Tottenham delivered an excellent home performance to overcome top-six rivals Manchester United and move to within two points of the Champions League places. It will be important for Mauricio Pochettino’s men to finish in the top four for the third successive season as they attempt to become mainstays in Europe’s premier competition. Their consistency in the Premier League hasn’t been as good as it has been in recent seasons, but they were back to their best on Wednesday and picked up a pivotal three points. The visitors were underwhelming again in a big match and Jose Mourinho’s tactics should be questioned as he once again opted for a defensive approach. It didn’t work. Here are three talking points from the match:
The Tottenham defence was excellent
The Tottenham back five were all excellent on Wednesday, as they kept a clean sheet and made sure that a talented Manchester United team offered little threat in the final third. Jan Vertonghen was one of the standout players, as he completed seven ball recoveries and won five aerial duels to help his team to another shutout. Furthermore, he was assured in possession and regularly looked to launch attacks from deep. His pass success rate of 86% shows how effective he is on the ball.
Meanwhile, his centre-back partner Davinson Sanchez gave one of his best displays since moving to Tottenham in the summer. He has all the tools to be a leading Premier League centre-back and he regularly got the better of Romelu Lukaku on the night. The 21-year-old’s positioning is rarely off and he has improved significantly in the absence of Toby Alderweireld. It can be argued that neither Kieran Trippier or Ben Davies are the first choice full0backs, but they both didn’t put a foot wrong.
Romelu Lukaku misfired again in a big game
One of the main narratives that were discussed after Lukaku joined Manchester United was his inability to deliver the goods in the biggest matches. That may have been somewhat unfair, but with every passing game against the top-six, his belief that he can contribute will decrease. He has now scored only 15 goals in 63 Premier League appearances against the top-six. For a striker that cost as much as he did, that isn’t good enough. It seems that there is a mentality issue that is preventing him from pushing on in these matches.
On Wednesday, his movement wasn’t as crisp as it needed to be to get the better of the Tottenham defence. He failed to attempt a single shot on goal and that will be a concern for Jose Mourinho. If this defensive style is going to succeed, he needs his attacking players to show dynamism and make things happen in the final third. Lukaku was a passenger and his pass success rate of just 48% shows how poor he was at Wembley.
Christian Eriksen is undroppable
Every team has a player that makes them tick in the final third and Christian Eriksen is that man for Tottenham. He had a slow start to the season compared to his high standards, but he has quickly kicked on after the turn of the year and he was excellent against Manchester United. The game started well for him as he scored after only eleven seconds, which was one of the quickest goals in Premier League history. He now has seven goals and six assists to his name. This is another very impressive return for the midfielder.
It was his creativity that stood out most on Wednesday, as he made six key passes and finished the game with a pass success rate of 93%. There are few players that can break down an opposition defence quite like Eriksen and his class stood out against Manchester United. Mauricio Pochettino is trying to put him, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane on the pitch at the same time. The addition of Lucas Moura provides another quality attacking option to the manager and it will be interesting to see how the pieces fall. Whatever happens, the Danish international will continue to be a crucial player for Spurs.