This game was the clash of two teams who were on an upward trajectory. Neither of them were in the place that matched their ambitions, but United were unbeaten in four league games, while Tottenham were unbeaten in their previous three matches. Both teams had aspirations of finishing in the Champions League places. This was a very important game as the winner could keep up with the top four, while he looser would find himself more five points from the promised land.

The formations

football formations
 Manchester United started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidić started in central defence, with Chris Smalling filling in for the injured Rafael at right-back.

 Tottenham started in a 4-4-2 formation. Danny Rose started at left-back, Kyle Walker at right-back. Etienne Capoue took the place of the injured Paulinho, the starting eleven was otherwise the same that defeated Stoke City.

This game was decided on the wings. Evra had a difficult time against Aaron Lennon - who had one of the games of his life - while Eriksen was the key to both Tottenham's attacks and more interestingly to Manchester United's attacks as well.

The wings

 Patrice Evra started at left-back, with Adnan Januzaj playing in front of him. They were up against Aaron Lennon and Adnan Januzaj.
 Aaron Lennon had a key part to play in both the attacking and defensive play of Tottenham. Whenever Manchester United had the ball on the side of the Tottenham box Capoue or Dembélé dropped into the defence to provide extra cover and close the channel that opened as a result of the full-back stepping wider to pressure the player in possession.. This kind of movement from the holding midfielders is a standard way of providing extra cover against skillful wingers and crosses. However it removes a man from  midfield.  Lennon had the task of making up the numbers in central midfield, with Adebayor covering on the wing against Evra.

 Eriksen played as an inverted winger on the left. When he stayed in the middle - so that Tottenham could play with three central midfielders - Soldado had to track back and mark Smalling. Defending one-on-one situations is not Eriksen's strongest point. It was not surprising that Manchester United's best early chances came from the right side, with balls played behind Tottenham's high line. Soldado did a lot of good tracking on Smalling, but he failed his duty a few times, for example in the fifth minute. Soldado closed down De Gea, and didn't track back. Eriksen was in the middle putting pressure on Rooney, who played a diagonal to Valencia, who found the overlapping Smalling. His shot was saved by Lloris at the near post. This was Manchester United's biggest chance in the first half, coming from Manchester United exploiting the shape of Tottenham.

Tottenham's quick transition

 When Smalling pushed up Adebayor drifted into the space behind the left-back, providing a quick passing option out of defence if Tottenham won the ball. United left Carrick and the two centre-backs behind the ball as cover. Three people can't cover the whole width of the pitch, if they have to face quick and skillful attackers running at them. Adebayor's movement to the wing allowed the visitors to stretch the home side horizontally on the counter.

 The most crucial part of Totteham's attacks was their speed of transition. They did two things to maximise it. First, the player who won the ball played a medium or long ball out of defence straight to an attacker in front of him. Second, the attackers started moving ahead into space moments before the ball was won, getting an important head start on whoever was marking them.

Eriksen often dropped and became a third holding midfielder when Tottenham were bringing out the ball. He made Smalling decide if he wanted to follow Eriksen deep, or stay in his zone allowing the inverted winger to receive the ball free. The full-back opted for the former.

Moyes gets his team selection wrong

 Walker was marking Januzaj closely. Januzaj came inside to the hole, where Walker didn't follow him. Evra pushed up in such cases, but he left space behind him, which was easy for Lennon to exploit. David Moyes got his team selection wrong. I strongly believe that you have to set up your team to maximise the number of unmatched pairings. This means that you have to position your best attacking players so that they will be battling the players they can hurt the most. Walker is a quick full-back with strong one-on-one skills. Sending your best attacking winger- Januzaj - against him will not maximise your chances of creating goal scoring opportunities. Instead the team would have been better off by sending Januzaj against Rose, and another winger against Walker. This could have been Young, who was on the bench.

United's second half changes

 David Moyes sent on Shinji Kagawa in place of Chris Smalling, and sent on Javier Hernández for Michael Carrick with thirty minutes left. Rooney moved to central midfield, Welbeck and Kagawa moved freely between the left wing and the space behind Hernández.

 Spurs scored their second goal in the 66th minute. Chiriches won the ball, and played a quick pass straight out of the defence. Spurs played a quick counter, which Eriksen finished off getting ahead of Valencia.  Eriksen had a part to play in Manchester United's goal only a minute after. Him and Rose failed to put pressure on Januzaj even though they were in a perfect situation to dispossess him right next to the line. Januzaj played a through ball behind the Tottenham defence, which Welbeck lobbed over Lloris.

 This showed how much better Januzaj was when he was not closed down aggressively by an extra quick defender, like Walker. Januzaj got past Rose in the 77th minute, passed to Hernández who backheeled it into Lloris.

 Tim Sherwood brought on Bentaleb for Capoue. The young substitute was attempting to dribble the ball out of defence instead of playing a pass the first time, and he was not as good at following runners from midfield. He failed to track Kagawa's run in the 76th minute, which led to a United corner. Tim Sherwood was keen to involve the youth players in his team, but bringing on Bentaleb when Manchester United were piling on the pressure could have backfired.

 Moyes sent on Young for Cleverley with six minutes from full-time. At this point United had no recognised midfielders o the pitch, in fact the only non-attacking players on the pitch were Evans, Evra, Vidić and De Gea. Young provided the width on the left previously missing from United's late formation due to both Kagawa and Welbeck forcing play through the centre.


 Tottenham had an effective plan for this game Hit Manchester United on the counter by stretching them horizontally, and using pace. It is hardly revolutionary, but they have carried it out with such precision and detail that they deserved to get something from the game.

 David Moyes didn't get his team selection right, playing Januzaj on the right would have been a better choice, while Cleverley and Carrick were dominated by Dembélé and Capoué. Manchester United had chances after Januzaj moved to the right to attack Eriksen and Rose. It also helped that they had seven attacking players on the pitch at the end.

 Tottenham continue to put in impressive attacking performances, while Manchester United have eighteen games to make a five point deficit go away, and qualify for the Champions League.

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