Man United’s need for defensive reinforcements laid bare in embarrassing Tottenham defeat


Man United vs Tottenham

Sunday’s marquee Premier League matchup took place a short time ago.

The clash pitted Manchester United against Tottenham, two sides who will no doubt be desperate to secure a Champions League berth come the end of the campaign.

Spurs headed into the tie in decent form, having secured a spot in both the Europa League group stages and League Cup quarter-finals over the course of the last week.

United, on the other hand, have endured something of a shaky start to 2020/21.

The Red Devils downed Brighton twice in the last week, but didn’t look anywhere near their best in either outing.

As such, if they hoped to see off Jose Mourinho’s Spurs, a much better display was required.

When all was said and done at Old Trafford, though, United absolutely crumbled, putting on one of the club’s worst displays in recent memory.

First-half chaos

With less than four minutes of the clash gone, some absolutely horrendous defending saw Man United and Spurs gifted a goal each.

First, Davinson Sanchez’s schoolboy tackling handed the Red Devils yet another penalty.

Though one could of course argue that Man United have been fairly lucky with penalties of late, there was no doubting that this one was fully deserved.

Bruno Fernandes stepped up to convert the spot-kick in typically calm fashion:

The home side’s lead was short-lived, though, with a revitalised Tanguy Ndombele having drawn Spurs level just moments later.

This time it was Harry Maguire and Eric Baily at fault, with the United captain’s poor header, and bizarre decision to pull down his own teammate, having eventually led to Ndombele firing past David de Gea:

Maguire’s defensive prowess was called into question once again just a few minutes later. The Englishman brought down Harry Kane near the half-way line. He was then not alert in the moments after the foul, allowing Kane to take a quick free-kick, and play in Heung-min Son.

The South Korean managed to escape the pursuing Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw, before coolly slotting past de Gea:

The frantic nature of the clash eventually calmed, with United having begun to get on top.

Mason Greenwood forced a solid save out of Hugo Lloris shortly after the 20-minute mark.

However, as has become the norm under Mourinho, Spurs launched a devastating counter-attack following Greenwood’s chance.

Son, who was through on goal, though, was let down by a heavy touch, which guided the ball straight into the path of de Gea. The hosts’ shot-stopper then punched away an effort from Serge Aurier after more good work from Harry Kane.

And with Spurs continuing to work their way back in the tie, United were soon handed a further blow, when Anthony Martial was shown a straight red card for violent conduct:

Kane piled on the misery a short time later, capitalising on yet more awful defending from United’s centre-halves to make it 3-1.

This was followed by Son adding his 2nd of the day with just 36 minutes on the clock.

Maguire, the slowest player on the pitch, somehow ended up at left-back, with Shaw in the box not picking up anyone. Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic also inexcusably failed to pick up Son.

The first 45 drew to a close with Spurs 4-1 up, and Man United looking completely bereft of any sort of game plan, team cohesion or defensive quality.

Solskjaer opted to make a double change at the break, bringing on Fred and Scott McTominay for Bruno Fernandes and Matic.

The changes had little effect, though, with Aurier having added a 5th for the Lilywhites just five minutes into the second-half.

Paul Pogba then fouled Ben Davies in the box with 13 minutes of normal time remaining, allowing Kane to step up and make it six from the spot.

And this is how the clash finished.

A defensive mess

For many, it has been clear for some time that one area in which Man United need to strengthen is at centre-back.

Maguire was a decent buy for the club, but outside of the Englishman, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has, since his arrival, had very little quality to call upon at centre-half.

Victor Lindelof had long stood as Maguire’s main partner in United’s backline.

But some solid displays from Bailly of late saw the Ivorian handed the chance to impress on the big stage on Sunday.

And though Bailly was arguably the better of United’s defenders versus Spurs, what was clear was that none of the club’s centre-backs are truly up to scratch.

Perhaps Maguire could thrive alongside a more dominant, pacey partner. But with Lindelof or Bailly alongside him, it is evident that the Red Devils’ backline is simply not good enough to challenge the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City.

And with less than 48 hours remaining in the transfer window, it doesn’t actually look as though the Red Devils will be bringing in a fresh face at the back.

So, with only Maguire, Lindelof and Bailly to call upon, Man United fans must be dreading the next few months of the season.

If they continue to put on displays like they did on Sunday, it is hard to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side finishing in the Premier League’s top-four.

For obvious reasons, much of the blame should be put on the Manchester United players for today’s embarrasment. But it should also be remembered that Solskjaer is not exactly covering himself in glory at present, either.

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This article was edited by Conor Laird.

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Player Team Goals
Son, Heung Min Tottenham Hotspur FC 6
Calvert-Lewin, Dominic Everton FC 6
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Vardy, Jamie Leicester City FC 5
Wilson, Callum Newcastle United FC 4
Maupay, Neal Brighton & Hove Albion FC 4
Kane, Harry Tottenham Hotspur FC 3
Grealish, Jack Aston Villa FC 3
Rodriguez, James Everton FC 3
Jorginho Chelsea FC 3
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