Manchester United vs. Spurs Match Analysis and Player Ratings

Photo from Planet Football


Marcus Rashford has really been stepping up to the task every time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has needed him to this season, and he has done it once again on Wednesday under the Old Trafford lights — leading Manchester United to a 2-1 victory over Jose Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur.

The tensions building up to this game have been rising for weeks, ever since United's former boss replaced Mauricio Pochettino in the Spurs hot seat at the end of last month. All football fans circled Dec. 4 as the date to watch out for, as "The Special One" was going to make his first managerial appearance at the Theater of Dreams following his sacking almost a year ago.

The team talk really wrote itself for Solskjaer ahead of this one. A squad of players who were mostly deemed not good enough by the former gaffer had to be up for this one, ready to prove a point. And they were.

United came storming out of the gates following another rough patch in terms of results this season. Consecutive draws against newly promoted Sheffield United and Aston Villa, especially from winning positions, are both not good enough, and both the manager and the players realise that. From the first whistle, it was evident that the United players had fire under their feet.

The Reds overwhelmed the visitors in the opening sequences, boosted by the return of midfield general Scott McTominay, who was cleaning up everything in the middle of the park alongside Fred, and dictating the tempo of the play for United.

The hosts jumped out to an early lead courtesy of the man of the moment, Marcus Rashford, who collected the ball on the edge of Spurs' area following some good work from Jesse Lingard, before unleashing a knuckle ball strike toward the visitors goal. United's No. 10's effort was too hot to handle for the Spurs goalkeeper at the near post, and the Reds went ahead, drawing first blood.

It was certainly an unexpected start for most of the fans watching, but United were looking more inspired out there by the minute.

Solskjaer's men should have really put the game to bed by half time after creating multiple chances, with Rashford and Mason Greenwood going very close on separate occasions. But instead, United were punished for not extending the lead after a piece of magic from Dele Alli and some spectator defending from Ashley Young and Fred.

The teams went off for the break level, and it felt like perhaps Spurs had just about managed to shift the momentum their way before the second half. That was far from the case.

Like in the first, United came out more energetic and overall looking like they wanted the win more. Very quickly after the restart, Rashford picked the ball up on the left flank before beating Serge Aurier with a nutmeg and gliding past Moussa Sissoko to barge into the visitors box. The Englishman was then tripped by the Spurs midfielder, resulting in a Reds penalty.

A fantastic start to the second half by the hosts, just what they needed to regain the momentum they had built throughout the first half. Rashford coolly slotted away the subsequent spot kick, which later turned out to be the winning goal. Another brace against a top six opponent for the 22-year-old, and a massive three points for the Reds and Solskjaer.

Having been criticised time and time again for being tactically inept and perhaps in over his head managing a club of United's stature, Solskjaer put together an excellent game plan to overthrow Mourinho and hand his side their first loss since his takeover in his return to Old Trafford.

United haven't been losing games recently, but struggling to pick up wins against teams outside of the top six has been frustrating. Once again though, United stepped up to the task in a big game and picked up a huge confidence boosting three points ahead of Saturday's Manchester derby.

PLAYER RATINGS 

De Gea: 8/10
An assured performance from United's No. 1. He didn't really have a chance during the Spurs equaliser, but he never looked like conceding during whatever half chances the visitors managed to put together.

Wan-Bissaka: 8/10
Yet another excellent performance on the defensive side of the ball from "The Spider." United went from being so leaky down the right hand side to allowing minimal danger to come in from that side. His game also seems to be gradually improving going forward.

Lindelof: 8.5/10
Possibly the best performance of the season for the Swede. It felt as if Harry Kane wasn't playing at times, and that's credit to United's No. 2 who was keeping tabs on the Spurs frontman and doing a lot of the dirty work at the back.

Maguire: 8/10
A little shaky at times in his decision making, but looked more confident than he had been in recent weeks. His size is a huge asset for United when the team is protecting a lead late on and the opposition is pumping long balls in. He doesn't lose many aerial duels.

Young: 7/10
Probably the shakiest out of the back four today. It was evident that Spurs were targeting United's skipper at times, and he probably could have done a bit better defending Dele Alli during his goal sequence.

McTominay: 8.5/10
A monster. The difference the Scot's return made to United's team as a whole is indescribable. United dominated the game in midfield and it was largely due to "McSauce's" return from injury and the swagger and bravery with which he plays. A near flawless CDM performance.

Fred: 8/10
That may have also been one of Fred's best showings in a United shirt. He is finally coming into his own as a Manchester United player it seems. His energy is key to the way United want to play and to pressing and winning the ball back in important areas. His confidence is growing by the week.

James: 7.5/10
Not his best game in terms of output, but his work rate is exceptional. He does so many things that don't make it into highlight videos, and calling him one of the best defensive wingers in the world is definitely not too far fetched. Always a threat on the counter, too.

Lingard: 7.5/10
Jesse is a great asset for these type of games. Relentless in the press and work off the ball, he also looked a lot more confident on the ball against Spurs. It was good to see him linking up with Rashford for the first goal and generally linking up the midfield and the front line very effectively. Hopefully, the goals and assists will gradually come back, too.

Rashford: 9/10
MOTM by a country mile. The Englishman is in inspired form right now. Red hot. You absolutely love the confidence that he is playing with right now. Taking people on, getting into dangerous positions, and most importantly, scoring goals. That's 12 for the season already and we're not even in the New Year yet. The magical 20 is within reach.

Greenwood: 7.5/10
A quiet performance in terms of goal contributions, but make no mistake about it, this was a very solid showing for the 18-year-old. He held up the ball very well at times in tight areas. He was composed and also forced a good save out of Gazzaniga in the first half. If Martial is not fit for Saturday, Greenwood should keep his place for the derby.

SUBSTITUTES 

Pereira: N/A
Both of United's subs were not impact subs. They were very much subs to shore up some holes and add some fresh legs into the defensive effort that was being put in. Pereira didn't do anything wrong, but didn't really do anything to register a rating.

Shaw: N/A
The same goes for Shaw, who came on to give United some much needed fresh legs out wide, but didn't have enough time to make a serious impact. More minutes in the tank though may mean that he is in line to start on Saturday.

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