It was denied that this match was a public audition between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mauricio Pochettino to become the next Manchester United manager. It is never as simple as that. Especially when someone else steals the show.
In an era of hyperbole David De Gea, nevertheless, produced one of the most remarkable performances ever seen by a goalkeeper. It was not just the sheer number of saves he made – 11, it felt like more – but the aura of utter invincibility he had created by the end.
“This is the real Manchester United,” De Gea declared, after celebrating in front of the United fans, and he symbolised that having been hugged by his team-mates and with substitute Juan Mata then jumping around in front of him, recreating one of his fellow Spaniard’s saves, as they walked towards the tunnel. Mata looked like an exuberant fan and little wonder. Big hugs.
De Gea preserved Solskjaer’s flawless start to his term as United’s manager – caretaker for now – with six wins from six games and five of those in the Premier League as they hauled themselves level on points with fifth-placed Arsenal, six behind fourth placed Chelsea and just seven points behind Spurs. This was a result, and a galvanised performance, that they would never have produced under Jose Mourinho this season and for that alone Solskjaer strengthened his case even further.
For Spurs and Pochettino this was bitterly frustrating and left them nine points behind Liverpool, probably ending their slim hopes of remaining in the title race. Of greater immediate concern will have been the sight of Harry Kane hobbling off in pain at the end with a twisted ankle especially as this was Heung-Min Son’s last game before departing for the Asian Cup.
Moussa Sissoko also picked up an apparent groin injury meaning that Pochettino’s resources could be stretched even further. Will it help convince him that, maybe, he has taken Spurs as far as he can and that the lure of United cannot be resisted should they come calling?
Time will tell and while Solskjaer undoubtedly got his tactics right in the first-half especially the debt to De Gea should not be ignored. It is De Gea’s job but Spurs will be kicking themselves at the number of clear opportunities he kicked away.
De Gea was outstanding and after him were strong performances from Paul Pogba – the dominant midfielder – and goal-scorer Marcus Rashford. Solskjaer lauded his team but, bizarrely, his press conference was cut short by United’s media officer. Some things do not change, unfortunately.
Fortunately his team spoke volumes. They fought, threw their bodies on the line and followed the tactical plan which meant that this was not a lucky result for all of De Gea’s heroics. They earned it and not least with their intent to try and take on Spurs and then fight to protect their lead once they secured it.
There was a clever tactical tweak that led to the goal. Jesse Lingard was played as a kind of ‘false nine’ through the middle and he dropped back to intercept a loose pass by Kieran Trippier. The ball fell to Pogba, positioned on the left rather than in the number 10 role, and he flighted a superb cross-field pass for Rashford to run on to.
It left the striker, who had been pushed out to the right, up against Jan Vertonghen who has not played for a month and did not look fully fit. He struggled to keep up with Rashford who ran on and drove an unerring right-foot shot across Hugo Lloris and inside the far post. It was a classic strike – all about movement, passing, pace and precision.
United used Rashford and Anthony Martial high and wide on each flank to try and exploit the space left by Spurs’ full-backs. It worked. Pochettino, though, adjusted at half-time and moved Son out wide on the left to stretch the play and his side took control in what was developing in an absorbing, enjoyable contest. And how often has that been said of United in recent times? Not many.
Spurs did not have a effort on target in the first-half but peppered the United goal in the second even though the visitors went close when Pogba powered through to collect his charged down shot and attempted to lift the ball over Lloris who tipped it over.
For Spurs the chances racked up: De Gea denied Kane, thrusting out a right leg to turn away his low shot, and then Dele Alli as he dived down to his left to keep out his guided header. He held a Kane header, held a Kane free-kick, while Alli raced clear, running on to Kane’s astute pass, only for De Gea to block once more with his legs.
Alli held his head, knowing he had to do better and that reaction began to infect Spurs who snatched at chances, going for power in an effort to beat De Gea. But perhaps his best save came when Toby Alderweireld met a near post corner by Christian Eriksen and the goalkeeper again got his legs in the way before Alli created space only to be denied once more.
United were savvy, also, but not negative as they ran down the clock and tried to break up Spurs’ momentum. Even so there were more saves, and more misses, before substitute Fernando Llorente teed up Kane. Surely this was Spurs’ moment? Instead De Gea, one last time, blocked with his legs. “No words,” United midfielder Ander Herrera tweeted afterwards about De Gea even though thousands of words will rightly be devoted to his team-mates’ display, this result and what it means for Solksjaer. It was simply world-class and as De Gea himself later said this was Manchester United, in every sense.
Full time: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
That's it! United, and specifically David De Gea, have done it. We have a match report coming up, we have player ratings coming up, and David De Gea I am quite sure has a Man of the Match award coming up.
90+ mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Llorente chests the ball down, looks up, lofts it over the defence and there is Kane stretching desperately, agonisingly... short of the ball.
90+ mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Eriksen with a lovely bit of vision to open up the defence, Trippier is onto the ball. Crosses. Corner.
It is a pretty good corner from Lamela, but that man De Gea comes out and fists it to safely.
90 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
There will be four minutes added. Not a lot happening in the first couple of them, sorry to say for Spurs. Pogba comes off and Wee Scottie McTobermory comes on.
88 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Llorente the latest to totally fail to get the Neville Memorandum: he's kicked it too near the goalie David De Gea.
The ball came over, Llorente controlled it superbly, but he was off balance and under pressure as he stabbed it goalwards.
87 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
"Harry Kane and Dele Alli will look back and think that all of their shots have been too close to a keeper of this quality," says Gurreh Neville. Yes Gary! Brilliant! If only they had thought of that cunning "kick it away from where the goalie is standing" plan. Still, that's why they pay Gary the big bucks I guess.
84 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
No question as to the Man of the Match: it's David De Gea. Another superb low save, Kane denied yet again when his well-placed, well-struck low drive is somehow legged away by the giant Spaniard.
Dalot's on, Lingard the man he replaces.
80 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Winks has done quite well at the base of that midfield diamond but is clearly no Dembele. He's off, and Poch goes for broke with big Fernando Llorente up top as well.
Llorente's first act of note is to barge Ashley Young over.
79 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Have Spurs puffed themselves out? Kane has yet another effort, but this one is wild and woolly.
78 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
The other side of Pogba now, the ill-discipline: he makes a high tackle on Alli, nothing wrong with that per sen, but then compounds the offence by arguing and kicking the ball away. Booked.
After consultation with Mike Phelan, OGS makes a change. Martial replaced by Lukaku.
75 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Lamela figures there might be another way to get this done, and dives rather pathetically in the area. Mike Dean says no.
73 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Another one! De Gea again. Eriksen chips it through, Alli controls on his thigh and fires at goal. De Gea again! This is entering into 9 or 10 out of 10 territory here for the United keeper.
70 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
United under huge pressure. Will they crack?
Kane has a freekick, bends it up and over the wall to hit the target - that's Tottenham's eighth shot on target this half! - but De Gea leaps splendidly to gather.
69 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Wonderful reactions from DDG as Toby Alderweireld meets a corner with a perfect header, De Gea somehow keeps that out with his feet.
66 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Eriksen is fouled on the edge of the area by Ander Herrera. Christian himself takes the freekick. Decent rather than spectacular effort.
Spurs really have had their chances.
65 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Pogba showboats, is robbed by Lamela and Spurs start a rapier counter attack. Son... Son.... SON! He's burst through the defence, into the area, but he cannot apply the finish.
64 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Kane comes back into midfield, powerful carry of the ball down the left, slips it inside to Eriksen. He elects to shoot from distance but cannot find a suitable shot.
62 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Oh, Paul Pogba. He's looking like one of the best in the world right now.
Martial and Rashford combine, the former gets his head up and crosses low, Pogba drives it crisply... but Davies has managed to get in the way.
Wow. Good game this.
60 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Spurs with another dangerous cross, they have got United on the rack now... ball comes over, Kane mis-times his jump and that, I guess, puts off the splendidly placed Lamela, who doesn't jump right.
59 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Kane! Another great chance, and he is surely going to score one sooner rather than later. Spurs corner, played short, cross comes in... Kane meets the ball with a diving header but it's not quite the perfect contact.
57 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Pogba is really picking this up by the scruff of the neck, buldozering his way through the Spurs defence like a sixth former playing colts rugby, and Lloris has to be at his best to stop him.
54 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Pogba though! Gets up splendidly for a header but, much like Alli just now, finds it hard to generate goalie-troubling power with the heid. Lloris ambles and gathers.
52 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Spurs are fired up, not only has their play been snappier since the break, they are thundering into tackles. Davies and Alli have both clattered opponents, in Alli's case Pogba, and he gets a yellow for his troubles.
50 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Another chance! Alli gets up well for a header but cannot get much power behind it from a fair way out.
47 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
That is more like it from Spurs. Excellent quick link up from Alli and Lamela, who slips it through to Kane... this has goal written all over it, but Kane is denied by a really good stop from the keeper.
46 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Right then. We are off again.
Nice moment for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - he has taken Rashford under his wing and has been tutoring him in the finisher's arts.
Half time: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
... but nothing of note happens and Man United can have their half time cuppa feeling very pleased with an excellent display of countering, solid away-team football, leavened by a moment of pure quality from Pogba and Rashford.
45 mins: Tottenham 0 Man United 1
Couple of minutes will be added...
GOAL! Tottenham 0 Man United 1 (Rashford 44)
Trippier has given the ball away! He tries a crossfield ball, Jesse Lingard reads it all-too easily and intercepts, knocking it down to Pogba. The brilliant Frenchman gets his head up and sends a sensational long diagonal ball into the inside right channel. Rashford bursts forward, galloping like a young... gallopy thing... and he has the skills, the composure and the technique to slot a perfect finish past the keeper.
42 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
After a minute or two of limping around gamely in front of the back four, he does indeed come off.
Finally Trippier lands a glove on Martial, who has had him right where he wants him so far. But this is a super tackled from the Tottingham full back.
40 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Looks like he is going to try and run it off. Good luck with that...
37 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
United, and specifically De Gea, looking to slow it down.
Hard lines for Sissoko: starts for a sprint, pulls up clutching his groin/upper thigh.
That's surely the end of his afternoon....
35 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Good spell for the hosts. Winks, who needs to find his shooting boots, fires well over.
Kane fizzes the ball across goal but also there is nobody - a Harry Kane, perhaps - to tap it in.
30 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Spurs have the ball in the net... but the offside flag is up!
Trippier crosses, Alli shows superb athleticism to leap and guide the ball across, there's Harry Kane to stab it in! But he was standing offside when Dele played that. A really good bit of work from the lino.
28 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Son dances through the area and a lunging tackle comes in, Son avoids rather than invites it, loses the ball .But Spurs get it back, soon it's with Son again and he manages to get a shot away.
25 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
That said, while there is kane there is hope, and united have inexplicably chosen him as the one person they don't bother marking up from this corner! Harry has time to control and fire at goal, but it is blocked. Near-suicidal negligence.
22 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Spurs look a bit leggy and stretched, United look peppy and on it.
17 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
United at it again! Again there is a big void where the Tottenham right back should be. Martial dashes at the goal and fires at the keeper, deflected easily enough. Never looked like scoring in truth.
15 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Pogba wins a corner off Alderweireld.
Young crosses, Sissoko has to hoof it clear.
Spurs are getting a torrid time of it here these last seven or eight minutes.
13 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Now it is Martial who finds himself in acres down the left. Where is friend Trippier?! Martial's touch lets him down and Spurs can beaver back, but that's twice now down the Spurs right back area...
11 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Lingard! Big chance. United overload the Spurs box, both sides having a go here this afternoon, and as the deep cross comes in from the right to the back post, Jesse controls, sets himself and fires well over.
8 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Spurs dominating! Son gets in behind Phil Jones, the United central defence flapping and blowing raggedly, as Son finds Winks for the second ball. He gets to the byline and crosses, but there's nobody there. Spurs keep it alive though and Trippier crosses from the right flank this time.
That wins them a corner. Davies hurls himself to the floor under pressure from Young, the ref is not buying, but the ball breaks to said Winks at the edge of the box. He ballloooooons a shot over. Had plenty of time and should have hit the target.
5 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
The Dark Knight is in attendance.
Wonder who he thinks should be the next Man United manager? I'm hearing he thinks Moyes should get another crack. Not really, silly.
The current United manager has got them in a zippy, solid formation with Martial and Rashford probing at the inside channels but by and large United are in countering mode.
Pogba does too much, loses it, and fouls Kane. That should have been a freekick against MUFC.
2 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Trippier benefits from the overlap down the right and Shaw has got his hands full here. Trippier is able to measure out a cross but cannot find Harry K.
1 mins: Spurs 0 Man United 0
Spurs try that hoof it kick off that worked well for them once before, but Matic is alive this time.
Lot being asked of
Harry Winks in my opinion. Pogba has been hot with four goals and three assists under OGS.
United line up
Tottenham with their diamond
Here come the teams
onto the hallowed, and slightly manky, Wembley turf.
Graeme Souness talks Wembley turf
"That?! It's a fabulous pitch to play on." He rubbishes SkyBot's query as to whether not having a perfect surface might hamper one or other side.
"United have had it easy. Not being disrespectful but they have been playing against teams they should beat."
"We cannot make excuses, we need to be ready, we must be ready. We are confident we will match their motivation and their freshness."
Ole on Alexis Sanchez
The manager has told Man United's in-house news service that: " “He is not ready yet no. Hopefully I think he will be training when we get back, maybe Wednesday he will be full training. It is just one of those blows. He is just having a hard time getting rid of it [the injury] so hopefully next week maybe he can be involved.”
This is nice
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 13, 2019
I don't know from jack about American Football, but this guy certainly LOOKS like he should be playing for the Buccaneers. Fine, full beard, well done sir.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 13, 2019
Well, there you have it
Jose Mourinho never named a starting XI of De Gea, Young, Jones, Lindelof, Shaw, Matic, Herrera, Pogba, Lingard, Rashford, Martial. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has now done so twice.
— Football365 (@F365) January 13, 2019
Teams in full
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Winks, Sissoko, Eriksen, Alli, Son, Kane. Subs: Rose, Sanchez, Lamela, Llorente, Foyth, Gazzaniga, Skipp.
Man Utd: de Gea, Young, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw, Ander Herrera, Matic, Lingard, Pogba, Martial, Rashford. Subs: Mata, Lukaku, Andreas Pereira, Fred, Dalot, Romero, McTominay.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
Young Lindyhop Phil Jones Shaw
Matic AnderHerrera Poggers
Lingard Rashford Martial
Lloris (C), Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Winks, Sissoko, Eriksen, Dele, Son, Kane.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 13, 2019
While we wait for the teams
Here is another excellent tactical preview from JJ Bull, who explains how Tottenham's employment of a 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond best to utilise the resources at his disposal.
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) January 11, 2019
Our match preview
"Lads, it's Tottenham."
Roy Keane's maxim about the soft underbelly of the North London side has gone down in football legend, but its power is starting to fade. Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino have been exciting, they have been daring, and the have not been easily rolled over by the league's true big boys of late.
So impressive have they been, of course, that their much-loved manager has been attracting admiring glances from Old Trafford. The man currently keeping that seat warm, the Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said that this afternoon's match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at Wembley is about the players, not about who will be the next manager of United. True of course, but also... not true. There is no doubt some extra intrigue around the fixture.
The identity of the man who will take on the biggest job in British club football remains unclear, but we have certainly got plenty of thoughts, news and stories about it.
All fascinating stuff but the more immediate question is: who is going to play this afternoon? We will have the Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United team news for you right away.