Player Ratings, Reaction and Highlights : Spurs 1-3 Manchester United

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Manchester United came from a goal down in controversial circumstances to register a crucial Premier League win at Spurs – strengthening their hold on second place in the process, and prolonging that unbeaten away league run.

The first half hour seemed to be very much a product of the first meeting between these two sides this season – United apprehensive and protective, and Spurs, whilst probably the more composed, never really threatening.

Then came the talking point of the first half. Marcus Rashford was fouled on the edge of the box when his ankles were clearly kicked. The referee did not adjudge it to be a foul – Martin Tyler, on commentary for Sky, asked why Rashford was holding his face, as though it made it less of a foul.

United continued to press and in the next passage of play, Paul Pogba found Cavani with a tremendous through ball. The experienced striker showed the sort of clinical edge that United have missed since Ibrahimovic to put his team 1-0 up.

Or so he thought. There was a VAR check to see whether or not, in the build up, McTominay’s outstretched arm had made a strong enough contact with Son, whose reaction definitely did stray into the ‘over’ category.

However, it seemed that the United midfielder’s feather touch had indeed caused the Spurs winger to topple, such was the devastating force of his contact, and the goal was quite remarkably overturned. All of this was farcical enough – but to add to the nonsense, McTominay’s act was a reaction to stop Son pulling him, which was not a foul in itself, but if the game is being reduced to ultra-sensitivity, then in comparison, it was actual bodily harm to McTominay’s ‘contact’, if it qualified as such.

Making the mistake in real-time would have been understandable. But to pick and choose what elements of the build-up counted when presented with an opportunity to watch it over again was deeply concerning officiating.

Shortly after, Spurs – as is usually the case when the drama ramps up like this – scored their own goal when Son (who else?) took advantage of Lindelof and Wan-Bissaka being pulled out of position to slam in at Henderson’s near post.

Solskjaer was clearly incensed by what he had seen and so too were his players, as tempers flared towards the end of the half.

Jose Mourinho is deemed to be yesterday’s man by today’s Einsteins but his commitment to spoiling remains so impressive that you can only imagine he’d be a nightmare to watch a film with.

United were going to have to be bright from the off after the restart – and they were. Cavani’s clever movement paid dividends again, as he found space to latch on to a smart Fred through ball. His shot was saved, and Fred was there to tap in the rebound – the goal was allowed this time, despite the fact that McTominay could be seen in replays to be breathing as United passed the ball.

Spurs hit back – Son had a chance that Henderson did well to save. Fernandes then brought a save out of Lloris with an effort from distance.

In the 66th minute a great Shaw cross was met by Fernandes, who squared it to Pogba in the six-yard box. If the midfielder had taken the conventional approach of a normal finish, United would surely have scored, but instead he tried a needless heeled flick, his legs became tangled and the ball was safely scrambled away.

Just over ten minutes later, though, United did get a second goal – Wan-Bissaka played the ball to Fernandes, who nutmegged his marker. Greenwood, on for Rashford, received the ball and hit a smart first time cross – Cavani was in the middle and met it with a diving header. It was thrilling, and the product of clinical and decisive thinking.

Cavani then turned saviour at the other end, albeit in bizarre circumstances – he got to a cross in his own box before the attackers around him, and his header went to safety, via the post.

United’s second half was seriously impressive, especially considering the atmosphere towards the end of the first half. Far from being on the ropes, they pushed Spurs up the pitch, and earned a reward – Pogba did magnificent work on the ball and played in Greenwood, who showed the sort of accuracy he’s been more renowned for despite his difficult second period, and made it 3-1 with the last kick of the game.

It took some time to get into life but the players and manager deserve credit for the turnaround in the second half. The victory now gives Solskjaer’s team a seven point lead in second place. If the style of football in the second period is what to expect in the closing weeks of the campaign then United fans can be optimistic.

Ratings

Henderson 8

Wan-Bissaka 8

Lindelof 8

Maguire 8

Shaw 8

McTominay 8

Fred 8

Rashford 6

Fernandes 7

Pogba 8

Cavani 8

Subs :

Greenwood 8

Matic

Wayne Barton

Wayne is a writer and producer. His numerous books on Manchester United include the authorised biography of Jimmy Murphy. He wrote and produced the BT Sport film 'Too Good To Go Down'. In 2015 he was described by the Independent as the 'leading writer on Manchester United' and former club chairman Martin Edwards has described him as 'the pre-eminent writer on the club'.

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