Lucas Moura tears through United to send Spurs on their way
Brazilian netted a second half brace at Old Trafford as José Mourinho’s side crumbled
Lucas Moura celebrates putting Spurs 2-0 up. Photo: Peter Powell/EPA
If nothing else, there was no mutiny. José Mourinho still heard his name being sung and, at the final whistle, Old Trafford was not too unkind on the manager or his players. Yet these are deeply troubling times for Manchester United, with the chants of “you’re not special any more” loud and clear from the corner housing the victorious Tottenham Hotspur supporters.
The problem for Mourinho is that it is threatening to become the soundtrack to United season. This is the first time they have lost two of their opening three fixtures since the 1992-93 season. Back then, however, United had Sir Alex Ferguson and a spirit of togetherness to recover and win the Premier League. Who, realistically, could imagine the same of this United side? It is certainly not an exaggeration to describe it as a crisis after a wretched second-half display featuring a headed goal from Harry Kane, two crisp finishes from Lucas Moura and a mass walkout of the home supporters once Spurs had scored for the third time, with five minutes of normal time still to play. Mauricio Pochettino’s side took a while getting to grips with Mourinho’s new 3-3-3-1 formation but in the second half the visitors could have added even more. Spurs have won their opening three games and, on this evidence, can look forward to the rest of the season. For Mourinho, it feels very different.
Mourinho’s new system had Ander Herrera, a central midfielder by trade, operating as a right-back in a reconfigured defence featuring recalls for Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. Luke Shaw and the fit-again Antonio Valencia were deployed as wing-backs while Paul Pogba and Fred had modified roles either side of Jesse Lingard in the positions directly behind Romelu Lukaku. In total that meant half-a-dozen changes from the side that lost so abjectly at Brighton, with no orthodox wingers in the team and Anthony Martial not even warranting a place on the bench. Eric Bailly was another one left out of the squad and Juan Mata was also notable by his absence.
MUTV, United’s in-house channel, were so confused by all the changes it announced before kick-off that Nemanja Matic would be playing as a centre-half. Yet if there is one criticism that could never be levelled at Mourinho it is that his teams lack coaching. His players started brightly, with Fred and Jesse Lingard full of running, and Lukaku really ought to have been more clinical when Danny Rose’s backpass fell short. A goal seemed inevitable once Lukaku had eluded the Spurs goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, but the striker had taken the ball wide in the process, got his angles wrong with the shot, from right to left, and the ball rolled wide of the far post.
Spurs took longer to settle but Mauricio Pochettino was incensed his team were not awarded a first-half penalty when Jones leant into Lucas Moura to knock him off balance and halt a promising run from the Brazilian. Spurs, like United, did not have orthodox wingers but their attacking players had a licence to roam, with Lucas, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli working busily in the spaces behind Harry Kane. Smalling can be a much-maligned figure at Old Trafford sometimes but it was a wonderfully timed tackle from the centre-half that saved his team after Matic’s mistake had left Dele Alli with a chance to take aim inside the penalty area.
After the interval, however, Mourinho must have been startled by the ease with which the Spurs players found a way through his defence. Kane’s goal came from one of Kieran Trippier’s corners and it was a brilliant piece of aerial play from the England captain to outjump Jones, keeping his eye on the ball at all times, before bracing his neck muscles to direct a looping header into the corner of David de Gea’s net.
Kane’s header was perfectly executed whereas the next goal was Spurs at their fluent and attacking best, breaking forward with width and penetration. United had plenty of players back but they were caught out by the speed of the attack. The pass from Eriksen was immaculate and Lucas turned a low shot into the corner.
Spurs had lost their previous four games at this stadium without scoring a goal. Now they had two in quick succession but an honorary mention should also go to Hugo Lloris for his save, at 1-0, to turn away Lukaku’s goalbound shot. Pochettino’s decision to name Lloris as his captain will polarise opinion, just a few days after the goalkeeper was arrested on a drink-driving charge, but that save changed the course of the evening.
Mourinho brought on Alexis Sánchez and Marouane Fellaini to give his side more presence in attack. The ploy failed to work and another of their substitutes, Victor Lindelof, who replaced the injured Jones, almost gave away another goal with a backpass that Alli intercepted. De Gea saved that one but soon afterwards Lucas was clear again. Smalling’s challenge was weak this time and Lucas’s goal had the stands emptying. – Guardian service