Spurs 1-3 United
These back-to-back defeats were unexpected and out of keeping with our consistent defensively strong performances this year. Only against the Manchester clubs and Arsenal have we conceded 3 or more. These two games must not define our season and both losses were in very different circumstances. United was disappointing however, in that we have become accustomed to bouncing back from an unusual lack of setbacks. We must hope to retain the confidence still evident for large parts of the game yesterday.
Old habits die hard: The difference between the sides was clinical attacking. Lennon drove into the box and blazed over minutes after Young had curled in his second from a similar position. This was not a gulf in class we were seeing but the naivety of title challenging upstarts against the team no-one has won more. United win without excessive pressure and we lose providing a good account of ourselves without deserving the victory that has eluded us for 11 years. It is our last remaining hoodoo and all too familiar. We even had another phantom goal to bemoan which was probably disallowed correctly but god forbid we should get any slices of good fortune against United. Yet again we fail to do anything of note from set pieces yet we concede sloppy goals from them. Rooney was afforded a free shot at goal from both their first half corners. Teams that forget corners and free kicks offer an opportunity to score do not win Championships.
Hard to fault individual performances: Apart from the costly defensive lapses for the first two goals, most individual performances could not be faulted. Sandro is more than an adequate replacement for Parker, Livermore helped control the midfield forcing United to give the ball away on numerous occasions when instead an appearance for Bale in his free role might have unbalanced us. Although he might have invited a few free kicks to waste. Out of the missing personnel, Rafa’s propensity to pop up with goals out of nothing was certainly missed. Saha was lively but Adebayor again was easy to defend against bar the odd effective flick. He’s the king of the disallowed goal. And why do we have this new routine whereby we clear our own shots off the line? He ought to be substituted one day. Lennon’s performance was very encouraging and Benny put in a typically sophisticated home performance to banish last week’s away abomination. Ledley also recovered his pride. Kyle was a force going forward and Luka still was able to exert some influence from the left. For the second time this season, Brad could not be faulted for conceding 8 goals in two ganes. As a team however we just did not create enough clear cut chances. Just as Brad was hardly tested, De Gea had little to do in the second half, like Szczesny last week, and we faded after the third.
Crowd Disappointing: The crowd could have lifted the team more, particularly after second goal. It was quieter than usual for such a big game. We gave up on the game too soon which always translates to the players. We jeered ironically when getting a decision from the ref, as if we were somehow surprised to be hard done by against Fergie’s lot. We must not forget that league-wise we are in a position most of us would have taken and of course we are looking good for the cup. It is indeed particularly galling to have had our gap of 10 points over Arsenal cut to 4 in a matter of days but Chelsea are in disarray and if there’s one positive to take from United despite the result, we played some expressive football again and possession wise more than matched them.
Bench Not Animated: Every time I looked over to the bench, no-one was up. This was in stark contrast to the Newcastle game which saw ‘Arry at his most animated. People are inevitably going to point to the England job playing on his mind and this is something to be wary of as we face tests to character in the remaining months. Defoe should have been brought on earlier and showed what he can do with even a few minutes on the pitch, even if United could be accused of being casual at that point. He has had rotten luck getting starting berths this term but Wednesday will surely provide one.
Everton Importance: Stevenage is a chance to get back to winning ways and for Sandro and Lennon to continue to improve fitness. The FA Cup now has taken on great significance as we are out of the title race and there is in the way for us to go all the way. Everton on Saturday will not be easy, before the rearranged fixture at the Lane, Harry said, ‘it don’t get tougher than Everton’, but is now a must-win. It is the start of our run-in to consolidate third.