Six things we learned from Manchester United vs Tottenham

Manchester United got back to winning ways with a 3-2 win over Tottenham at Old Trafford.

Here is a look at six things we learned from the game…

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Rangnick rings the changes

Ralf Rangnick’s response to last weeks’ Manchester derby defeat was to make five changes to his starting XI.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the most notable among them, with Marcus Rashford, Nemanja Matic, Diogo Dalot and Raphael Varane coming back in too.

Bruno Fernandes was absent through illness, while Edinson Cavani returned to the bench after injury in recent weeks.

It did not produce a huge improvement, but it did perhaps spring the odd surprise for Antonio Conte as well as sending a message to the squad.

Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

United struggle to dominate

Spurs are at their best when they can sit back and counter attack but United’s defensive issues meant that they looked confident popping the ball around.

They did not create a host of chances, which might suggest Rangnick’s approach was justified but there was not a huge response from United.

When Spurs made it 1-1, it was a deserved reward for their performance to that point and Atletico Madrid may have been watching with intent as United showed that a traditionally counter-punching side can dominate possession at Old Trafford.

Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images

Ronaldo elevates United display

There has been plenty of talk about Ronaldo’s fitness this week and he responded in the best possible way.

His wonder goal rolled back the years and sent Old Trafford wild.

When Harry Kane levelled the game, Ronaldo wasted no time in stepping up to the plate and getting United back in front and then headed United in front for the third time on 81 minutes.

Ronaldo deserves immense credit for continually delivering with so much intense scrutiny on him because it takes huge mental strength.

Ronaldo becomes football’s all time top goalscorer with 807 goals, a record which is staggering when you consider the level that the Portuguese superstar has played at for his whole career.

Rashford misses chance to shine

Rashford was replaced by Anthony Elanga on 67 minutes, at which point he had not had a shot or a key pass to his name as per WhoScored.

Rashford’s future has been a hot topic since the derby and Rangnick’s response was to put him in from the start and give him a chance to rekindle his form.

It is fair to say that Rashford did not take that chance and there was an occasion in the second half when he should have taken on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg but did not, which summed up his current performance level and lack of confidence.

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Maguire’s plight continues

Harry Maguire was not playing well going into this matchup with his England teammate and namesake Kane.

The United captain did not get tight enough often enough to Kane but did look more assured at times than he has in recent weeks.

Then, with United preparing to bring on Victor Lindelof for Matic and going to a three-man backline, Maguire put through his own net.

That means there is no respite for the under-fire skipper, whose miserable season continued.

Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

United move into fourth

United went into this game knowing that a victory here would move them into fourth place in the Premier League, while a defeat would have basically ruled them out of the race.

After five dropped points in the last two games against Watford and Manchester City, United had to take that opportunity here and Ronaldo ensured that they did.

It is true that Arsenal have four games in hand but they have some tricky fixtures ahead and they would do exceptionally well to get 12 points from those games.

In any case, United can only look after themselves and they eventually did here, beating a top four rival.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.