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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Manchester United were outplayed by Tottenham in perhaps their worst performance of the season

Eriksen's goal after 11 seconds not only set the tone but left Mourinho furious at his side's lack of concentration.

Alexis Sanchez league debut for Manchester United did not go to plan, losing 2-0 at Tottenham Hotspur. Alastair Grant / AP Photo
Alexis Sanchez league debut for Manchester United did not go to plan, losing 2-0 at Tottenham Hotspur. Alastair Grant / AP Photo

Boos greeted Alexis’s Sanchez’s first touches for Manchester United against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday evening. Boos from the 78,500 home fans making up part of the biggest crowd – 81,978 – to watch an English league game for almost 70 years.

Sanchez’s crime had been to play for Spurs’ neighbours Arsenal, but the greatest players attract such criticism. It’s a backhanded compliment, but as the game went on, the boos diminished as much as the Chilean’s role in the match.

Sanchez made an impressive debut last Friday in Yeovil, but he will be judged against far better opponents and, like the rest of his teammates in red, he had a night he would rather forget.

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It wasn’t for the want of trying and as Sanchez’s manager Jose Mourinho later said of his most recent addition: “He worked hard, but the game was not for him. In the second half I tried to give him a position close to Lukaku, but he felt the need to drop off more.”

United went into the game with five straight wins in January and no goals conceded. They went out of the game having been outclassed at Spurs away for a third consecutive season.

United’s biggest names didn’t show, with Paul Pogba substituted after 63 minutes having been out-thought and outfought by Mousa Dembele in the opposing midfield. Pogba has been far more consistent that Dembele this season, but the home fans had taken to singing Dembele’s name rather than chiding Sanchez long before the end.

Harry Kane, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen were among the other stand-out performers for Spurs, with Eriksen too clever for Pogba’s sidekick Nemanja Matic.

If anything, United were fortunate that it was only 2-0. Tottenham remain in a good place, their mood summed up by their smiling manager Mauricio Pochettino after the match. They had more positives as new signing Lucas Moura, a Manchester United target, was presented at half-time after joining from Paris Saint-Germain

United were behind after 11 seconds to Eriksen’s goal after Dembele had kicked the game off. The manner of the goal drew criticism from Mourinho.

“It’s ridiculous,” the United manager said. “To concede a goal like that is not normal. We did it last season at Stamford Bridge after one minute but to concede straight from kick-off is ridiculous. What makes it especially ridiculous is that we analysed Tottenham before.

“We knew they would play the long ball and that Kane would try to get inside his opponent. But four mistakes in the first eleven seconds and suddenly you are losing to a very good team.”

Despite a positive opening 10 minute spell after the goal, United became progressively worse. When Spurs made it 2-0 after 28 minutes after a Phil Jones own goal, it killed the game, with Mourinho saying: “I do not say that goal was ridiculous, I say it was unlucky. After that Tottenham had the game in their hands. The second goal mentally killed the team.”

It was only the fourth defeat for United in 25 league games this season and they remain second, but it was probably their worst performance, marred by many negatives and offering few positives.