Man United makes statement win over Tottenham, Ronaldo walks off before final whistle

Manchester United arguably produced its most complete performance under Erik ten Hag in a 2-0 win against Tottenham, but the victory was soured after benched Cristiano Ronaldo walked off before the final whistle

Published - October 20, 2022 07:34 am IST - MANCHESTER

Manchester United’s Fred celebrates after his team’s first goal during the English Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on October 19, 2022

Manchester United’s Fred celebrates after his team’s first goal during the English Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on October 19, 2022 | Photo Credit: AP

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag refused to let Cristiano Ronaldo overshadow arguably his team's most complete performance under him in a 2-0 win against Tottenham on Wednesday.

Ronaldo headed to the changing room before the final whistle at Old Trafford after being left as an unused substitute.

“I don’t pay attention today,” Ten Hag said. “We deal with that tomorrow. I want to keep the focus on this team. It was a magnificent performance from all the 11 players.”

It was understandable that the Dutchman wanted to focus on on-field matters, rather than his veteran forward.

Second-half goals from Fred and Bruno Fernandes saw his team move to within a point of the Premier League’s top four.

But for Hugo Lloris, who pulled off a string of fine saves, the margin of victory would have been more emphatic.

United now sits one point behind fourth-place Chelsea and four off Tottenham, who have played a game more.

‘Best team performance’: Ten Hag

Ten Hag is increasingly making his presence felt at Old Trafford, with standout wins against Liverpool and Premier League leader Arsenal already this season.

And Spurs became the latest big name to fall in front of United's home fans, who were repeatedly out of their seats in response to some of the slickest football they've seen from their team under the new Dutch manager.

“I think it was the best team performance so far this season, so you see today we are developing, you see the in the last weeks the way we want to play, we want to get better every time on the pitch,” said Ten Hag. “I said to the lads in the dressing room it was really enjoyable to watch them.”

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United warms up prior to the Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford

Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United warms up prior to the Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lloris’ saves stop goal rush

If not for Lloris, United would have held a sizeable lead by halftime, with the goalkeeper coming up with a host of impressive saves.

But he was finally beaten by Fred and Fernandes after the break after United's dominance paid off.

Lloris was almost guilty of gifting United the lead after just six minutes when fumbling Antony’s long-range effort.

But he recovered to produce saves to deny Marcus Rashford, Fernandes and Luke Shaw before the break, while Antony saw another shot clip the outside of the post.

Harry Kane’s effort from a tight angle just before halftime was as close as Tottenham came to taking the lead.

Ten Hag has seen his team fail to make the most of chances in front of goal in recent weeks — most recently the goalless draw with Newcastle on Sunday.

But United was ahead at the start of the second half — even if it relied on a touch of fortune when Fred's 47th-minute shot from outside the area was diverted past Lloris by the outstretched leg of Ben Davies.

Conte left frustrated

As impressive as United’s performance was, Tottenham provided little in return.

Antonio Conte appeared helpless to coax his team into life as his players were repeatedly forced into errors and struggled to build attacks.

“We have to be honest and say United deserved to win,” the Tottenham manager said. "They created chances to score. From our side we didn’t start the game and it was really difficult because I think we made a lot of mistakes in simple things.

“For sure not a good game for us, but I have to be honest and first of all with my players, this was not the first time for us this season.”

On one of the rare occasions Tottenham did look threatening, United punished the visitors with a rapid break to make it 2-0 after 69 minutes.

Kane had seen a close-range shot blocked by David de Gea — and from there United pounced, quickly moving the ball into the Spurs penalty area.

When Fred’s effort was blocked, Fernandes was quick to send a first-time shot curling past Lloris.

Fernandes and Rashford both saw further chances blocked by Lloris as United went in search for more — and Ronaldo went in search of the changing room.

Ronaldo situation

Ten Hag sought to avoid controversy when questioned about the incident after the match, but it places fresh question marks over the future of the Portugal international.

Ronaldo has struggled to establish himself under Ten Hag this season and has scored just two goals in 12 appearances.

There have been questions about his ability to fit into his new manager’s high-pressing system — and his place on the bench on Wednesday appeared to be further evidence of Ten Hag’s doubts, with Marcus Rashford starting at center forward.

“Against this Tottenham we need good pressing,” he said. “We need good counter-press because from there you can create chances. We needed good pressing players. Offensive-wise you need dynamic, so that is what Marcus can bring.”

Despite Ten Hag’s attempts to avoid the subject, Ronaldo still prompted debate afterward.

“I understand his frustration, but if you look at the bigger picture his team has put in a really good performance,” retired player Alan Shearer said on Amazon Prime Video. “The manager had a big decision and it’s been proven right. You’re talking about maybe the best player we’ve ever seen, but it makes things difficult for the manager.

“He’ll be asked about that, but he should be talking about the players on the pitch tonight.”

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