Monday, 22 August 2011

Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham

Sky Sports 1, 8pm.

Preview: Monday Night Football this week sees Manchester United play Tottenham at Old Trafford. It also sees Chamberlain and Neville return to the gadget-filled studio to treat die-hard fans to an hour long preview of the match, as well as a review of the weekend's matches. I prefer Neville to Redknapp: at least he's actually played a lot of football in his career. He also actually has an opinion, unafraid to give his view. Good.

Tottenham have a good record at Old Trafford...
United will play a youthful back 4 thanks to injuries to Vidic and Ferdinand. Phil Jones will be scrutinised especially, given his large transfer fee. Home debut for Ashley Young as well as goalkeeper De Gea, who is already under huge pressure following a few mistakes already this season. Cleverly is given another start, as is Smalling at right back. Welbeck partners Rooney up front. Evans and Jones play in central defence.

Spurs are without Modric, whose transfer saga has been followed by millions of lemming-like reporters scraping the barrel for a 'story', but really just wasting time and effort. Speculation about big name transfers is both annoying and unnecessary. It chews up space in the papers which could have been used for proper reporting on matches or other sports. The potential signing of 'toe-poke' Adebayor has been hyped up too. He seems another money-grabbing professional, intent on making Arsenal fans hate him even more.

Onto the actual Spurs team, not 2 absentees (one of which is a Man City player...). Friedel makes his league debut for Spurs, and is the only change from the side that hammered Hearts in the Europa League on Thursday, proving that Scottish football is indeed atrocious. Have a look at the picture for the full line-ups.

So far with my predictions I've got one right, and one wrong. Hopefully I'll improve my accuracy tonight, as I'm going for a home win. 3-1 the scoreline. Big pressure on Jones and Young to score me some fantasy points...

Full Time: Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham (Welbeck; Anderson; Rooney)

Match Report: United put in a clinical second half performance to see off a spirited Tottenham side, who just ran out of energy.

The first half was even, both in terms of possession and real chances. Tottenham impressed, especially van der Vaart, who controlled the midfield well. Friedel was the busier keeper though, as he was forced into a good early save low down from a Cleverly shot. Rooney's cross after half an hour was met by Young, whose header crossed the face of goal and went past the far post, with Friedel rooted to the spot. Van der Vaart forced a save from de Gea just before half time, and both sides went into the break pleased with their efforts. IT has been an open, attacking and free-flowing game, which had been in the balance from the start.

Danny Welbeck celebrates
Happy Danny. I think...
But it was in the second half where United took full control. After 55 minutes, they dominated the game. Cleverly and Anderson began to run the midfield. Friedel made another good save from Anderson, before United finally got the breakthrough on 60 minutes. Cleverly got into a wide position and chipped a good cross to the 6 yard line, where Welbeck met the ball with his head to open the scoring. Rooney then forced Friedel into another save from a free kick. United continued to run the game, creating further chances. De Gea collected a loose ball and threw the ball out, launching a sublime United counter-attack. Young gave the ball to Anderson, who played in Welbeck. A superb back heel to escape the challenge of Dawson allowed Anderson to side-foot into the back of the net, doubling the lead. United were now in full control, and made three changes. Welbeck went off to a standing ovation. Hernandez came on, as well as Giggs and Park. De Gea had one shaky moment when he spilled the ball following a challange from Bale, the ball falling to Defoe who hammered the post with his shot. Any faint hopes Spurs had melted away in the 89th minute. It was Giggs who set up the third and final goal, standing a ball into the box, with Rooney flicking a header to the far post. A classy finish to round off a superb performance from the young side.

Verdict: United will be a really tough side to beat this season, not just over 90 minutes but 38 games. With their second youngest side ever fielded under Sir Alex, they over-ran a good Tottenham side (missing a quality player in Modric). Welbeck worked hard throughout. Ferguson noted that both forwards played too deep in the first half, and the difference following the break was noticeable. And productive. The Manchester derby this season is shaping up to be an epic contest. I can't wait. Spurs on the other hand need to sort the Modric issue out and find a replacement, otherwise they risk being over-run in midfield, like tonight, against the top sides. This 3-0  defeat is comeuppance for the FA Cup 3rd round tie at White Hart Lane, when they beat Charlton by the same scoreline. Having been present, and able to see the impact that half time substitute Modric had on the game, it is imperative that he is either retained or replaced. Without him, Spurs lack that cutting edge.

Man of the Match: I was impressed by a number of United's players tonight, though I am giving the coveted prize to young Phil Jones. Despite a great second half from Welbeck, I was underwhelmed by his contribution in the first half (something Mr Huckerby eluded to. See below). Jones was excellent at the back, making strong challenges, a great block, and even making a run in the opposite penalty area, looking to score a goal. He promises to be a great player in future. Welbeck received the award from Sky, following their text vote, but like last week, I will not bow to public opinion! Plus Jones got me some vital fantasy points. Good work Phil.

Stat Attack: Tonight was Brad Friedel's 267th consecutive Premier League appearance. His last missed game was in May 2004. Good effort, Brad. (Thanks to @optajoe for the tweet)

Tweet(s) Knowledge: Darren Huckerby shows his powers of punditry:
@hucks6dh6: Just flicked game on, surely Berbatov is better than Welbeck
Goal, 1-0 United (Welbeck)
@hucks6dh6: curse of twitter,spoke too soon
Yes, you did. (Though Welbeck had had a poor first half, to be fair)
@hucks6dh6: Since I've said that Welbeck has turned into Henry. 
Goal, 2-0 United (Anderson, from a Welbeck back heel)
@MattDiner_Lon24: Welbeck was clearly riled by @hucks6dh6

Match Rating: 8/10. The number has increased by 1 since I've begun this blog. The game was really good to watch. End to end stuff, though the second half did become one sided fairly quickly. If United can produce halves like that second, there won't be many other teams worth watching this season.

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