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ANALYSIS: Manchester United's 3-0 win over Tottenham about luck rather than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

OTB Sport's Cian Fahey looks at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's defence and how Tottenham made it easy for Manchester United on Saturday.

ANALYSIS: Manchester United's...

ANALYSIS: Manchester United's 3-0 win over Tottenham about luck rather than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer survived Tottenham. Cristiano Ronaldo sparked their 3-0 win, but really the performance showed the same flaws that have led to past heavy defeats.

All Premier League wins are worth three points. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is thankful for that.

But not all wins are equal.

There are good wins and there are lucky wins. Solskjaer's Manchester United just benefited from a lucky win.

Good wins are a reflection on good performance. They come about because your team plays with a structure, to its identity and shows a level of control over its opponent. You control how many opportunities the opposition can create and you create your own chances through specific action. You don't rely on the bounce of the ball to go your way a disproportionate amount of times over 90 minutes.

Lucky wins are where your team shows very little control and relies on poor execution from the opposition. Chances are gifted to you and the chances you give up are spurned through no action of your own. It's a race to the bottom and the other teams wins.

United and Tottenham enjoyed a grueling race to the bottom yesterday.

It was Solskjaer's side that came out on top, as Nuno Esperito Santo joins him in the firing line for his job. Esperito Santo was particularly poor taking off Lucas Moura for Steven Bergwijn.

Tottenham are a directionless team. Harry Kane is uninterested and Son Heung-Min has not been sharp this season so far. Without those two firing at the top, there is a lack of incisiveness that is leading to an overall aura of ineffectiveness. Esperito Santo needs time to imprint his identity on this team.

Solskjaer has had time.


We know what Solskjaer's Manchester United are and this result may have eased the pressure, but the performance did not. United put everyone behind the ball in a way that would make Jose Mourinho blush.

By the end of the game, United had three defensive midfielders and five defenders on the field. Early in the game, they had five defenders and two holding midfielders with Bruno Fernandes regularly dropping deep too. Edinson Cavani chasing back into his own half was a staple of his positive play.

Keeping so many bodies back meant Harry Maguire was naturally less exposed in space. Yet, both he and Luke Shaw picked up yellow cards within 25 minutes. Maguire's may have been harsh but it came about because he was out of position.

This whole sequence is a self-inflicted wound. United have the ball over the halfway line. Scott McTominay plays the ball across to Maguire, who links up with Fred but beats himself by turning backwards. He has an outlet to his left, but because Maguire is not comfortable enough on the ball, he can't open his body and play that simple pass outside.

Eventually, Victor Lindelof shows his discomfort on the ball forcing a cross-field pass. Maguire is ball watching before picking up his booking.

United kept a clean sheet on Saturday, but not because they put everyone behind the ball and defended well.

Rather it was because Tottenham were so incredibly wasteful in front of goal.


After the ensuing free kick, the ball finds its way to Lucas Moura outside the box. He picks apart Solskjaer's defensive line as Cavani keeps Son onside at the top of the box. Cavani is a striker who hasn't played much this year so this isn't a major surprise. Raphael Varane in the middle is also behind his defensive line, which speaks to the poor organization of the group.

Son is able to bend his run to stay onside and turn in on goal.

This is a clear-cut chance. Son should score. David De Gea doesn't even have to stop a shot. The striker's first touch is excellent but his second touch bails out Solskjaer's team. This is not good defending, it's luck relying on the opposition to spurn an easy chance.

Son was in on goal again 10 minutes later. Harry Kane bounced off of two of United's midfielders in midfield before playing a through ball between Maguire and Lindelof. The United line was pressed high up on the halfway line and Son was ruled offside by an inch.

Gary Neville described at as "a risk" rather than a well-executed defensive line. Son again took a poor touch to kill the opportunity regardless.

Ben Davies missed a point-blank header inside the six-yard box just before halftime. The Spurs left-back was able to outmuscle United centre-back Victor Lindelof. That's not a matchup Solskjaer would expect to lose. Nor should Lindelof expect to lose it. Davies, again, should have easily scored.


At the start of the second half, De Gea added to the list of unforced errors. United again unnecessarily worked the ball back to the goalkeeper from the halfway line. He then picks out Lucas Moura in space. Moura is aggressive. By attacking the backline, he puts the defence under pressure and creates the opportunity for Son on the edge of the box.

The only mistake Moura makes is his pass. He puts the ball slightly behind Son so the striker hits it with his shin instead of stepping through the strike to hit the near corner of the net.

De Gea holds up his hands in apology after the ball clears the post. It's more awful defending from Solskjaer's United and another wasted opportunity for Tottenham.

Not to be outdone, Fred gave the ball away to give Tottenham another chance within minutes.

Once again, this sequence begins deep in the Tottenham half and United have possession. Good possession too. Maguire is high upfield when Fred loses the ball, so are Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. That disrupts the United defence. Giovani Celso finds himself in a position to play Son in on goal. Son is onside this time but the pass is horrible.

This should have been a one-on-one with De Gea. Instead, it was a throw-in and a missed opportunity off another self-inflicted wound.

Esperito Santo should have replaced Lo Celso rather than Moura when he made his change soon after this. It might not have changed the complexion of the game but it would have eased the pressure with the crowd. Without Moura on the field, Solskjaer's defence was only going to be threatened by its own mistakes.

Liverpool pulled the United defence apart. They picked off opportunities, capitalized on mistakes and played with an energy that led to that 5-0 scoreline. Tottenham had no energy. At 0-1 on the hour mark, one moment captured how easy it is to defend against this Tottenham team.


Emmerson Royal has the ball on the edge of the box. Giovani Lo Celso (green circle) played the ball wide to him and then stood where he is. Son (red circle) is standing behind him. Harry Kane (yellow circle) is standing behind his defender at the back post. Steven Bergwijn (blue) circle begins to flow into the box from the left wing.

Royal is isolated against Luke Shaw. He has space to get past his outside shoulder and pull the ball across the box. In the 61st minute of a game you're losing, Tottenham players should be sprinting into the box.

Royal beats Shaw. He puts a great ball across the box, pulling it behind Maguire but across the six-yard box. None of Tottenham's players moved. Harry Kane of a prior season would be running onto this ball to tap it in.

Tottenham didn't have a single shot on target in this game. It would be easy to credit that to United's approach but Solskjaer's side gave up plenty of chances. They gave up opportunities to create chances that Tottenham couldn't even take advantage of. Keeping a clean sheet against any team has been a challenge for United lately. They needed a team such as Tottenham to do it for them, and that's exactly what they did.

With a full-strength Atalanta team coming up midweek and a Manchester City team coming off a shock defeat to Crystal Palace, the cold water is coming again for Solskjaer's Manchester United. Tottenham were a short reprieve.

"Clearly most of this is on the manager" | Andy Mitten


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