Adebayor inspires another daring Old Trafford raid by Spurs

Manchester United lose third home game in four weeks

Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen is mobbed by his team-mates after scoring his side’s second goal against Manchester United during the  Premier League  match at Old Trafford. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/Reuters

Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen is mobbed by his team-mates after scoring his side’s second goal against Manchester United during the Premier League match at Old Trafford. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/Reuters

 

Manchester Utd 1 Tottenham 2: These are the moments when Manchester United must realise their grip on the Premier League title is being released, finger by finger.

They subjected Tottenham to some intense pressure as they desperately sought an equaliser but the time has passed since Alex Ferguson used to say no other side in the world scored more late goals, and ultimately they were left to reflect on their fourth defeat at Old Trafford this season. Three have come within the last four weeks and teams with genuine title aspirations cannot afford to be so careless.

David Moyes’s side are now seventh, 11 points behind Arsenal, and it is starting to feel like a trick of the imagination that Spurs went 23 years without winning at this ground before Andre Villas-Boas’s team managed it last season.

Tim Sherwood has now pulled it off in this fourth league game in charge, taking his personal tally to 10 points out a possible 12 since taking the job. He has rejuvenated the career of Emmanuel Adebayor, the first Spurs scorer, and could probably be entitled to think his team should have spared themselves the late onslaught once Christian Eriksen made it 2-0 midway through the second half.

Daniel Welbeck scored within a minute and at one point Moyes was three yards on the pitch, howling for a penalty after Hugo Lloris had charged from his goal-line to challenge Ashley Young. United had a reasonable grievance and maybe Young’s reputation went against him. Welbeck had already been culpable of a dive and Adnan Januzaj, another repeat offender, did the same later on.

United had a slightly dishevelled look and Tottenham played with great togetherness, benefiting again from Sherwood’s switch to an old-fashioned, yet hugely effective, 4-4-2 system.

Adebayor has now scored four goals since Sherwood restored him to the team and looks like a man who wants to make up for lost time. Whether he has the drive to keep it up remains to be seen but, for now, it makes him an opponent of real stature.

At one point late in the first half Adebayor could be seen sprinting back to the left back position tussling with Wayne Rooney for the ball. When the resultant corner came over it was Adebayor with the clearance and, again, when the ball was returned to the penalty area. That little passage of play encapsulated the difference in his attitude since the change of manager.

His goal had arrived five minutes earlier and had its origins in some swift counter-attacking football. Januzaj’s loose pass created the problems for United from an encouraging attacking position of their own. Kyle Walker turned defence into attack with a clever piece of skill and perfectly measured ball to Eriksen and United, with Patrice Evra out of position, were in trouble from that moment. Eriksen exchanged passes with Roberto Soldado, darted to the right and Adebayor expertly guided the Dane’s cross just inside the post. From one end to the other, it was a goal of fine quality and, with better finishing, Soldado might have made it 2-0 within five minutes.

United had actually begun the game brightly, taking the game to their opponents and playing like a side that had accumulated four straight wins over the festive period. Januzaj showed flashes of his talent but their most penetrative attacks mostly originated on the right. Antonio Valencia was a difficult opponent for Danny Rose and Chris Smalling’s overlapping runs from full back added to the danger.

Yet there were only brief passages when United produced the fluency for which they are known. Rooney’s desire to give everything to his team will always be a quality, but a striker of his ability should not be trying to run the game from every part of the field.

Valencia’s early promise tailed off and he was switched to right back when Moyes tried to shake up his team by taking off Smalling and Michael Carrick and bringing on two more attack-minded players in Javier Hernández and Shinji Kagawa.

It was a bold move from Moyes, but one that backfired to begin with. Valencia is not a novice in defence but he was caught dozing for Tottenham’s second goal and far too slow to react once Aaron Lennon had sped to the outside of Nemanja Vidic and clipped the ball across the penalty area. Eriksen showed far more commitment to getting there first, darting in to send a stooping header past David De Gea.

Moyes had moved Januzaj to the right in the same tactical switch and the youngster’s best work came from that side of the pitch, including the ball for Welbeck to make it 2-1 with a lovely, dinked finish over Lloris. From then onwards, however, Lloris was superb and, from here, it is difficult to see United clambering into the title race.

(Guardian Service)

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