After two poor results on the bounce, with one against our city rivals, a loss today would consign any hopes of league qualification into the Champions League into the mire. But like he did in the group stages of the competition, Cristiano Ronaldo would drag us through. A rocket, tap in and smashing header. Kane would score from the spot and Maguire would turn into his own net but the last of the three would be enough. All in all, outside of Fred and Sancho, it was actually a poor performance and Spurs could feel hard done by but whoever has Ronaldo, has a way.
United offensively have been talked about to death. Both for the jobs they are meant to do and the initial resistance they give before teams can advance upon midfield and defence. It isn’t the greatest but the fact of the matter is, United’s ability to keep the ball out of the net is pathetic. Even if United were to keep clean sheets for the rest of the season, they would still have conceded a goal a game. 4 heavy defeats, Leicester, Liverpool, Watford and City, contribute to more than half of that tally but that is still over 20 goals in 24 games where United have conceded. Poor is an understatement.
Shaw, Wan Bissaka, Dalot and Telles have switched in and out throughout the season. None have covered themselves in glory in both aspects of full back play. The amount of crosses and switches that are constantly targeted in that area isn’t a fluke. Shaw tucks in far too much, part through cowardice, part through an ability to get out quickly but once he is out there, he hardly ever stops the cross. Nor does he get out there aggressively enough. Telles doesn’t do much better. In fact, it’s worse. His sheer lack of pace means that even if he recognises it early enough, which he usually seems to do, he still doesn’t get there. Even for the penalty that he conceded, a full back would usually go to close but he waited for the cross and he turned his back which made his arm come out to stop the Kulusevski cross. What he is good at though is delivering from dead ball situations and we saw that with Ronaldo’s hat trick goal. But it’s not just the full backs.
Varane has had a very stop and start season, which flies in the face of his grand introduction. When he has played, he has not been spectacular. Just been okay and with the reputation he came with, that doesn’t cut. But with the amount of work he has to get through, it is much like a sticking a finger in a broken dam even if he were to perform to the best of his ability. Maguire has been absolutely horrendous in the season. Whereas before the mistakes he made would go unpunished in an inexplicable fashion, they are this season. Even today, he had a pretty useful game before he managed to stick on in the back of his own net.
Viva La Ronnie
The return of Ronaldo coinciding with the dramatic drop off of United this season has made people talk about the link between the two. He was injured last week and before the game, people wanted to see how United would fare without the Portuguese phenomenon. Well, we know the result. Would he have changed it? Not likely.
Today, he was the difference. The first 12 minutes of the game was quiet and drifting to a nothing game. Up stepped Ronaldo to crash one into the back of the net from 30 yards. It wasn’t with quite the ferociousness of Porto away in 2008/09 but it was up there with some of his best for the club. The second was a tap in that his anticipation got him after a great pass from Matic that Sancho latched onto. The third was a crashing header that, like Neville said, reminded me of Roma away in 2007/08. Every goal he scored will illicit memories of others because of the stunning consistency he seems to get them. His second was enough to make him the FIFA recognised top scorer in all of history. He seemed to be fighting against the team’s own incompetence to keep a clean sheet and in the end, he won the fight.