Hugo Lloris keeps United at bay as Spurs take share of spoils

Off-day for United’s strikers in White Hart Lane stalemate

Christian Eriksen of Spurs reacts after a missed chance on goal during the Premier League match against  Manchester United at White Hart Lane. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

Christian Eriksen of Spurs reacts after a missed chance on goal during the Premier League match against Manchester United at White Hart Lane. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

 

Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester United 0

Nobody saw this stalemate coming. These two teams have been erratic in defence, to say the least, and capable of better things going forward yet the 0-0 was not rooted in either of them bolting the door at the back.

United were left to lament their profligacy in front of goal, together with the continued excellence of the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, who deserved the man-of-the-match champagne.

Louis van Gaal’s team bossed the first half but they could not take the fistful of chances that they created, with Radamel Falcao prominent on the list of the culpable. Robin van Persie also had an off-day, although the United strikers could not take all of the blame.

United’s unbeaten run stretches to nine games, with seven victories, while Tottenham, too, can reflect on something of a purple patch. They had won their previous four matches and they were happy enough with the point here, particularly after their collective stutters in the first half. They were more fluent in the second period, although this was not a game that will stand the test of too much time.

Van Gaal had named an unchanged line-up, despite all of his chuntering about the tightness of the fixture schedule, and it was certainly a novelty for the club. It was the first time a United manager had stuck with the same team since November 2012.

The pre-match talk from Old Trafford had taken in the need to maintain the recent momentum and burgeoning levels of cohesion, and they forced the issue at the outset. With Juan Mata to the fore in midfield alongside Wayne Rooney, and Ashley Young making in-roads from left wing-back, they created the chances to have led at the interval.

They had the ball over the Tottenham line in the 23rd minute only for an offside flag to pull back Phil Jones’s header – the decision did not look clearcut at the time – while Mata saw his deflected free-kick hit the post and Vlad Chiriches did well to clear in the ensuing melee ahead of Falcao.

United worked Lloris in the first half. Indeed, they dominated the period, as Tottenham struggled to knit together too much of promise in the final third and Van Gaal could be aggrieved that the score sheet was blank when he went through those notes to give his half-time team talk.

Rooney’s touch had let him down early on following Mata’s ball over the top and Falcao twice saw the whites of Lloris’s eyes only to fail to muster sufficient power in his shots.

Jones’s header was a talking point. Lloris had flung himself to the left to get fingertips on to the effort but the goal-line technology showed that the ball had crossed the line. Lloris and Tottenham were grateful to the assistant referee, who spotted that Falcao was in an offside position before Jones headed goalwards.

Lloris also thwarted Van Persie at close quarters, after the striker had taken down Michael Carrick’s high ball and then taken a less advisable second touch while the goalkeeper beat away Young’s long-range curler, which was bound for the top corner.

There was plenty of niggle, not least involving Van Persie, who had something of a running battle with Jan Vertonghen. Falcao also tumbled theatrically after Vertonghen had caught him with a stray hand. Van Gaal invaded the personal space of the fourth official, Lee Mason, to protest at an early decision; Rooney nagged at the referee, Jon Moss, and Mauricio Pochettino was fuming, too.

Tottenham might have had a penalty when Paddy McNair clipped Harry Kane shortly after the interval and Pochettino complained loudly that Young had pulled back Andros Townsend, when the United player was already on a booking. This is what happens when football cancels Christmas for footballers. Moss showed six yellow cards.

Tottenham had to be better in the second half and they were. They pressed on to the front foot, getting bodies forward and there were patches of neat and tidy football, as they came on strong towards the end, which was the latest testament to their fitness. Townsend, Federico Fazio and Christian Eriksen each worked David de Gea and there was the moment when Kane’s pass released Ryan Mason only for him to lift high when well-placed.

United had their second-half moments and Van Persie will rue the tangle that he got himself into when he ran on to Mata’s pull-back. The volley sailed high. Mata also blazed over the crossbar following the substitute Rafael da Silva’s smart low cross. It was an afternoon when the ball would not go in.

(Guardian Service)

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