Manchester United’s miserable start to the Premier League season continued Monday with a deserved 3-0 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur.
United’s latest setback came on the heels of last week’s 3-2 defeat against tiny Brighton. Already under pressure, manager Jose Mourinho – we’ll get to him later – made six changes to his team for the marquee “Monday Night Football” clash at Old Trafford against undefeated Spurs, but it didn’t make much difference in the end, with all three of the visitors goals coming in the second half. Harry Kane
While the Red Devils came out playing with some the energy and purpose that was lacking last weekend, it was clear from the start of the contest that their cohesion, execution and belief is still severely lacking. A team playing with confidence, Manchester United isn’t.
Only the most optimistic sort might wonder if the outcome could’ve been different had United striker Romelu Lukaku had been able to convert into an empty net early after intercepting Danny Rose’s back pass and rounding goalkeeper Hugo Lloris instead of firing wide. At that point, Spurs would have been chasing the game. The largest stadium in England would’ve been rocking, as only the Theater of Dreams can.
Most of all, Mourinho’s team would’ve had some badly needed momentum after recent events, which of course includes the notion – which Mourinho didn’t exactly extinguish during his pre-match presser last Friday – of a rift between him and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward over the construction of United’s all-planet squad.
The truth is it wouldn’t have mattered. Man United got thoroughly outclassed in front of its own supporters by a better team, a club that didn’t make a single signing during the summer transfer window, the first team in Premier League history not to add at least one new player between seasons. And as impressive as they were on Monday, this Tottenham side is still not playing up to its considerable ability despite starting the 2018-19 campaign with three consecutive wins.
If anything, the score line flattered the home side. Had Spurs been just a little bit sharper, it could’ve been 5-0 easy. A wide-open Dele Alli saw his on-target shot deflected out by an oblivious Chris Smalling. United goalkeeper David De Gea, who was excellent all night, prevented it from becoming a rout a good deal earlier after an amateurish giveaway at the top of the box by Ander Herrera. Kane missed a sitter from point-blank rage not long after opening the scoring in five minutes after the halftime break. But Lucas Moura sealed the three points with a clinical strike two minutes after Kane’s, before twisting the knife with another in the 84th minute.
Monday’s loss marked the first time that the Red Devils opened a season by dropping two of their first three since 1992-93. It’s worth noting that Manchester United went on to win the Premier League that season. It’s only August. There’s an awful long way to go before anyone wins anything.
Still, it’s hard to escape the idea that this is the beginning of the end for Mourinho at United. The signs that he’s not entirely happy were there during the preseason, and you can be sure that things are going to get really interesting now. We’ve seen this movie before with the Special One, who famously wore out his welcome at Chelsea (twice) and at Real Madrid. It’s natural to assume another ugly breakup is on the way. Only time will tell if this season can provide a surprise ending.
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