Manchester United returned to Premier League action with a 1-1 draw away to Tottenham. Bruno Fernandes scored a penalty won by Paul Pogba, who returned to the side after a long term injury, to rescue a point. Pogba’s 30-minute performance inspired United from a lacklustre display to an energetic ending.
Paul Pogba Inspires Manchester United in Draw with Spurs
Frustrating First Half for United
The first half began in a timid, slow fashion. Both sides were eager to settle into the game gradually after the long break. Manchester United took control of possession early on whilst Mourinho’s Tottenham looked to prey upon United’s defence on the counter-attack. This pattern continued throughout which appeared to favour the home side.
United began to look dangerous after a leisurely opening twenty minutes. Bruno Fernandes set up Marcus Rashford, who fired a shot straight at Hugo Lloris. Fred also took aim from 25 yards, however, it was not enough to bother the French goalkeeper. Overall, United were far too tepid in their attacking presence.
Tottenham’s success lay in their wingers’ defensive duties. Heung-Min Son and Steven Bergwijn‘s ability to come back and defend provided the foundations for their counter-attack. As a result of this, Spurs always looked confident in firing forward quickly. In contrast, Daniel James and Rashford were far too wide leaving Anthony Martial isolated.
Bergwijn opened the scoring on the half-hour mark after a poor error from David De Gea. A goal kick from Lloris found its way to the Dutchman, who took the game by the scruff of the neck. He ran aggressively past Fred and Harry Maguire before firing past de Gea. The fierce left-footed shot should have been simple for de Gea, however, he parried the ball into the top corner.
Tottenham’s goal injected further aggressiveness in their play. This highlighted the difference between the two sides. Spurs’ play was aggressive, tenacious and proactive, whereas Manchester United were lacklustre. Son was unlucky from a header, leaving United dazed by the half-time whistle.
Pogba’s Return Inspires Comeback
The second half began just as the first did. Manchester United comfortable on the ball while Tottenham tirelessly worked in a rigid shape. With this in mind, it was difficult for United to carve any real chances with a clear lack of sharpness in the ranks.
On the hour mark, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used his bench effectively. Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba replaced Daniel James and Fred. The former was effective as he added some impetus to be more narrow on the right flank, causing Ben Davies issues.
But it was Pogba who stole the show. The Frenchman immediately got involved, laying off a pass to Bruno Fernandes, who played a cute pass into Anthony Martial. About to unleash a venomous shot, Martial was hounded down by Eric Dier. Pogba announced himself on the pitch. He appeared to add sharpness and aggression into United’s play. Moments after Martial’s chance, he had a second. Luke Shaw, who was a tireless worker all evening, linked with Pogba and crossed into Martial. This time, Martial forced Hugo Lloris into a world-class save, parrying the ball just over the top.
Manchester United’s tempo increased as the clock ticked on. Tottenham’s resolute defence became weary too. The momentum climaxed with 10 minutes remaining as Pogba made a mesmerising run in the penalty box. He was brought down by Eric Dier and referee John Moss immediately pointed to the spot. Bruno Fernandes calmly finished to equalise.
United almost won it late on when Eric Dier brought down Fernandes in the box. Once again, Moss pointed to the spot. Only this time, VAR overturned his decision.
Plenty of Work to Do
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can take both positives and negatives from the draw. United disappointed in their lazy approach at times. A team built around energy are simply ineffective when the passages of play are slow.
However, the character of the side cannot be underestimated. Jose Mourinho’s compact side could easily frustrate many sides, but United persisted. Their persistence reaped the rewards.
A point away at a top-four rival is certainly a good result from Manchester United’s perspective. The focus now shifts to a huge game at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, where United host Sheffield United. A win in that game is essential to help secure a Champions League position.