x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Tottenham and United unable to find the winnner in draw

Wayne Rooney equalised twice as Tottenham couldn't shake Manchester United on Sunday and the two sides settled for a 2-2 draw.

Tottenham's Sandro and Manchester United's Danny Welbeck vie for the ball during the two sides' match on Sunday. Sang Tan / AP
Tottenham's Sandro and Manchester United's Danny Welbeck vie for the ball during the two sides' match on Sunday. Sang Tan / AP

The result at White Hart Lane may have deferred the crisis for now, but the storm clouds haven’t dissipated. After a week in which his future as manager of Tottenham Hotspur has been questioned, Andre Villas-Boas came out fighting, taking particular issue with two articles in the Daily Mail that criticised him.

“A couple of people have insulted my integrity and human values and the results I have achieved at other clubs,” Villas-Boas said, pointing out the two journalists involved.

“You don’t attack from the front, but from behind, when you’re writing. It comes with a 6-0 thrashing, but it’s unfair.”

Although Villas-Boas’s tone was calm, his words did little to dispel the impression raised on Thursday when he asked for a Tromso fan who had been criticising him during his side’s Europa League match in Norway to be removed from behind the dug-out.

Whether his actions are those of a man losing his cool or of somebody facing down an opponent directly, it is hard to dispute that he is under pressure.

After last week’s blowout loss at Manchester City, the very least Tottenham required against Manchester United on Sunday was a performance of solidity and they got rather more than that, having the better of the game before settling for a 2-2 draw.

Not for the first time this season, though, that did not translate into a victory as issues with creativity and defensive sloppiness prevented them from taking advantage.

The area in which Tottenham have been strong this season has been midfield, if not in creating particularly clear-cut chances, then at least in dominating the ball. At the same time, that is where United have struggled for a couple of seasons now and there is little in the prospect of a Phil Jones-Tom Cleverley partnership to unsettle opponents unduly. Jones battled as manfully as ever – although Spurs’ opening goal came after he had lost Paulinho – but Cleverley’s loss of form and confidence is glaringly apparent.

Tottenham’s midfield superiority allowed them to dominate possession and territory almost from the off and the game settled into a familiar White Hart Lane pattern of Spurs grinding away, in control but so lacking in flair that they rely primarily on attrition to generate meaningful chances. For once in a season in which they have had more shots than any other team, but were averaging only .75 goals per game, the breakthrough did come.

As Paulinho got away from Jones, Jonny Evans panicked and hacked him down, and Kyle Walker swept the free-kick under a leaping wall and past goalkeeper David De Gea.

Spurs had further chances, with Soldado slicing wide after a fine-one-two with Paulinho and Aaron Lennon, then being denied by De Gea, but the lack of confidence that has undermined them in recent weeks cost them again.

Jones’s cross after 32 minutes had cleared every United player, but Walker’s attempt to clear simply knocked the ball back to Rooney, who had a simple finish to equalise.

Tottenham’s control vanished at that, with the panic that characterised their display at Manchester City last week returning, although without quite the same sense of chaos.

They did, though, regain the lead eight minutes into the second half as Sandro cut inside the hapless Cleverley and unleashed a ferocious curving shot into the top corner.

But within two minutes, they had handed United another lifeline, Hugo Lloris clipping the trailing leg of Danny Welbeck to concede a penalty that Wayne Rooney converted.

That extended United’s unbeaten run to 12 in all competitions, but back-to-back away draws have increased the gap between them and first-place Arsenal to nine points. For Spurs, a point further back, these are still frustrating times, and there remains a sense that Villas-Boas cannot afford a protracted slump in form.

sports@thenational.ae

REPORT CARD

Man of the Match: Sandro – The Brazilian capped a performance of midfield domination with a superb goal.

Tottenham: Steadied the ship but the inability to convert possession into chances is an increasingly taxing concern. 6/10

Manchester United: Fought back well, but took a point onlythanks to Spurs’ generosity. 6/10