Missed Opportunities at Old Trafford
Manchester United ended their run of six consecutive wins with a 2-1 defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur, marking an unhappy start to 2014 for David Moyes. It was a game in which there were many chances, but a lack of clinical finishing proved costly.
The early exchanges were promising for United. Down the right flank, Valencia was whipping balls in whilst Smalling too started the game well, playing a neat one-two with the Ecuadorian but to no avail. The first real chance however fell to Aaron Lennon, who saw his shot saved by the feet of De Gea, and it marked a sign of things to come. After a dominant first 20 minutes, the power began to shift as Spurs found a way back into the game.
By attacking down the right they were able to capitalise on Evra’s common poor positioning to exploit the open space. When they opened the scoring through Adebayor, it was a combination of errors from both full backs. As Evra left his flank open and failed to track back, Smalling too was out jumped by the striker. Soldado too ensured that it was the opponents who ended the half on top, with a quick-thinking effort after Evra was again beaten for pace by the sprightly Lennon. The performance of both full backs once again questioned why Fabio is not getting more game time, especially in light of Buttner’s cameo appearances so far this season.
The second half started with intent, Carrick’s reversed volley back into the box was just out of reach for the stretching Welbeck. There was however still warning signs at the back as Smalling and Evra struggled to contain Spurs’ attacking players. Nonetheless, attack, attack, attack was the signal from Moyes as Kagawa and Hernandez replaced Carrick and the suspect Smalling. Despite the array of attacking talent on display, possession was not gained as Moyes’ reverted to Sir Alex’s old doughnut formation. This was highlighted during Spurs’ second goal as the whole midfield failed to get back to repel a swift counter-attacking move.
A positive reply was exactly what was needed, and an immediate response saw Welbeck continue his good run of form with another goal after the restart. Latching onto a pass from Januzaj that cut through the defence, Welbeck was calm enough lift the ball over the advancing Lloris and give the Red Devils hope. The goal came just before Spurs’ best performer, Adebayor, was stretchered off due to injury.
Soon after Januzaj came close to equalising with a curling effort that was seen just wide by Lloris. With an intensly attacking minded team, Rooney was dropping deep to pick out long passes with perfection. Time after time he picked Januzaj out on the right flank and was able to start an attacking move- notably avoiding the ball to Kagawa on the left. With time ticking on, and the clock quickly approaching 90, the chances came thick and fast during a frantic end to the game. There were ricochets, one-twos, heavy touches, blocked shots and speculative efforts. The last through of the dice however came during three consecutive corners as Vidic teased the Stretford End with some powerful efforts that all failed to find the back of the net. Lloris did his best to keep the game alive with some kamikaze keeping but the game drew to a close without an equaliser as United slumped to 7th in the Premier League, leaving them 11 points adrift of the top of the Premier League.