Glossop Advertiser - - SPORT - Ciaran Kelly


ON a blus­tery, murky af­ter­noon where the iconic neon flights at Old Traf­ford were one of the few things to shine brightly, United needed a mo­ment of in­spi­ra­tion against Tot­ten­ham.

In­jured tal­is­man Paul Pogba was nowhere to be seen, de­spite go­ing through his usual pre­match rit­ual at the bar­bers, while Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan had been hooked long be­fore An­thony Mar­tial got his chance with 20 min­utes to go.

Af­ter a petu­lant dis­play at Hud­der­s­field last week, when he was lucky to avoid a sec­ond book­ing af­ter a se­ries of nig­gly fouls, Mar­tial fi­nally an­nounced him­self as a Jose Mour­inho player - res­cu­ing his team against a ri­val when all seemed bleak.

What­ever about their neg­a­tive ap­proach against Liver­pool, at least that had Mour­inho’s im­prints all over it - the de­fen­sive or­gan­i­sa­tion, the welldrilled shape, the dogged­ness.

But, here, against Spurs, United looked a lit­tle dis­jointed at times in the mist ahead of a de­ci­sive run against five of the cur­rent top seven in the com­ing weeks.

You could tell it was win­ter when Mour­inho brought his favoured grey parka back af­ter five months in the wardrobe fol­low­ing the Europa League fi­nal win. And the buz­z­cut is sure to fol­low.

Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino had paid the Por­tuguese the ul­ti­mate com­pli­ment by bench­ing record sign­ing Davin­son Sanchez, who Mour­inho specif­i­cally tar­geted in the Europa League fi­nal back in May.

And that set the tone for a game where both sides just seemed to can­cel each other out af­ter Mour­inho kept faith in the three-man back­line that served him so well at Swansea.

Mour­inho had paid tribute to United’s ‘in­cred­i­ble’ away sup­port at the Lib­erty in his pro­gramme notes and warned ‘that is the kind of sup­port we will need today’.

But there was ul­ti­mately not a lot to shout about as United con­tin­u­ally went long.

At one point David de Gea, show­cas­ing a bold new top knot, chose to wait for Romelu Lukaku to re­turn to his po­si­tion af­ter de­fend­ing a cor­ner.

Lukaku has only ever scored 15 goals against the top six, but this was the stage for him to fi­nally shake off that harsh flat­truck bully tag.

Spurs fans quickly got on his back, chant­ing ‘ You’re just a s*** Harry Kane!’ amid the Eng­land striker’s high-pro­file ab­sence, and Lukaku looked frus­trated up there.

But, tellingly, his per­se­ver­ance paid off - de­spite not even scor­ing - as he knocked on yet another de Gea goal kick with a bril­liant header to set up Mar­tial who fin­ished with aplomb.

Tony Mar­tial scores again - and it could prove to be his most de­ci­sive fin­ish yet.

An­thony Mar­tial leaves Spurs play­ers on the floor as he scores United’s goal

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