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Five Talking Points: Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Manchester United (Premier League)



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Credit: IMAGO / PA Images

Manchester United choked a 2-0 half time lead away from home at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, allowing the hosts to draw and continuing the side’s pathetic away form this season.

The first half was a dominant display by the Reds, with Jadon Sancho scoring an excellent goal within the opening ten minutes. United would have many other chances to score in the half, and Marcus Rashford would double the lead just before half time after an excellent ball through from Bruno Fernandes.

The second half was a different story. United did not come out with even close to the same level of intensity and allowed Spurs many chances. A goal from Pedro Porro made it 2-1, before United cheaply allowed Spurs an equaliser through Heung-Min Son.

Here are five talking points from the game:

#1: A game of two halves

The first half showed us what United can potentially be under Erik ten Hag. The second half showed just how far we have to go to realise that potential.

United’s intensity, dominance, and possession play in the opening 45 minutes were all excellent, and an argument could be made that United should have been winning by more than two goals.

In the second half, things completely changed. United were no longer the front-footed, dominant side that had looked so impressive. They looked as though they were hanging on by a thread, despite being two goals up. Christian Eriksen coming off for Fred, who had a poor display, made this look much worse.

United have had an excellent season under Ten Hag, but it is important to remember just how much work is still yet to be done by the Dutchman, and the upcoming transfer window will be crucial.

#2: David De Gea’s extension should not even be a consideration

Tottenham’s first goal came from a claimable cross landing three yards out from the goal without being properly dealt with.

Tottenham’s second goal came from a turnover after United kicked long having gone back to the goalkeeper, being unable to pass the ball out from the back.

These are not isolated incidents within this game. United suffer from teams piling crosses into their six-yard box every single week, with those opponents knowing that De Gea will place the burden onto his teammates to deal with them every time.

United also suffer from not being able to hold the ball and sustain possession every week, with opposition teams knowing that the second an ounce of pressure is applied, De Gea will give the ball straight back to them. Brighton fans routinely cheered on Sunday when the ball went to De Gea’s feet, it became a near-guarantee of possession for their team a few seconds after.

These are just two of many flaws. If Manchester United are serious, they will not even consider the extension of David De Gea’s contract for a second. His future and Manchester United’s progression are two entirely separate roads, and at no point do they meet.

#3: Sancho with a confident display

Having scored his penalty in style in Sunday’s shootout, Jadon Sancho came into tonight’s game riding a wave of confidence, and he capitalised on this with a goal in the opening minutes of the game.

Picking the ball up on the left-hand side of the area, Sancho shifted onto his right to work the angle for the shot before arrowing it into the far corner to put United a goal up. He nearly scored again midway through the half and was unlucky not to do so, having a shot blocked by Romero before a follow-up was cleared off the line by Perisic.

Outside of this, his intensity levels were standout for United, constantly sprinting back with real urgency before making great effort to get back up the pitch when United had regained the ball. At one point, he killed a Spurs attack by nicking the ball from England teammate Kane as if he were a number six. All in all, a strong performance from Sancho who looked like he believed in himself again, and United fans will be hoping to see him keep this up.

#4: Marcus Rashford has hugely improved as a centre forward

Setting up Sancho’s goal with some excellent work to hold off opposition players to retain the ball centrally before releasing to his fellow Englishman in the box, Marcus Rashford looked like he had been spending some time with his teammate and best mate Anthony Martial.

Throughout the first half, his previously-criticised hold-up and link-up abilities looked strong, he has learnt to use his body a lot better. For his goal towards the end of the half, he created separation from Eric Dier in the left-hand channel of the box before rocketing the goal past Fraser Forster in a manner that would instil great pride in Robin van Persie. He could have had another with some excellent movement at the back post too.

Rashford’s box movement, all-around centre forward play and ability on his weaker side have all improved tenfold this season. He may not be perfect, but if he keeps up this improvement then it could save Manchester United 100 million pounds this summer.

#5: Luke Shaw is a monster of a footballer

You don’t often walk away from a game where you conceded two goals praising a centre-half, much less one who isn’t actually a centre-half, but such is Luke Shaw’s level that he deserves the praise coming off this game.

The best left back in the Premier League – and maybe even world football – most weeks, Shaw slotted in as a centre-back for this game as he has done in Lisandro Martínez’s absence this season, and his performance was admirable.

Shaw’s physical qualities often go overlooked because he looks a little chubby, but he is one of the most powerful players in the Premier League and showcased that today, marshalling the Spurs attackers with relative ease. Whether it be stepping up to follow an attacker dropping deep, or covering the channels when Spurs went long, it was no problem for Shaw. He even made some key defensive actions in his box too. On the ball, as always, he was flawless.

Shaw being one of the best footballers at the club should be a long-established fact by now, but he is proving himself to be one of the most versatile too.