1) Tale of two halves
That old football cliché again, but it was. The first half was in my opinion our best away performance of the season and we really should have put one of the chances away if not more but it wasn’t to be. The second half, Spurs made some tactical tweaks in terms of their pressing and tiredness set in pretty early for us and we really struggled physically and could have lost in the end. I don’t recall De Gea making the extraordinary saves he’s had to make in other games though. Van Gaal has been very critical of the busy schedule at this time of year and later described the 2nd half as a “struggle for life” and at times we were unable to get out of our own half.
2) Poor finishing costly
Hugo Lloris, the Tottenham keeper was given the man of the match award at the end of the game but apart from the save from Young, which was fantastic, any other saves I thought were more down to poor finishing than excellent goalkeeping, there was also a bit of bad luck with Mata’s free kick hitting the post. Van Persie really should have done better when Carrick played a brilliant pass over the top of the defence to put him one on one with Lloris, I’m really not sure what Van Persie was thinking. With the likes of Falcao, Van Persie, Rooney and Mata in the side we should be scoring, we’ll put today down to an off day though, hopefully we will fare better in front of goal in future matches.
3) Injury problems ongoing
Injuries have been a well documented problem for us this season and it affected our ability to rotate for these 2 games in 3 days. Injuries also affected our options from the bench today. I thought Carrick in particular looked tired in the 2nd half today and we could really have done with Blind, Fellaini and Herrera available for selection to freshen up the midfield. Di Maria and Januzaj were also missing to offer us something different in attack. Our 3 substitutions today were all defensive, which could be considered as negative but Van Gaal said after the match that Valencia was taken off with injury while Evans and McNair were taken off as precautions so we were unable to make any attacking changes, only James Wilson was a realistic option from the bench though. A title challenge is unlikely but can be helped if we can keep players fit.
4) Ashley Young continues good form
An embarrassing foul throw aside, Young had another fine game in the left wing back role. He was very solid defensively and was a threat going forward particularly in the first half where he could have got himself a goal and maybe even an assist too with the space he was getting down the left and the crosses he was putting in. He was quieter during the second half as he and the team tired and were less dominant but also perhaps because Spurs paid more attention to him in the 2nd half. He has been one of our stand out performers in the last 2 or 3 games, something I thought was unimaginable just a few months ago as I thought he was on his last chance. Long term, his future is perhaps still in question, flourishing currently as a wing back, we may not continue to use wing backs and Luke Shaw is probably ahead of him in the pecking order too, his versatility will however make him a very good squad player and his form at the minute is making him very hard to drop.
5) Juan Mata CAN play well in away games
So far this season we’ve watched on as Mata has done well in home games while being fairly anonymous in away games. His last 2 games; one home and one away, have probably seen him deliver his 2 best performances in a United shirt. These 2 games have also coincided with what are probably the team’s best performances of the season and had the team been able to reproduce their first half performance we may have won. It should have been wrapped up in the first half though as I’ve mentioned above. Better movement up front has helped him play better but he’s also I believe doing more to help his cause by getting in the right areas and making riskier passes, he finished the Spurs game with 4 key passes, more than anyone on the pitch and 3 more than any of his team mates, had our strikers been more clinical in front of goal, one of those 4 passes may have resulted in an assist. Mata also looked a lot stronger on the ball yesterday, something that will need to continue when we travel to Stoke on New Year’s Day. Mata has now played 16 league games this season, only 2 have played more, he’s now starting to show the form we hoped to see when we bought him from Chelsea nearly 12 months ago, hopefully he and the team continue to improve in the 2nd half of the season.