Manchester United produced arguably their best performance of the 2022-23 Premier League season tonight as Erik ten Hag’s Red Devils earned a credible 2-0 win at Old Trafford to condemn Antonio Conte’s Tottenham to their second loss in the league, with the home side earning their fourth consecutive win over the visitors.
United jump up to fifth in the table and ahead of bitter rivals Liverpool and Newcastle United on a run of form that has seen them pick up points in five of their last six league fixtures (4-1-1), with tonight’s performance setting a benchmark that Ten Hag and fans alike will look to repeat moving forward.
While Cristiano Ronaldo storming off after full-time - and not being called upon to come in off the bench at some stage of proceedings - is sure to steal headlines in the wake of a strong result for the club, the onus must remains on how United continue to improve under Ten Hag who has now earned three wins against big six clubs in three meetings after wins against Liverpool and Arsenal preceded tonight’s three-point haul.
A deflected effort from Fred and a lovely strike from Bruno Fernandes was enough to see the Red Devils walk away on top but, in truth, United should have scored three or four on the night after Antony struck woodwork in the first half and Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris making a handful of strong saves, particularly on Marcus Rashford who was given the nod ahead of Ronaldo to lead the forward line.
With United now clear of the big sides in the Premier League bar Chelsea, many could expect the club to go on a strong run of form before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar presses the pause button on the club season, with Ten Hag’s men square off against the Blues at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before locking horns with West Ham (H), Aston Villa )A), and Fulham (A).
As for Tottenham, it was a poor performance for Conte’s men who barely has a sniff at goal all evening but the club still sits in the top three but that position could well be under threat when they clash with Newcastle at the weekend in the capital.
Too many conclusions are likely to not be drawn tonight after Spurs were stripped of the services of both Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski, forcing Conte to go with a three-man midfield and leaving forward duopoly Harry Kane and Son Heung-min largely isolated up front and lacking genuine support in the middle third of the pitch.
Spurs remain alive and kicking in the title race, but this result, as well as the loss against Arsenal (also away from home), may possibly sound alarm bells as their schedule gets tougher as time progresses.
Manchester United Player Ratings
GK: David De Gea (7) - Not tested nearly as much as Antonio Conte would have hoped but a handful of good saves, including standing tall late-on against Harry Kane, highlights a solid night for the Spanish keeper.
RB: Diogo Dalot (7) - Dalot continues to cement his place as first-choice under Ten Hag while guaranteeing his place in Portugal’s squad for the World Cup in just a month’s time.
CB: Raphaël Varane (7) - Kept his eye on Kane quite well on the night as the key French center-back continues to build a very good partnership with Lisandro Martínez.
CB: Lisandro Martínez (7) - The summer arrival by the Argentine international was met with expectations. Though he started slowly, he has been very good since he settled into life in England and justifiably continues to keep Harry Maguire out of the team.
LB: Luke Shaw (7) - The leading candidate to start at left wingback for England next month, Shaw has rebounded strongly at United and has risen to the challenge despite the club bringing in Tyrell Malacia this summer.
CM: Casemiro (7.5) - His third start for United was much closer to what many expect from the Brazilian international veteran since his arrival from Real Madrid. Working himself into fitness and influence will no doubt benefit the club greatly.
CM: Fred (8) - Playing in a more advanced role tonight alongside Casemiro, Fred shone in his deployment and added a goal to his CV - his first of the season - in a very good performance overall.
CAM: Bruno Fernandes (8.5) - Another excellent performance from the Portuguese international who added a lovely taken goal to make it 2-0 and could have had more on his dossier if not for straying just offside.
RW: Antony (7) - A credible performance from the Brazilian winger who nearly added to his United account only to be denied by the woodwork. Efficient and a threat when in the final third as usual.
LW: Jadon Sancho (7) - An assist for the former Borussia Dortmund starlet on Fred’s deflected opener that set the Red Devils off to three points. Not great, yet, but a good performance all things considered.
CFL Marcus Rashford (6.5) - A frustrating night for the England international. His movement was sublime and he was a constant threat to score on the night but his end product was lacking in a big way. A breakout could be coming, though.
Sub: Scott McTominay (6) - Received fifteen minutes in another cameo off the bench but was not involved nearly to the level of his recent Champions League appearance.
Sub: Anthony Elanga (N/A) - Given mere minutes at the end. Hardly much to judge on
Sub: Christian Eriksen (N/A) - Given mere minutes at the end. Hardly much to judge on.
Tottenham Player Ratings
GK: Hugo Lloris (8) - Easily the best player on the pitch for Tottenham tonight who stood when counted and kept the scoreline at 2-0 with a string of big saves but also benefitted from poor finishing on United’s part.
RCB: Cristian Romero (6.5) - Similar to Dier (see below) on the night. Spurs were under pressure from start to finish and in those circumstances at Old Trafford, it’s hard to plug every leak. He was okay throughout.
CB: Eric Dier (6.5) - Not his best performance in a Spurs shirt during a 2022-23 that has seen him become key for Antonio Conte. Removed with 10-minutes to spare with Newcastle at the weekend.
LCB: Ben Davies (6.5) - Just about in the same park as his defensive partners on the night. Little more needs to be said about a defensive performance that rarely found relief on the back of United’s performance.
RWB: Matt Doherty (6.5) - A half-decent outing from the right wingback tonight and though he kept Rashford relatively quiet, Spurs’ right channel did find some joy through Rashford’s movement off the ball.
LWB: Ivan Perišić (6.5) - One of the only attacking outlets on a night where Spurs truly lacked any influence in the final third. Continues to adapt to life in England well despite the poor result away from home.
DM: Yves Bissouma (6) - Average from the Malian international midfielder who has still yet to hit the same highs that he achieved at Brighton which saw him garner serious interest before his move to Spurs.
CM: Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (6) - Probably his worst performance for Tottenham this season but United was rampant in all phases of play. The Dane will not be too concerned given the balance of his play across 2022-23 thus far.
CM: Rodrigo Bentancur (6.5) - Below standard tonight by the Uruguayan international midfielder against a dominant United side when in comparison to his normal influential presence in the center of the park.
RF: Harry Kane (6) - Will maybe feel that he could have beaten De Gea with his close-range effort in the second half but the England international had a quiet night though cannot be blamed for the lack of supply overall.
LF: Son Heung-min (6) - The South Korean star was as isolated as his favorite strike-partner as Spurs struggled to relieve the pressure United put them under. Tottenham relies on the counter-attack, but supply was lacking in a big way.
Sub: Davinson Sánchez (6) - Had little time to influence matters at the back after coming on to replace Eric Dier who is sure to start at the weekend against Newcastle.
Sub: Ryan Sessegnon (6) - On for Doherty in the closing stages during a triple change by Conte. His status at the club is all but confirmed now and will likely reduce further with the arrival of Destiny Udogie next summer.
Sub: Lucas Moura (6) - Hard to judge and give a proper rating but for the sake of argument a 6 is about right for a player that was not trusted to start and came into proceedings where Spurs were always second best.
Sub: Oliver Skipp (N/A) - Given just two minutes (plus for minutes of added time) of normal action at the end of proceedings
Sub: Djed Spence (N/A) - Given just two minutes (plus for minutes of added time) of normal action at the end of proceedings