Boos ring out as Spurs slump to 3-0 defeat against Manchester United
Ronaldo scores wonder goal as United ease to three Premier League points at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Saturday, 30th October 2021 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
MANCHESTER UNITED 3 (Ronaldo 3, Cavani 64, Rashford 86)
IT has only been three months since Nuno Espirito Santo took the helm at Spurs – but already impatient fans are saying that they have seen enough.
This evening (Saturday), after a shocking 3-0 defeat to a Manchester United side who conceded five goals in their last game, the terraces at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium were calling for the managers head.
And with Spurs turning in another abject display, the question appears to be when, not if, the hunt for a new manager begins yet again.
It isn’t that the north Londoners were awful – Cristian Romero, Heung-Min Son, Eric Dier, Lucas Moura and Emerson Royal cannot really be blamed for today – it was just obvious that after falling behind to a wonderful Cristiano Ronaldo goal that the Tottenham side as a collective did not have the will to recover.
The lack of character – missing since the halcyon days of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign – is damning.
It may feel unfair to blame a coach who has had so little time to forge a new identity, but time is not on Nuno’s side and there are simply no green shoots to be seen.
Speaking after the game, the Spurs’ gaffer said: “It was a very tough afternoon, very disappointing. We didn’t perform as we wanted. I truly believe that we are better than what we showed today.
“We started the game well, didn’t really create much but had situations where we could have done better. We conceded a goal and, after that, we started the second half very badly. We didn’t recover our momentum.”
Nuno tried to show some tactical nous by drafting in the more defensively minded Ben Davies to counter the attacking instincts of United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The idea was no doubt sound on a whiteboard at the training ground – but it robbed Spurs of an attacking outlet on the left, and didn’t stem the flow of danger on Davies’s flank.
Nuno also drafted in Giovani Lo Celso in place of Tanguy Ndombele. The Argentine international offered more scurry and hustle than Ndombele, but it didn’t help the cause – especially as Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had days they will want to forget.
Both failed to get to grips with Scott McTominay, who won too many 50-50 challenges for comfort. Fred and Bruno Fernandes also enjoyed far too much space.
Perhaps the biggest problem is how a side can turn in a decent first half performance, go behind to a goal that their opponents didn’t deserve, and then fail to pick themselves up.
On 27 minutes, after lots of pressure, Romero – who is one player who came out of the ordeal this evening with his reputation enhanced – turned home from close range after United failed to clear a corner. After an incomprehensible delay by the linesman, the goal was judged offside. It gave United a massive boost.
Other chances came and went. Moments later Son snuck in round the back but the ball sat up and he couldn’t get the angle right, blasting well over the bar.
United’s best efforts came when Edinson Cavani saw his free header waft wide of the upright and Fred stung Hugo Lloris’s palms with a terrific effort from range.
Then came the opener that would prick Tottenham’s fragile confidence.
A disjointed United attack saw some penalty area pinball as Spurs failed to get a boot behind the ball and whack it clear. A hopeful cross towards the back post cleared Davies’s attempts to head away and the ball dropped for Ronaldo. Showing wonderful technique, he hit a first-time volley back across Lloris.
Spurs could feel aggrieved to be trailing at the break – but what happened in the second half was a story of catastrophic self-destruction.
Firstly, Nuno decided to take off his brightest attacker, Lucas Moura, on 54 and replace him with Steven Bergwijn. Bergwijn has played little football this season, and has scored two Premier League goals in his entire Tottenham career. The howls of derision from the terraces can’t have helped his confidence.
The decision was quickly followed by a game-killing second goal. The usually reliable Skipp lost the ball and Cavani, after being played in by Ronaldo, said thank you very much. The ageing forward strode into the box and nailed his finish.
Skipp was soon put out of his misery as Ndombele was given a run out – but the midfielder offered nothing as Spurs resorted to launching the ball long in the hope of a lucky break.
And then, like a desperate gambler hoping his last pile of chips might bring a change of fortune, Nuno threw on Dele Alli for Lo Celso with 20 minutes remaining.
Nothing came off, and the side looked increasingly shell shocked and bewildered. The final United goal, on 86 by substitute Marcus Rashford, merely hastened the home fans exodus.
Nuno does not look capable at the moment of carving a coherent team out of a collection of individuals who, for all their talents, just can’t catch a break.
If Spurs hadn’t already flipped through a managerial Rolodex this summer before settling on a boss who clearly wasn’t the first choice, recent performances would surely have been enough to leave Nuno heading for the exit. Instead, it feels like Spurs are in for a long, hard winter.
Spurs: Lloris, Royal, Romero, Dier, Davies, Hojbjerg, Skipp (Ndombele, 65), Moura (Bergwijn, 54), Lo Celso (Alli, 72), Son, Kane
Substitutes not used: Gollini, Doherty, Reguilon, Sanchez, Rodon, Tanganga
Manchester United: de Gea, Lindelof, Varane, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Fernandes (Matic, 75), Ronaldo (Rashford, 70), Cavani (Lingard, 81)
Substitutes not used: Henderson, Bailly, Greenwood, Dalot, Sancho, van de Beek