Tottenham went into their clash with the Red Devils with a 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League and a 5-0 win over Swansea City under their belts as they looked to be regaining the form which propelled their title challenge last season.
Tottenham’s attacking threat was in fact damaged by their defensive set up. With Spurs intent with playing the ball out from the back their defensive players are expected to be able to launch attacks and play their part in the build up of goals, a large part of this is the roles of the fullbacks Danny Rose and Kyle Walker.
No width or pace
As Tottenham play with three central midfielders and no wingers, any width in their game comes from their fullbacks. The pace that both Walker and Rose provide to the team means that they can easily create space for attacks simply by beating players and taking them out of the game. On top of this they can both cross well which often opens up opportunities for Tottenham’s attack. However, the game saw little threat from either flank.
With United playing three players up front to add to their quick counter attacks, Rose and Walker were caught up in a situation where every run they made they would have been left open if United were to launch one of their own. To further their problems they were not helped by Tottenham’s set up in the double pivot.
Last season Tottenham started with Eric Dier in the defensive midfielder role but this season has seen summer signing Victor Wanyama take his place. While Wanyama has been in good form and brings a lot to the team he has one flaw which Dier executes perfectly. Tottenham’s fullbacks are often higher up the pitch it is important for the defensive midfielder to drop back into the back line creating a 3-6-1 formation and so not leaving the centre backs exposed in defence.
With Dier trained as a center back this comes naturally to him as for Wanyama he often drifts further up field with Mousa Dembele leaving space behind him for teams to exploit. This further impeded Spurs’s fullbacks and cut of the teams attacking supply.