It was not a dream, it was not an illusion, nor a mirage. Manchester United won three points in the Premier League, defeating rivals Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in an absorbing and frustrating contest at Old Trafford. on Sunday evening. Who else but Henrikh Mkhitaryan would be the goalscorer that sealed the victory, with a fine solo effort that put the crowd into raptures.
For anyone not named Matteo Darmian it was a terrific day for United, unfortunate not to perhaps win by more. Jose Mourinho got his tactics spot on and the vast majority of his selection was brilliant. Moussa Dembele and Harry Kane were mostly anonymous, whilst Danny Rose and Kyle Walker were given torrid times on the flanks.
Manchester United now sit six points outside of the top four. Is the chase back on?
Let’s Talk About Henrikh
The Armenian continued his barnstorming start to his delayed kickoff of his Old Trafford, delivering another stunning display before a tackle from Danny Rose caught him badly on the left ankle. He was stretched off as a precaution, although Jose Mourinho was reassuring on MUTV post-match that he’ll return by Boxing Day.
“We don’t think it’s a serious injury. We don’t think maybe Henrikh can play for a week. I was afraid it was serious but looks like it’s not. He does not need surgery.
Maximum a couple of weeks. It doesn’t look like something that is very dangerous or difficult. He brings everything I want an attacker to play. Maybe one week out and it is better to be fresh for Boxing Day.”
United’s new number 22 offers a completely different dimension to the attack, and Ander Herrera played him in on goal when Harry Kane lost the ball in midfield. The playmaker smashed it home with a measured confidence, arguably aided by his fine solo goal midweek against Zorya.
It seems the best is yet to come for Mkhitaryan, as United fans’ and football fans in general hope his return from his ankle problem is swift. He is a gift to the Premier League, with serious potential to become a bargain signing.
Herrera Continues To Impress
Creativity, dynamism, energy, leadership; all the key features of a growing ensemble that represents the game of the increasingly irreplaceable Spaniard. A growing presence on the pitch, the midfielder has grown into his deep midfield role with every game.
Herrera has become an important feature of the United midfield, and there’s rarely been a game of late that the midfield has not been controlled by Herrera and his midfield cohorts. As previously mentioned, his assist was key to the win and his passing was a joy to watch throughout the contest.
The Spaniard is steadily growing his case to become Captain of the club when Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick vacate their current roles in the leadership structure. He loves the club, and that love is reciprocated equally from the fans.
The Italian has had support throughout the duration of this column, but that support cannot be given after a tough day. The former Torino man suffered a torrid time on the left hand side of defence. He struggled with the pace and strength of Tottenham, particularly in the second half.
He has been solid at left back, but Daley Blind would feel slightly aggrieved that he’s had to sit on the bench behind Darmian. The Italian will likely switch to the right side with Antonio Valencia picking up a suspension for the midweek clash with Crystal Palace.
Darmian has started his revitalisation somewhat, how he responds to his struggles is both a concern and point of intrigue going forward.
United Stars Make Spurs’ Key Pieces Anonymous
Paul Pogba is judged based upon how his highlight reel looks post game. For a variety of reasons, fans and analysts alike judge him on how much he does is shown in Match of the Day highlights following the game. Against Spurs though, his good performance was based upon something different.
Pogba gave Moussa Dembele a torrid time in midfield, and made the Spurs’ engine mostly anonymous. When he struggles on the ball people will claim that he over complicates things. But Victor Wanyama made life tough, and Spurs used a similar tactic to other sides where they double team him when he begins to dribble the ball. The Frenchman for the majority was smart though, with some very clever long passes to get himself out of trouble.
Meanwhile Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones continued to justify their selection, with both putting in superb displays. Harry Kane may still be in Rojo’s pocket, such was the Argentine’s domination of the Englishman. Dele Alli also caused next to no threat, as Carrick helped the defenders deal with his threat rather easily.
Sidenote: and for those looking for a Pogba highlight, here’s the free kick that Hugo Lloris was completely flatfooted against.
Pogba, what a hit that would have been. Crossbar still rattling. pic.twitter.com/vzNz64mTeZ
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) December 11, 2016
Fellaini Reaction Causes A Stir
Marouane Fellaini put himself in the headlines again, or rather the fans did when the Belgian went out to warm up late in the second half on Sunday. The sight of the midfielder was met with rousing boos as he warmed up near the Stretford End, before the rest of the crowd (including the Stretford End itself) over-roared the boos with a sterling round of claps.
Unfortunately, this not reported responsibly by the media.
Fellaini booed by own fans.
— Simon Stone (@sistoney67) December 11, 2016
Whether or not Fellaini is loved and whether you believe the booing was fair enough, Fellaini is still a Manchester United player. Booing the opposition isn’t always justified, let alone a player of the club.
Also, fans complaining before the starting whistle that the game would finish 1-1 need to cheer up and stop acting like petty children. United have been playing good and slightly flawed football, and it’s far better than the drivel delivered under Louis Van Gaal and David Moyes.
Support the club through thick and thin, that counts for players also. The Tottenham result will live shortly in the minds, as the Premier League returns midweek trip to Selhurst Park to play Crystal Palace.