Manchester United turned in their best performance of the season to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in Wednesday’s Premier League clash at Old Trafford. The Reds dominated throughout, but had to wait for second half goals from Fred and Bruno Fernandes to seal the victory. They stay fifth in the table, but are now only four points behind third-placed Spurs with a game in hand.
Manager Erik ten Hag made only one change to the side that played out a goalless draw with Newcastle over the weekend, with Marcus Rashford returning to take Cristiano Ronaldo’s place up top. Christian Eriksen was only fit enough to make the bench after a bout of illness, meaning Fred kept his place alongside Casemiro in the centre of midfield.
United made a superb start to the match, and comprehensively outplayed Spurs for the first half-hour. Their attacking play was intricate but incisive, and it was a wonder that ten Hag’s side weren’t able to convert their domination into a lead.
The first chance was trademark Antony. The Brazilian winger skipped inside off the right and curled a vicious low shot goalwards, only for the ball to clip the outside of Hugo Lloris’s far post. Just over 10 minutes later, a perfect Fred pass sent Rashford clean through, though he rushed his shot and smacked it too close to the Spurs keeper.
Midway through the half, Diogo Dalot clipped a looping cross to the back post, where Luke Shaw was waiting to smack a venomous volley towards the near post; Lloris was again on hand, tipping the stinging shot over the top of the bar. Five minutes later, a low Casemiro thunderbolt threatened to nestle in the bottom corner, though it flashed wide with the Spurs keeper rooted to the spot.
Gradually Spurs began to regain composure, and took the sting out of United’s attacking play. The final 10 minutes of the first half rather petered out, with Harry Kane even drawing a save from David de Gea. But overall, ten Hag’s side had looked considerably on top, and had turned in some of the best football we’ve seen in a long while.
Happily, it took less than two minutes of the second half before United finally took the lead. When it arrived, it came with a huge slice of luck: Jadon Sancho laid up Fred, whose side-footed effort from the edge of the box took a big deflection off Ben Davies on its way past a stranded Lloris.
It might have been two within a minute, but Lloris was on hand to deny Rashford at the near post. Spurs had no answer to United’s quick attacking play, and both Antony and Sancho soon had chances to double the lead. The former fired wide of the near post from out on the right; the latter saw his shot blocked by a blue Spurs shirt.
With just over 20 minutes to go, Fernandes sealed the win. Notwithstanding a clear Spurs offside, the referee allowed play to continue, and United surged forward to score a second. A deflected Fred shot fell kindly for the Portuguese playmaker, who swept the ball into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Still United wanted more, and Rashford was again denied by Lloris after skipping past Eric Dier in the box. The hosts thought they had a third when Fernandes rounded Lloris and slotted into an empty net, only for the assistant to latterly raise his flag. Ten Hag, however, was ready to shut up shop, and soon introduced Scott McTominay for the excellent Antony. Anthony Elanga and Christian Eriksen soon followed, with Sancho and Casemiro withdrawn.
Nevertheless, United remained on top until the final whistle, seeing out a comprehensive—and extremely promising—win.