he will know, but what is clear is that it’s a damn good thing he started giving the Armenian starts. Another game another goal for the new-found linchpin was only soured by him needing to leave the game on a stretcher. His omission only grows more baffling by the game, and with any luck, his injury isn’t anywhere near as bad as it first appears. Juan Mata will be entrusted with filling that void should the more serious fate have befallen Mkhitaryan, and what a void it has suddenly become.
1-0 isn’t an emphatic scoreline, but who wants that kind of showmanship anyhow? And it’s not like it was a boring game. United were by far the dominant force, driven on by the three central midfielders who were all excellent in their own right. Paul Pogba was markedly improved from a poor midweek showing, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave everything United needed in attack. Marcus Rashford needs something to go right for him to get his confidence back to what it was back in May, he is severely lacking something that’s for sure. And how could I tie things up without mentioning the sensational David de Gea? Countless saves yet again kept United in front and ensured the three points were delivered safely. Happy, happy and happy again as the fruits of Mourinho’s labour are finally being reaped. The foundations were there to be seen, it’s about time something positive came from it.