45 decent minutes, 45 dreadful ones; another year, another defeat and according to Sky Spurs have never won at Old Trafford as football didn’t exist before the Premier League. Frankly we’ll never win there again until we realise that the Manchester United match represents 95 minutes of total commitment rather than as much as we fancy. Last week Hearts were rubbish and we looked decent; tonight Brad Friedel played them on his own for periods of the second half.
We can’t complain about this result as we got in the end what we deserved. Yet it didn’t have to be like that. A reasonable first half performance where we matched them step for step blighted only by our insistence at shooting (weakly) from distance too often. I had concerns that our full backs were too advanced but we managed to keep a clean sheet.
Walker stood down having been ill in the dressing room at half time and Charlie came on and looked pretty decent at the start of the half. From that point United stepped up the pace and we found it harder and harder to keep up. Niko off the back of a decent first half started to go missing and Livermore was unsurprisingly lacking the experience needed against a high tempo side of United’s ability.
Typically the first goal changed the game and after that it called for a change to keep ourselves in the midfield battle. I felt we were too slow to react. Many of you will say I’ve woken up to this fact at last but then when we did making a double substitution was too much in one go for me. That meant we were going to ask Rafa to drop back to a new position after playing 60 plus minutes which is always difficult and we really went 4-3-3. Had Tommy come on first to shore up the midfield and then Pav later if needed it might have been better.
Hindsight? Yes, but some of the signs were there at Tynecastle. In that game we allowed possession at the start of the second half and I felt at the time that had we being playing United they would have scored where Hearts let us off and we all know what happens next.
So what have we learned from this match? Mainly that defending starts in midfield and if you don’t close down people properly they can hurt you. But we knew that already and in the last 25 minutes we failed to do that and ended up badly beaten; Dawson and Kaboul did what they could but they need help and protection not ball watchers. Thankfully Brad kept it lower than the 5 of two years ago. His performance was a joy and despite what Harry said after the match Gomes looking on knows how it will pan out.
We’ve also got to have a bit of character when things aren’t going well. How can Rafa complain so much when Lennon doesn’t see him when he shot nearly every time he had the ball irrespective of distance and position. Having gone behind who in the midfield group was asking for a bit of steel and commitment? It looked like no one and maybe this is why Luka wants off.
Defoe had a chance to get one back and hit a post which came out for Pav to hit for it to be blocked and Tommy hit a couple of piledrivers but when it came to chasing back there was little effort. Lots of possession but few chances created for JD.
So we’ve played the hardest away game of the season and typically come away with an unacceptable goal difference, according to TalkSport the Chairman is away in America, the best player wants away, we’ve no offers on about 10 players we want rid of and, like Arsenal, we can’t afford the wages of the best players. Thankfully there are 16 other teams in our division with the same problem. It could be an interesting winter!