Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United: 5 Tactics Which Won United the Game
Manchester United emphatically maintained their pressure on Manchester City in the Premier League title race, thrashing Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane in a win masterminded by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Sir Alex's tactics were spot on, and were executed with callous precision by the Red Devils, who ran out 3-1 winners thanks to a sensational brace from Ashley Young and a bullet header from Wayne Rooney.
Spurs played well and dominated play for a lot of the match, but couldn't make their possession count and didn't take their chances in the final third.
Here are five tactics which won Manchester United the game in North London on Sunday.
Deep Midfield Duo
Manchester United lined up with a formation more like 6-4 than a 4-4-2, with central midfielders Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick maintaining a disciplined, deep midfield role throughout the game.
It was a move by manager Sir Alex Ferguson which worked wonders, as United had great cover in defence, nullifying the impact of Aaron Lennon's pace and Luka Modric's visionary passing.
It also gave United enough bodies at the back to put a marker on Louis Saha or Emmanuel Adebayor, and break up the strike partnership that has served Tottenham well recently.
In attack, it allowed the wingers and two strikers for United to make runs and create options in the home side's final third, stretching Tottenham's defence—a problem for Spurs which was a factor in the three goals they conceded.
Having two deep-lying playmakers also allowed Sir Alex the flexibility to implement other tactics, featured in this slideshow.
Deep Front Four
Manchester United's holding midfield duo meant the whole United team were playing a bit deeper, and up front played without a poacher as Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney were the chosen strike partnership.
This meant Sir Alex's front four, the two strikers and wingers, were positioned deeper than normal.
That therefore meant they were harder to mark, especially as Welbeck and Rooney would drop between Tottenham's defensive and midfield lines.
It also gave United the flexibility to attack at different tempos, as their deeper position in Spurs' final third meant they had more time and space when initially receiving the ball.
And due to such flexibility, the visitors were a more unpredictable side going forward—most evidently seen in the corner leading up to the first goal, and Ashley Young's sensational second goal, in which the Spurs players were struggling to second-guess his movement.
A lot of Manchester United's tactics were integrated together, with their deeper play allowing for various other intricate plays.
To help make the team even more unpredictable, and to get the best out of the wingers Nani and Ashley Young—both of whom are very good finishers—Sir Alex Ferguson encouraged his players to positionally interlink.
Quite often Paul Scholes or Michael Carrick would dribble the ball out wide, or Nani or Young inside, and the players would pick up those positions, trying to pull Tottenham's players out of position off the ball, and making it impossible for their defenders to mark a certain player.
It was another tactic which helped stretch, and fatigue, the Spurs defence which was untroubled for a lot of the first half.
Whilst this move played a part in all of United's goal, it was most visible in the third, when Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick and Young all combined, swapping passes and positions, before Young eventually broke free and found the space to score from 25 yards.
Manchester United only closed down the ball in their own half, and often just in their final third.
This meant the Red Devils stayed disciplined in defence and remained in position, and allowed United to block off Tottenham's options going forward, break up the Saha-Adebayor partnership, stop Luka Modric from making key passes and limit the amount of races Aaron Lennon would have against Patrice Evra.
On top of that, it allowed the visitors to conserve energy for quick counterattacks and meant they could sustain a high tempo going forward throughout the match.
It also meant they weren't chasing the ball, and therefore the game, and didn't allow Spurs to attack at a high tempo themselves, meaning they couldn't gain the ascendancy psychologically.
Not a tactic in itself, but the experience Manchester United had in their lineup today was crucial.
United needed to stifle Spurs today instead of attempting to dominate the game themselves, and to do that, they needed experience throughout the side—players who know Tottenham's game well, and who have the discipline to stay deep and remain in position.
So in central midfield, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick (signed by United from Tottenham) were the perfect partnership, while in defence Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans knew the games of Louis Saha (a former United player) and Emmanuel Adebayor almost inside out.
It was a good lineup from the Red Devils, with veterans throughout the core of the side bringing to the table the experience that saw vintage United steal the points yet again.