Manchester United finally got the result to go with their improving performances, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s superb strike earned the Red Devils a 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, ending a run of four successive Premier League home draws. By 'Leye Aduloju
The irony of the Spurs result is that United had been more dominant previous home matches, but somehow conspired to gift points away. Like the manager said before the match, it had gotten to the point where the team would accept any sort of victory, regardless of the performance.
Don’t get me wrong, this was not a bad United performance. Mourinho’s men weren’t just as dominant as they were against Stoke, or Burnley, or West Ham or Arsenal.
While Spurs had more of the ball, United were always in control, and apart from a glorious Victor Wanyama chance in the second half, the visitors were mostly reduced to long range efforts, which were handled fairly comfortably by David De Gea.
I liked the look of the starting line up, with Anthony Martial and Mkhitaryan supplying pace and creativity either side of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba buzzed around the midfield fulcrum, Michael Carrick.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho (Getty Images)
I wasn’t too convinced about the back four. I like Valencia a lot; he has been good, but I would still love a natural left-footer at left full-back in place of Matteo Darmian.
Darmian has done a decent job so far. He is a proper defender, and I can understand why Mourinho would have him on the field instead of Daley Blind (or Luke Shaw, in an ideal world), but he just upsets the balance of the team going forward, always having to check back infield to deliver a cross, or a pass.
I have been pleasantly surprised with the Phil Jones-Marcos Rojo partnership. I’m not a big fan of either man, but they have been very good so far. Jones is full of heart and endeavour, but he can be very clumsy and ungainly at times, while Rojo always seems to have a rash tackle or a mistake in him.
One of them will have to make way for the fit again Eric Bailly, while Chris Smalling will have to work extremely hard to get back into this team. I think it is fair to say that Mourinho is not his biggest fan after the manager’s outburst at Swansea.
Carrick was again calm and composed in the middle- he always seems to have so much time on the ball, while Herrera was massive again. The little Spaniard was United’s first line of defence, on a one-man mission to close down Spurs defenders, who tried to play out from the back.
I would have loved to see the others join in- Zlatan, Mkhitaryan, Pogba; perhaps it was the manager’s instructions that they dropped off and maintained the shape of the side. Herrera’s enthusiasm was again admirable. For all his energy, he is also a very clever footballer- with a good pass (like the assist for Mkhitaryan) and a good shot on him.
A word on Pogba, he was unlucky to see that great free kick crash of the woodwork. When he keeps things nice and simple, he is absolutely phenomenal; the problem however arises when he tries to overcomplicate things- perhaps in a desperate attempt to justify all those pounds shelled on him. Just keep it simple man, and stop trying to hold off five players, or shoot from fifty yards.
Chris Smalling may struggle to work his way back into the side (Getty Images)
And it was quite unfortunate to see sections of the Old Trafford crowd boo Marouane Fellaini. The team does not need such negative energy going around- certainly not at home!
Mkhitaryan’s injury, we understand is not as serious as first feared; hopefully he gets back to full fitness very quickly. Manchester United need his creativity.
The nervousness around Old Trafford in the closing stages was understandable, given the events of the last few weeks, but the guys stayed very tough, and did not offer Spurs any real chance of note.
It was a good day’s work for United. Three points in the bag, a very good team performance, and we gained further ground on City and Liverpool!
The league appears out of reach (although I’m not giving it up yet!), but we got closer to the top four. I was confident we would be in the title race at the start of the season, but I have adjusted my expectations slightly- the top four is minimum objective!