Another game, another teenager that made an impact for Manchester United as their woes continued in the Premier League; three more points were dropped to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. While there was a lot of ugly about United’s performance, there were some good to take from the match.
Fosu-Mensah is immense
Despite normally playing as a centre-back in United’s youth system, 18-year-old Timothy Fosu-Mensah turned in what was shaping up to be a Man of the Match performance until being subbed off due to injury in the 68th minute. Making five successful tackles, he was a commanding presence on United's backline. In addition, he made a heart-stopping tackle that denied a sure Harry Kane goal.
That United immediately let in three goals in under ten minutes after he was brought off just shows how vital of a performance the teenager turned in.
Relying on teenagers has consequences
It is impossible to deny the impact that Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and now Timothy Fosu-Mensah have had for Manchester United. They are easily very special players with years ahead of them. The problem is that they still are teenagers and will make the mistakes that teenagers will make. Martial missed a clear chance on goal (and United’s only shot on target) when he was trying to get too cute by dribbling through Tottenham’s defence. Marcus Rashford missed a clear pass for Juan Mata as he was only focused on what was in front of him.
Fosu-Mensah was replaced with a full international for Italy, and United immediately leaked three goals. United’s identity is all about bringing through youth, but an over-reliance upon the youth papering up the cracks has only lead to a team that doesn’t know how to play without the unpredictability that they provide.
Louis van Gaal continues questionable substitutions
After turning in a quiet first half the strange decision to replace Marcus Rashford up top with natural winger and makeshift wing back Ashley Young was made at the start of the second half. While Young was literally all over the pitch, United lacked a consistent threat from the center of the pitch all game with Juan Mata at times being the lone man at the top. The strange substitutions and game plan of Louis van Gaal led to United recording a dismal five shots with only a single one on target.
Additionally, towards the end of the match, Memphis was brought on to replace Juan Mata, but nobody was shifted towards playing as a striker, leading to Martial, Memphis, and Young all dominating play on the left.
United desperately need a speedy right winger
For the first thirty minutes, United were undoubtedly in control of the match, but shortly after the play fell apart as Tottenham were able to take advantage of the fact that United’s only threat was coming from the left wing. Both Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard were seemingly neutralised as a true threat either due to lack of pace, or lack of physical presence. Looking at heat maps of the game revealed that not a single United player exerted any influence on the entire right side of Tottenham’s half.
While Juan Mata certainly is a great player, he is not a true right winger. Jesse Lingard as well has said that he is most comfortable in the center of the pitch despite consistently being deployed as a winger by Louis van Gaal. One thing was obvious today though was that neither of them are the winger that United need.
Hopefully, Louis van Gaal can correct the mistakes made today and the side can quickly recover as they play on Wednesday evening against West Ham United in the FA Cup.