Tottenham own goal hands Man Utd opening day victory
An own goal from Tottenham defender Kyle Walker saw Manchester United clinch an important 1-0 Premier League opening day win, though both sides struggled to spark in attack.
As Old Trafford welcomed the first game of the new season with several new signings making debuts, and Real Madrid target David De Gea controversially omitted from the squad, it was travelling Tottenham who first took the game by the scruff of the neck.
Spurs looked solid with Eric Dier anchoring midfield and the first real chance of the game fell to the visitors in the 4th minute, as Harry Kane looked to pick up where he left off last term.
The England hitman bypassed United’s backline with a deft lofted pass to well-placed Christian Eriksen, though the dangerous Dane’s chip went just inches over new Red Devils stopper Sergio Romero’s crossbar.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men continued to pick holes in their hosts’ defence, with Romero having to come off his line to close down an onrushing Walker who, perhaps spurred on by competition in the form of Kieran Trippier, stuck to Ashley Young like glue down the left flank all game.
However, the full back was at fault as Man Utd took a lucky lead around the 21st minute mark. Sloppy passing by Nabil Bentaleb allowed Juan Mata to pinch back the ball, and a lovely team move including menacing debutante Memphis Depay and Young fell to Wayne Rooney’s feet in the box.
The Red Devils skipper dithered, but over-eager Walker’s mistimed toe poke saw the ball trickle over the line anyway and United received a much-needed boost.
Louis van Gaal’s side suddenly had a spring in their step and, with Kane alert but increasingly isolated up top for Tottenham, managed to get on the front foot for the first time in the match.
Exciting Depay was unlucky to see his shot blocked by Walker after being teed up by Young, while fellow new face Morgan Schneiderlin pounced on another Spurs mistake in midfield, though Mata failed to capitalise on the resulting chance.
After the break, both sides struggled to set the tempo, but midfield changes saw Bastian Schweinsteiger, greeted to a hero’s welcome, make his Premier League bow, while overlooked Ander Herrera came on for Depay, whose promising debut ended early.
Kane briefly threatened to breach the Red Devils’ rearguard once again, but Chris Smalling, imperious all game, was strong and decisive in the tackle, and bundled the striker off the ball.
At the opposite end, Rooney skied a tough 72nd minute chance from Darmian’s cross, his attempted overhead kick way off target and United’s only real second half opportunity of note.
It was defender Toby Alderweireld who threatened to change the game, however, as the Belgian pinged a precise cross-field pass straight to Eriksen, who chose to fire from a wide position, allowing Romero to smother the shot with ease.
A surge of late pressure from the guests saw sharp Romero called into action again to make two saves within seconds of each other, pawing away Kane’s header before pushing Eriksen’s long-distance effort back into the box as Spurs scrambled for a late winner.
United saw out the final seconds quite comfortably, but questions can still be asked of their attack, which lacked inspiration, with the need for further forward additions highlighted here.