Free-falling Tottenham Hotspur welcomed Manchester United to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, knowing that a point would see them reclaim fifth spot in the Premier League. Meanwhile for United, a victory would see them winning their fourth consecutive game – extend their lead to 8 points in the race for the Champions League positions.
TOT: Forster; Lenglet, Dier, Romero; Perisic, Skipp, Hojbjerg, Porro; Richarlison, Son, Kane
MUN: De Gea; Dalot, Shaw, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; Eriksen, Casemiro; Sancho, Fernandes, Antony; Rashford
Ryan Mason returned as caretaker manager of Tottenham for the second time following Cristian Stellini’s dismissal after Sunday’s horror show against Newcastle, and Spurs will have been hoping for the ‘new manager bounce’ to help them see off Manchester United – a team that they have not picked up a single point off in their previous five league encounters.
Spurs seemed to have changed shape again reverting to a three-back formation, although that did not seem to matter to the away side. Just 7 minutes into the game, Jadon Sancho opened the scoring after Marcus Rashford danced past Oliver Skipp to find his fellow Englishman who curled it into the back of the net.
Manchester United’s press seemed to cause issues for the home side, who struggled to play through them and conceded possession on numerous occasions. Sancho nearly doubled the lead after he was played in by Fernandes, only for his first attempt to be blocked by Romero before his follow-up was cleared off the line by Perisic.
In the 28th minute, Tottenham finally tested De Gea after Perisic found himself on the end of a corner, but the Spaniard was up to the task and saved the header.
Spurs seemed quiet and reluctant to send players forward and were outnumbered in offence on multiple occasions, seeming to try and sit back and hit on the counter instead. This nearly backfired as if not for Forster denying Rashford twice in quick succession, the game would have been almost over in the first half itself.
It was Manchester United who scored next to double their lead through a counter attack, after De Gea’s strong hand to deny Perisic allowed Bruno Fernandes to play in Rashford over the top. He made no mistake and duly fired it in to the back of the net to give the visitors a two-goal cushion at half time.
That second goal meant that only Leeds United have conceded more goals than the Spurs in 2023 – and Ryan Mason certainly had his work cut out if his side were to gain anything from this tie. In what can only be described as a complete 180, Tottenham shifted gears and piled on the pressure to begin the second half. They were rewarded for their efforts in the 56th minute, as Pedro Porro struck home a sweet volley after a scramble in the box to give the hosts some life in this tie.
Luck seemed to be on Tottenham’s side as mere moments after pulling one back, Bruno Fernandes missed a glorious opportunity to restore United’s two-goal lead. The Portuguese maestro shimmied through the Spurs defence, only to clip the ball onto the crossbar to keep the hosts in with a shout.
Newfound inspiration led Tottenham to carve out chance after chance, and they should have drawn level not once but twice as they missed glorious opportunities. Son fired wide in the 65th minute after Kane found him unmarked in the box, while Eric Dier sent his header wide from inside the six-yard on the 69th minute.
Suddenly it was Manchester United who had their backs to the wall and were unable to play out from the back, being pressed at every instance by a player donning white. Tottenham were rewarded for their relentless pressing when Son tucked in the equaliser, after De Gea’s clearance was headed back by Romero into Harry Kane. In yards of space, the forward squared it to the Son at the back post – that was the 46th time the duo have assisted each other in the Premier League.
Despite Tottenham’s heroic comeback, it was Manchester United who almost had the last laugh as in the dying moments of the game Shaw found Casemiro in the box – but the midfielder headed wide signalling the final whistle.
Spurs travel to Anfield next, where they’ll face a revitalised Liverpool side in a pivotal encounter in the race for European football. Meanwhile, United will host Unai Emery’s resurgent Aston Villa who themselves are battling to get into Europe next season – after going unbeaten in their last 10 games. It’s all to play for!