Lloris frustrates Man United

LONDON - Nobody saw this stalemate coming. Manchester United and Tottenham have been erratic in defence, to say the least, and capable of better things going forward yet the 0-0 was not rooted in either of them bolting the door at the back.

United were left to lament their profligacy in front of goal, together with the continued excellence of the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris, who deserved the man-of-the-match champagne.

Louis van Gaal’s team bossed the first-half but they could not take the fistful of chances that they created, with Radamel Falcao prominent on the list of the culpable. Robin van Persie also had an off-day, although the United strikers could not take all of the blame.

United’s unbeaten run stretches to nine games, with seven victories, while Tottenham, too, can reflect on something of a purple patch. They had won their previous four matches and they were happy enough with the point here, particularly after their collective stutters in the first half. They were more fluent in the second period, although this was not a game that will stand the test of too much time.

Van Gaal had named an unchanged lineup, despite all of his chuntering about the tightness of the fixture schedule, and it was certainly a novelty for the club. It was the first time a United manager had stuck with the same team since November 2012.

The pre-match talk from Old Trafford had taken in the need to maintain the recent momentum and burgeoning levels of cohesion, and they forced the issue at the outset. With Juan Mata to the fore in midfield alongside Wayne Rooney, and Ashley Young making in-roads from left wing-back, they created the chances to have led at the interval.

They had the ball over the Tottenham line in the 23rd minute only for an offside flag to pull back Phil Jones’ header – the decision did not look clearcut at the time – while Mata saw his deflected free-kick hit the post and Vlad Chiriches did well to clear in the ensuing melee ahead of Falcao.

United worked Lloris in the first half. Indeed, they dominated the period, as Tottenham struggled to knit together too much of promise in the final third and Van Gaal could be aggrieved that the score sheet was blank when he went through those notes to give his half-time team talk.

Rooney’s touch had let him down early on following Mata’s ball over the top and Falcao twice saw the whites of Lloris’s eyes only to fail to muster sufficient power in his shots.

Jones’s header was a talking point. Lloris had flung himself to the left to get fingertips on to the effort but the goal-line technology showed that the ball had crossed the line. Lloris and Tottenham were grateful to the assistant referee, who spotted that Falcao was in an offside position before Jones headed goalwards.

Lloris also thwarted Van Persie at close quarters, after the striker had taken down Michael Carrick’s high ball and then taken a less advisable second touch while the goalkeeper beat away Young’s long-range curler, which was bound for the top corner.

There was plenty of niggle, not least involving Van Persie, who had something of a running battle with Jan Vertonghen. Falcao also tumbled theatrically after Vertonghen had caught him with a stray hand.

Van Gaal invaded the personal space of the fourth official, Lee Mason, to protest at an early decision; Rooney nagged at the referee, Jon Moss, and Mauricio Pochettino was fuming, too. – The Guardian

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