It was always going to be a tough game to start with. Manchester United at Old Trafford is never an easy prospect. A summer of big money signings by manager Louis van Gaal made it an even tougher one.
Looking at the United team was a stark reminder of Spurs relative spending power. Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay – even van Gaal himself – were all Tottenham targets. Facing them in our league opener only served to emphasise the gaps in Pochettino’s squad.
Nevertheless, for the first twenty minutes, it was Spurs who were in the ascendancy. Nothing spectacular – in truth the whole game lacked the excitement normally associated with encounters between these two – but the visitors looked more alert and ready for the new campaign.
Our dominance could even have led to the season opener. Kane looked ready to shoot from distance but instead played a delightfully weighted chip over the United defence. Christian Eriksen took a good touch to control it but placed his volley agonisingly over the bar.
Tottenham’s lack of a defensively minded midfield player has been well documented. Last season’s combination of Bentaleb and Mason worked well in possession but often left the defence high and dry. Pochettino’s current solution is to play Dier in midfield. The young Englishman did play there at times for Sporting Lisbon and maybe he’ll grow into the position but at present he seems a little naive for the role.
However, here it was Bentaleb who made the key error, placing a wayward pass straight to the opposition. It was the kind of mistake we saw creep into the midfielder’s game at the end of last season. Unfortunately it’s just the sort of opportunity van Gaal’s team thrive on. Rooney’s rustiness in front of goal almost handed us a reprieve. The unlucky Walker got to him but only managed to divert the ball into his own net.
The goal changed the game. Now it was United who were quicker to every ball, harrying and harassing any opposition player in possession.
The play lacked quality and there weren’t many clear opportunities. Spurs seemed to back off and didn’t really show enough urgency to get back into the game until the last ten minutes, when it was too late.
A look at the game statistics shows a relatively even contest. Nine shots each, with Spurs ahead 4 to 1 in terms of attempts on target. There was no splitting the teams on possession either, exactly 50-50.
Alderweireld had a good debut. There weren’t many of the heart in mouth defensive moments we saw in similar matches last term. It was nice to see Dele Alli get a run out for the last 15 minutes.
So not a great start but equally hardly a disaster. We’ll learn more about this team in the weeks to come. The main worry is where our creative spark is going to come from.
What did you think of Spurs’ performance? Were we unlucky to lose? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.