Paul Pogba came on as a second-half substitute to help Manchester United come back from a goal down to earn a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Friday.
The first big chance of the came fell to Marcus Rashford, whose close-range volley needed a good save from Hugo Lloris. Just minutes later, it was Spurs who went ahead through Steven Bergwijn’s outstanding individual run (and some questionable goalkeeping from David de Gea), but the goalkeeper redeemed himself soon after with an excellent save to keep out Son Heung-min.
United searched for an equaliser after the break, with Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes both failing to make good chances pay, and as they began to take control of proceedings, only a sublime save from Hugo Lloris stopped Martial from scoring.
After creating chance after chance, United finally grabbed their equaliser from the penalty spot. Paul Pogba was pushed to the ground by Eric Dier and Fernandes stepped up to fire home. United thought they had the chance to steal a victory with a second penalty in the 90th minute, only for VAR to overturn things and ensure both sides took home a point.
Key Talking Point
Nobody needed a break from football quite like Spurs, who were on a rotten run of form and facing the prospect of finishing the season without nearly all of their stars. However, with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Moussa Sissoko and Steven Bergwijn all back, Spurs looked like a new team when Mourinho gave them the freedom to play.
In typical Mourinho fashion, Spurs gave United plenty of possession and focused on countering, but they did that to perfection early on. There was energy in Spurs’ attacks – the kind of electricity which hasn’t been seen for what feels like an eternity.
Mourinho’s decision to drop back and defend a one-goal lead ended up costing the team, who failed to cope with United’s threat for the majority of the second half. By the time they needed a goal, there was too little time left on the clock.
A note on Kane – he still has a little work to do to get back up to speed, but that’s to be expected. The signs are all encouraging for Spurs.
Starting XI: Lloris (7); Aurier (6), Sánchez (5), Dier (7), Davies (6); Sissoko (6), Winks (6); Son (7), Lamela (7), Bergwijn (8*); Kane (6).
Substitutes: Fernandes (6), Lo Celso (6).
STAR MAN – Steven Bergwijn
Super Stevie is back.
A season-ending ankle injury proved to be nothing more than a minor inconvenience for the flying Dutchman, who looked as sharp as ever in this one. With Kane struggling to keep up with the tempo, Bergwijn was often the focal point of Spurs’ attack, and it worked to perfection.
He may have needed some help from De Gea for his goal, but he more than deserved that luck with his excellent 40-yard run in the build-up.
Key Talking Point
Like Spurs, this game was all about returning stars for the visitors. Marcus Rashford shook off his back injury to start the game and Paul Pogba managed his first 30 minutes since December. Perhaps fatigued from his undying efforts to protect the entire country, Rashford struggled to get into the game, snatching at his chances, but Pogba was awake and ready to steal the show.
During his brief showing, Pogba looked exactly like the player we know he’s supposed to be. He was defensively powerful and dangerous in the final third, and it was no coincidence that United looked better after he entered the field.
It was Pogba’s trickery which won United the penalty from which they equalised, and that speaks volumes of what he brings to the side. If Pogba can stay healthy and happy, United have a real chance of booking a spot in Europe next season.
Starting XI: De Gea (5); Wan-Bissaka (5), Lindelöf (5), Maguire (5), Shaw (7); McTominay (7), Fred (6); James (5), Fernandes (8*), Rashford (5); Martial (5).
Substitutes: Pogba (8), Greenwood (7), Matić (N/A), Ighalo (N/A), Bailly (N/A).
STAR MAN – Bruno Fernandes
If Pogba had been on the field longer, this award would go to him. However, that’s not to say that midfield partner Fernandes doesn’t deserve his own credit.
During a lacklustre first half, Fernandes was the only real source of inspiration for United, but he stepped things up after the break. He pulled the strings and kept United moving forward, and the introduction of Pogba only helped.
Fernandes took his penalty calmly and with the composure which has already made him a fan-favourite, and the early signs of his partnership with Pogba looked ludicrously exciting.
Spurs will now have to prepare themselves for a fierce London derby as they will face West Ham United on Tuesday.
United welcome Sheffield United to Old Trafford on Wednesday for what could be a crucial fixture in the race for fifth place.