‘A game of two halves’ is an old football cliché and that was the certainly the case at Old Trafford. Manchester United lost 3-0 to Tottenham in a big match for both teams.
In his post-match press conference, Jose Mourinho came out fighting: “I won more Premierships alone than the other 19 managers together,”
Three for me and two for them.
Respect, respect, respect man.”
This certainly harks back to the old day of classic Mourinho or to many the disastrous ‘Third’ season at Chelsea.
A Game of Two Halves at Old Trafford
So, let’s rewind to the start of the night. When the teams were announced there was a real sense of confusion about the tactics.
I was in the ground thinking it was a 3-5-2 with Nemanja Matic playing as a centre-half.
I went into the ground with the same sense of optimism as usual, but with all that was going on it seemed more pivotal than usual.
Last week against Brighton was poor but a response was what all United fans wanted. I felt that United would win this game and prove last week a just a blip.
The tactics were unusual, to say the least, but the team seemed to be geared to match Spurs and push them back.
We all thought that Nemanja Matic was going to play centre-half, but it was Ander Herrera who was playing between Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
In the first half United pressed from the front and forced a couple of uncharacteristic errors from the Spurs defence.
Romelu Lukaku should have scored after rounding Hugo Lloris following a poor Danny Rose back-pass.
There was a spell of sustained pressure from United with a few half chances from Lukaku in particular.
Paul Pogba had a shot which Lloris saved which was close, but this felt like pressure building.
One noticeable aspect of the first half was the noise and passion of the Old Trafford faithful who were loud and singing songs, backing the manager and the club. When the pressure began to build, so did the noise.
Spurs had a few chances themselves and a very likely penalty turned down, but they were not at the races first half as United’s tactical approach caught them off guard.
As the half-time whistle blew there was a sense of frustration that United weren’t winning and caution as any football fan will tell you missed chances do come back and bite you in the backside.
All the positivity was obvious in the ground to anyone there, the team were playing well against a very good Spurs team.
I go to the game with my Dad and he made a point to me that those chances could haunt us and that, because some players were just coming back, we could tire.
Sadly, as normal, he was right. United dominated but had nothing to show for their play, a game of two halves will be the recurring lesson in this game.
Mauricio Pochettino is tipped by many to be a prime candidate to replace Mourinho and he did his chances no harm last night.
The first-half was bad for Spurs, as United’s tactics startled them a little. But they went in level at half-time and tweaks were made.
In the first few minutes of the second half, Christian Eriksen began to drift to the right and get into space and he helped create the chance that led to the corner for Spurs’ first goal.
It was a good delivery from the corner and it has to be said, it was a great header by Harry Kane to put Spurs in front.
A game of two halves became evident as United dominated but couldn’t score but Spurs had one big chance and scored.
The old adage is ‘goals change games’, and that couldn’t be truer. A few minutes later, it was two.
Eriksen got free again and pulled the ball back for the impressive Lucas Moura for their second.
Now, the mountain United had to climb turned from Ben Nevis to Everest in less time than it takes to boil an egg.
Last year against Sevilla, they conceded two quickfire goals and it derailed their Champions League campaign.
Fans were frustrated, as they had been the better team first half; those missed chances came back to haunt us and some player’s legs looked weary. I hate it when my Dad is right.
The damage was already done by the time Alexis Sanchez and Marouane Fellaini came on after the second goal.
Spurs regressed into their defensive shape, waiting to pounce as United piled forward.
Jesse Lingard had a big chance with half an hour left but it went over for a corner.
Lucas Moura bulldozed his way through and added some gloss to the scoreline a few minutes from time.
But it was no more than he or Pochettino’s Spurs deserved.
This is a fixture where almost every player was up against an international teammate. Belgians v Belgians, English v English and French up against French.
This showed the majority of players were up against players who knew their strengths and weaknesses.
So it was a cagey affair until the goal changed it. United had been the more dominant team in the first half but football is a game of two halves.
Leaving the ground saw a lot of conversations on the walk back to the car park/tram stop/ pub about who/what/why?
I love going to Old Trafford as it is a special place for me and my dad with great memories.
We both enjoyed the game but not the result as at least United put up a great first half performance.
Spurs are a talented team, so it’s no disgrace to lose to them but, sadly, when it rains it, pours – especially in Manchester.
Jose Mourinho has the backing of a lot of the fans in the ground, with his fans singing his name both during and after the game.
He picked up a shirt and applauded the Stretford End for two minutes as he walked towards the tunnel.
He might not be everyone’s cup of tea but, as long as he is in charge of my club, I will always back him.
If United play like they did in the first half for the rest of the season then they will make the top four easily.
History Repeating Itself?
Coming home and checking social media, I was expecting doom and gloom, but it was mostly all positive and behind the manager.
Quite a culture shift from Brighton but there were still the usual naysayers and doom and gloom merchants.
Towards the end of the game I could hear a weird noise and smell smoke in the ground; it was not a fire.
It was coming from the press box with numerous journalists pounding away frantically at their keyboards writing the Mourinho obituary.
There is no shame in losing to a good team and if you don’t score you don’t win games.
“Players lose you games, not tactics. There’s so much crap talked about tactics by people who barely know how to win at dominoes.” A quote from the late, great Brian Clough, and very apt with everyone dissecting Jose’s tactics as archaic.
There are 38 games in a season and there is a long way to go, but early setbacks happen. I am still behind this manager and think he can turn it around.
If his post-match press conference was anything to go by, he still has fire and passion for this job.
A match under the lights is a great occasion, but sadly it wasn’t on Monday night; I would sum it up with the old football cliché-a game of two halves.