Mkhitaryan Seals Spoils For Manchester United Against Tottenham

Mkhitaryan Seals Spoils For Manchester United Against Tottenham
December 11 16:42 2016 Print This Article

For Manchester United, the importance of this victory could probably be summed up by the fact they began the match 16 points behind Chelsea at the top of the Premier League and little more than a speck in the distance when it came to the title race. “You’re not special any more” is the soundtrack from the away end at Old Trafford these days and, for all the vast expenditure, José Mourinho’s team were in danger of going three months since the last time they won a league fixture on their own ground.

 They still have a few issues, judging by the jarring boos when Marouane Fellaini, the player the crowd like the least, started warming up in the second half and Victor Wanyama might wake in a cold sweat when he thinks about the headed opportunity that could have changed the complexion of the match. Yet it was still an encouraging victory and a difficult afternoon for Tottenham Hotspur was probably summed up the moment Dele Alli, the impudent young buck, tried to slip the ball through Michael Carrick’s legs. Carrick, the older man by 15 years, was much too wise for that kind of frivolity. The nutmeg jammed, Carrick came away with the ball and, ultimately, the home side could reflect on a satisfying afternoon, apart from the injury suffered by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, their scorer.

Mkhitaryan appeared to damage his left ankle as he tried to elude Danny Rose’s challenge late on and it would be rotten luck on the Armenian’s part if he is facing a long lay-off, having finally started to show why Mourinho was so keen to bring him to the club in the first place. His 29th-minute goal followed his effort against Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League last Thursday and, although Paul Pogba was the outstanding player, Mkhitaryan had shown again that he was belatedly adjusting to Mourinho’s demands.

Can this team find a way back into the title race? That might be pushing it but Pogba’s form is certainly encouraging and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s range of qualities make up for his lack of movement on the frontline.

United always look better with Carrick’s elegance in midfield and, defensively, it should not be overlooked Mourinho is having to make do without three-quarters of his first-choice back four.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team can certainly play much better, although, in fairness to Mourinho, perhaps the credit for that should go to the home side for playing with the structure and tactical acumen that successfully stemmed the threat of Kyle Walker and Rose, the opposition’s attacking full-backs. It was unusual to see Spurs play with so little width or penetration and, although there were long-range efforts from Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane had a difficult afternoon, not least as it was his mistake that led to the game’s decisive moment.

Tottenham had been breaking forward when the ball reached Kane in the centre circle but when he looked to his right, perhaps expecting one of Walker’s overlapping runs, there was no player in support. Kane came back the other way but succeeded only in playing the ball to Ander Herrera and suddenly Spurs were in trouble. Herrera’s pass was weighted expertly for Mkhitaryan to run clear and his powerfully struck right-foot shot was still rising as it soared above Hugo Lloris into the roof of the net.

[Guardian UK]

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