Some good, some bad, some ugly.
Manchester United returned to Premier League action on Sunday with a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. Soon-to-be minority club owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe was in attendance, sat next to Sir Alex Ferguson to witness a match which showcased both the strengths and glaring weaknesses of a deeply flawed United side. They were able to hold off Ange Postecoglu’s aggressive Spurs team, thanks in part to the trademark erratic shooting of Timo Werner, but overall it was two points lost for the Reds on what could have been a much better start to the new year.
Erik ten Hag stuck with the Rashford-Hojlund-Garnacho front three that has offered promise in recent weeks, and Christian Eriksen kept his spot amid the return of Casemiro. The midfield pivot with him and Mainoo lacked a bit at times in athleticism and strength, but helped offer balance early on.
Manchester United were strong on the ball in the first half, and rewarded in the third minute of the match with a Rasmus Hojlund goal. The Danish hit man found space to shoot after Rashford was denied a path inside, he smashed the ball past Guglielmo Vicario, and sent Old Trafford into early celebrations.
The player has shown real promise, and he’s starting to show returns on the large investment.
Unfortunately United struggled to add to their lead despite the enterprising attacking play. Shots by Bruno Fernandes and Rashford were met by defenders and Spurs relieved the pressure a bit by finding opportunities of their own.
The most dangerous chances the visitors found early were from set pieces, and Richarlison found an equalizer off of a corner in an all too familiar set piece concession by United’s defense.
The Reds went back to work quickly, and a cross hit away by Destiny Udogie nearly wound up as an own goal. The very next play however was a real treat for the Old Trafford crowd. United won the ball back in midfield and sprung an attack. Bruno Fernandes found Rashford in space down the left, and a quick one-two exchange with Hojlund presented Rashford the chance on goal he had patiently waited for. A smooth finish through Romero’s legs and past Vicario put United back on top a few minutes before the break.
Sloppy defense would strike again just after the break, with Jonny Evans allowing Rodrigo Bentancur free range at the center of the area to collect, charge forward, and fire a shot past Onana to level the game again. It was such poor defending, but like the corner a similar pattern of play to other goals United have conceded this season.
With ten Hag’s useless substitutions United’s hopes of breaking through again diminished, though a big positive on the day was the return of Lisandro Martínez, who hopefully will keep Jonny Evans watching from the stands where he belongs.
But the story of the game was how the two sides split the points, and how United saw an opportunity to score a key win slip away.