Eriksen scores early, controls midfield as Spurs cruise vs. Man United
Two first-half goals saw Tottenham to a comfortable 2-0 victory against a strangely out-of-sorts Manchester United team.
The first goal came in little more than 10 seconds with Harry Kane winning a high ball and heading down to Dele Alli, who put in Christian Eriksen. United briefly threatened to rally, but when Phil Jones comically turned a Kieran Trippier cross into his own net just before the half-hour mark, the visitors' heads went down. In the second half, Spurs had several chances to make the scoreline even more emphatic, but Kane's radar was not its usual sharp self. Long before the end, United were down and out.
It's sometimes been hard to tell which Spurs will turn up: the super-slick side that is capable of going toe to toe with the best teams in Europe or the one that struggles for fluency against Southampton and Newport. This was the very best of Spurs: a good all-round team performance with quick movement both on and off the ball. Jan Vertonghen was exceptional in defence and Eriksen and Mousa Dembele bossed the midfield.
A slight lack of a killer instinct. United were there for the taking and despite dominating possession for almost all the second half, Spurs were unable to add to their two-goal half-time lead. Kane wasn't at his sharpest and missed several decent chances, while Son Heung-Min chose to go it alone rather than roll the ball to Kane for a tap in.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- For a must-win game against the team in second place in the Premier League, Mauricio Pochettino made all the right calls. The back four gave United few clear chances, while the midfield played at a consistently high tempo and won almost every 50-50 ball. Pochettino got his team selection spot on, leaving Moussa Sissoko on the bench, and he out-thought Jose Mourinho at very turn. United had so few ideas on how to counter the Spurs' threat that it often felt as if they were chasing shadows.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Hugo Lloris, 7 -- Made one world-class save early in the second half from Romelu Lukaku but otherwise had an easy night. It was also noticeable that Lloris played far fewer risky sideways passes out of defence, opting instead for the long-ball clearance.
DF Kieran Trippier, 7 -- Solid defensively throughout and was far more effective going forward than in recent weeks. Trippier found a lot of open space down the right flank and it was from his cross that Jones turned into his own net.
DF Davinson Sanchez, 7 -- Started slightly shakily, twice giving away possession in dangerous areas in his own half. But the longer the game went on, the more composed he looked and by the end the United attack had all but given up.
DF Jan Vertonghen, 8 -- In total control throughout. On the few occasions that United threatened, the Belgian international was on hand to make well-timed interceptions. After a shaky game against Newport, this was Vertonghen back to his very best.
DF Ben Davies, 7 -- Gave little away in defence and tackled hard to win back possession from the United midfield. Didn't combine quite as well with Son in the first half as Pochettino would have liked and his crossing lacked accuracy.
MF Eric Dier, 6 -- Started once again in his favoured position as a defensive midfielder in front of the back four and allowed United few creative opportunities. Passed the ball well out of midfield and came close to scoring with a header from a corner.
MF Mousa Dembele, 8 -- Dominated the midfield with his strength on the ball and his ability to twist and glide past players. This was the Dembele of old, though his reluctance to take on the shot after he has created openings for himself continues to frustrate.
MF Christian Eriksen, 9 -- Spurs' player of the match. The two games he has missed through illness have both shown how pivotal he is to the team and given him a new lease of life. Scored with his first touch, might have had a second with a long-range effort in the second half and was at the heart of most Spurs' attacking moves.
MF Dele Alli, 7 -- Set up Eriksen's opener with a nicely weighted flick, but thereafter most of his touches didn't quite come off. But he still worked hard throughout and should probably have been awarded a penalty when brought down in the box in the first half.
MF Son Heung-Min, 7 -- Not at his best. Showed flashes of his talent but was too often happy to drift out of the game rather than seek out the ball and impose himself. With his pace he ought to be terrorising defenders by running at them. Also wasted a chance to put the game to bed when he took on the shot rather than passed to Kane for the tap in.
FW Harry Kane, 7 -- Had several opportunities to score that he would normally have taken with ease when on form. But even when not at his very best, he is still a handful. Consistently gave Jones an evening to forget with his determination to win the ball and turn defenders and his work rate never slipped.
MF Erik Lamela, NR -- A late replacement for Son. Made a couple of nice touches and had an opportunity to get his name on the scoresheet with the last kick of the game.
MF Moussa Sissoko, NR -- Brought on to provide some strength as Pochettino sought to close out the game.
MF Victor Wanyama, NR -- Came on with a couple of minutes left to wind down the clock.
John Crace is one of ESPN FC's Tottenham bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @JohnJCrace.