Points were split between Manchester United and their Premier League rival Tottenham Hotspur in their first match back following a three month break from football. A goal from Steven Bergwijn off a brilliant counter-attack in the 27th minutes broke the deadlock and put José Mourinho’s men on the board first. January signing Bruno Fernandes showed zero signs of a slump as he brought United level in the second half from the spot.
Though not the result fans desired, it was nonetheless terrific to see live football on television again. Here are three things we learned from United’s 1-1 draw against Spurs.
Pogba continues to prove his worth
The midfield pairing Red Devil fans have been dreaming about since Bruno Fernandes’ January arrival finally came to fruition on Friday, with the triumphant return of midfielder Paul Pogba to play alongside the Portuguese. Out for considerably longer than most of his colleagues, it’s understandable why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer didn’t want to risk the Frenchman’s health in the first contest since March. Despite playing about a half hour of football, Pogba’s performance still proves he makes all the difference.
The 27-year-old’s skill is arguably unparalleled, but it was the maneuver in which he won United’s penalty that proves he’s a tier above most athletes in this game. Not to mention, another fabulous long pass to Marcus Rashford nearly resulted in a goal for the Reds. There’s been much talk as of late about his satisfaction at Old Trafford and whether some help in the middle might be the catalyst for him to stay at United. Should he and Fernandes continue putting on a show, perhaps the transfer rumors can finally end.
A tale of two De Geas
David de Gea, despite what Roy Keane believes, is still one of the finest keepers in European football. Although it wasn’t evidenced by his quickness in preventing the opener, he surely made up for it by another acrobatic save to prevent Son Heung-min from doubling the lead. Sluggishness is expected in the first game back, but it doesn't help the Spaniard’s case when proof of inconsistency was a concern prior to the hiatus.
In order to be real contenders for a Premier League title next campaign, United must determine if de Gea is the still equipped to serve as last line of defense. The 29-year-old isn’t a complete disappointment, but he’s not at the level of his 2017/18 Golden Glove season.
Finishing needs to be more clinical
United were the stronger side until Bergwijn’s goal and continued to show flashes of brilliance the entire 90 minutes. The final score should have seen United capture all three points at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but poor finishing resulted in the unfavorable outcome. Rashford’s strike at close range in the first half met Hugo Lloris’ feet, albeit thanks to an impressive save by the Spurs captain. In the second half, Anthony Martial’s left-footed attempt produced yet another Lloris save, but was also a goal the Frenchman has scored with ease before.
Just two points off Chelsea for fourth, United still remain in serious competition for a Champions League spot next year. Perhaps ensuring a top four result might call for Solskjaer opting for a starting lineup that swaps Scott McTominay for Pogba and Daniel James for Mason Greenwood, two individuals trusted to find the back of the net. Or, even trying Odion Ighalo up front against bottom-table sides to bring a different quality to United’s attack. Whatever the Norwegian ultimately decides, it’s got to favor United scoring early and often.