Jon Obika's treble secured a
well deserved win for a Tottenham side who passed the ball
confidently and moved intelligently, against a Manchester United
side that looked bereft of ideas and lacking the application to
match the Spurs players' desire.
Around about 100 people were
at the new training ground to see United return after playing here
in the initial group stage of this competition to now face Spurs in
the Elite Group stage. Among those gathered were Pat Jennings, David
Pleat, Scott Parker coming over after training and the half-time
guest from last night's first team match against Olympique Lyonnais,
Nayim. The staff looking on included Tim Sherwood, Chris Ramsey and
Les Ferdinand, who were with the team and first team assistant coach
Where I was standing on the barrier around the pitch, there were two
Russian guys who appeared to be scouts from Brighton, as they had a
branded notebook which they were scribbling on during the game. And
they were not alone, with a clutch of agents and scouts from other
clubs, including an Ipswich Town branded car I saw leaving the car
park. With the Football League loan window open, I suppose they are
seeking players who might be able to do a job for 90 days for them.
It was my first visit to Hotspur Way and I must say, it is a very
impressive sight. Unlike the old Cheshunt training ground and those
at Mill Hill and Spurs Lodge, the training ground is a long way in
off the road. The entry barriers are manned by very polite and
welcoming staff, who directed me to the visitor's car park. There is
a separate car park and reception for the First team. The fans were
invited into the main reception to await the kick off and there was
a coffee machine and a huge bank of screens on the wall playing
videos of Spurs teams of various ages from under-10 upwards. Having
seen these youngsters in action, if this is the future of the club,
then it looks like it is in good feet.
Moving out to the pitch, the buildings are sympathetic to the
surroundings and the curvature on the main building fits in with the
greenery of the location and when the planting comes to maturity, it
will be a fine sight. The pitches themselves were in immaculate
condition. Considering that the ground was under snow this time last
weekend, with piles of snow cleared from one of the pitches still
remaining outside the reception, the groundsmen had done a
marvellous job in producing a level playing surface, which obviously
suits Tottenham's style of play.
Spurs lined up with a host of familiar names, with a few having had
first team experience. Kyle Naughton and Jake Livermore formed the
central defensive partnership, while former United trainee Zeki
Fryers and Nathan Byrne slotted into the full back positions.
Midfield consisted of three players – Tom Carroll, captain Massimo
Luongo and Dean Parrett and there was Harry Kane, Cristian Ceballos
and Jon Obika making up the three up front.
United fielded some names I had heard of in Ryan Tunnicliffe, Reece
Brown and the big money signing from Crewe Alexandra they beat Spurs
to, Nick Powell. None of the others were familiar names and
listening to some of the United fans who had made the trip down for
the match, it appears that many of their fringe players take part in
the reserve league. While I thought it was a culture shock coming
from a Europa League match to this, the United fans were chatting
about their trip to the Bernabeu !!
When the game started, Spurs kicked off and all the players looked
comfortable on the ball. They moved it around using a lot of one
touch football and playing little triangles, which United tried to
close down quickly. This meant that much of the play was constricted
to the middle third of the pitch, but Tottenham looked to get Byrne
and Fryers away to support the attack whenever they could. Fryers
looked a little nervous, perhaps wanting to do well against his
former team-mates, with his distribution a little shaky, but he is a
big lad; strong and reads the game well. In contrast, Nathan Byrne
is shorter, but also strongly built and loved to link up with the
attack, playing nest short passes to try and open up space down the
As a result of Tottenham's passing game being broken down and United
relying more on the long ball, which mostly didn't find it's target,
the first effort on goal came halfway through the first half, when
Jon Obika flashed a hopeful 30 yard shot over the bar. The deadlock
was broken by Obika, but it took until the 36th minute, when Spurs
worked some good space on the left wing and Fryers pulled the ball
low towards the near post. United defender Brown made a hash of
clearing the ball and had two goes at getting rid of it, but failed
and Obika, standing in front of him, got the ball out of his feet,
turned and fired in from close range across the goalie.
United were failing to show any pattern of play and for all the talk
on their website by their U21 manager Warren Joyce about wanting a
test at this level, they failed to provide much in terms of a test
themselves. Powell up front was isolated on his own and there was
little support from Januzaj, the man playing in the hole behind him
or the four man midfield. Therefore, Jonathan Miles in the Spurs
goal had little of note to do in the first half. He did have to pick
the ball out of the net, but it was chalked off as Januzaj was
offside before putting it past the Spurs keeper.
But the goal ha inspired Spurs, who quickened the tempo and moved
the ball around sharply. Obika played the ball to Kane on the left
and although his shot was blocked, he got the loose ball setting up
Luongo, who tried one from 25 yards out that ended up going over the
top. Parrett then played Obika in for a low shot that the keeper
pushed out before Livermore broke forward with the ball and set up
Obika to fire a shot that went too high. The Spurs forward was
really getting a taste for it now and just before half-time, a move
that went through Kane and Parrett ended with Obika trying to lift
the ball over the United keeper, but he grabbed it easily.
With the sun shining and no changes at half-time, United kicked off
and looked more determined, so the team-talk must have stirred them
into action. It took just three minutes of the half for the visitors
to pull level. Good work by Adnan Januzaj laid the ball into the
path of United captain Tom Thorpe, who rifled a shot high past
Jonathan Miles, right hand from just left of centre to make it 1-1.
The visitors' joy was short-lived however, as Spurs hit back within
two minutes. A corner on the right hand side was taken by Ceballos,
with the ball being headed away to the far side, where Naughton
lifted a cross back to the far post finding Harry Kane totally
unmarked. The striker's header looped over the keeper, but struck
the bar and bounced down in front of goal, where Obika was on hand
to stoop low to head the ball over the line from a yard out.
Spurs were much more effective than United and some heavy challenges
from the United players were a sign that they were trying to
rough-house Spurs out of it. But sharp passing allowed Spurs to work
their way around the opposition and pull them out of shape, making
further chances. Kane's shot on the turn on the edge of the box
brought a low save from Johnstone. From the corner, Ceballos' ball
in was cleared back to him and he put in a shot-cum cross in that
was heading in under the bar until the keeper tipped it over.
United were looking to open the Spurs defence up with through balls
and when they stole the ball on the right hand side of the pitch, a
ball intended for Lingard was picked off by Byrne, who had sprinted
back to cover and he took the ball from in front of Miles, calmly
moving the ball out of the penalty area with no panic.
With half an hour of the second half gone, Spurs passed the ball
well up the left side and the ball was played in to Obika around 12
yards out. The forward's shot was well pushed out by Johnstone, but
the ball went into the air and Tom Carroll ran in to head at goal,
putting the ball a couple of feet over the bar.
This did spark a little spell of pressure form United, with Powell
turning on a shot that flew just wide of Miles' left hand post a
minute later. Then in the next minute, United played the ball well
from right to left and the ball came back to Tunnicliffe 20 yards
out. The United midfielder hit a low shot to the keeper's right that
missed by inches.
With ten minutes remaining, Jon Obika broke forward from the edge of
the centre circle and having run 40 yards tried a shot to beat the
keeper, but he caught it comfortably, much to the despair of Spurs
players who were looking for a pass. Straight afterwards, Jack Munns
came on for Ceballos and United made their second change with Tom
Lawrence coming on, who looked more comfortable running with the
ball, but, as for so much of the game, the final ball was not good
Spurs were still creating chances and Kane's low shot from Munns'
run brought a save out of the United keeper and then Parrett forced
another stop with a deft shot that the keeper managed to touch just
It was interesting to hear the referee as the game went on and Mr.
Daly was quite vocal as he let the players know what he thought and
whether decisions were going to be given. Shouting “Great tackle” or
“Don't even think about trying it” to players when they made a good
challenge or went down to easily let them know exactly what he was
thinking. He twice threatened United players Lingard and Powell with
being sent off if there was a repetition for a rash tackle and
abusive dissent, while Cristian Ceballos got the same warning for a
heavy challenge on the keeper Johnstone. When the ref did finally
book someone, it was Tunnicliffe for dissent, as the ref said he was
“doing his head in” !!
With the game coming to a close, Parrett once more set up Obika, who
hit his shot a little too high, but in the last minute, the ball was
intercepted and the same two players linked up, with the forward
receiving the ball passed between two defenders and he took his shot
first time, steering the ball low past Johnstone into the bottom
corner for his hat-trick.
There was little for United to be pleased about and the way their
players trudged off at the end they looked like they would be
getting ready for a roasting. Having drawn 2-2 with Arsenal at home
in their last match, perhaps they were expecting an easier ride than
Tottenham's style of play made it very difficult for United to cope
with. The 4-3-3 formation may well be the one that AVB is developing
for the first team to play eventually and it is one that the side
seemed comfortable with. Their quality of passing was easy on the
eye and all the players played a part in that. It was nice to see
that free-kicks were all taken short, to keep the flow of play going
and there was no lumping the ball into the box and hoping for the
best. In contrast, United's open play consisted mainly of that. High
and long balls looking for Powell, but they were usually poorly
delivered and failed to trouble Spurs too often.
A good win and a good performance, which shows their position at the
top of the Under-21 league table is not a false one.
Jonathan Miles : - Tall, confident keeper, who had few moments of
worry in the game. No chance with the goal, but looked good in
positioning terms and looks like he has safe hands.
Zeki Fryers : - Tall, athletic defender who was up against his old
team-mates. Won a lot of challenges and liked getting forward.
Sometimes got caught tight to the line when trying to clear the
ball, but as the game went on, he grew in confidence and gave the
United defence some problems down the left.
Nathan Byrne : - Solidly built right back, who is quick and knows
where to move when supporting the attack. Reads situations well and
looks as though his spell with Crawley has toughened him up.
Jake Livermore : - Played in central defence and won a lot in the
air and almost everything on the ground. His midfield experience
helped him read the game in front of him and when to move forward
with the ball. A solid, experienced performance.
Kyle Naughton : - Confident on the ball and well ahead of the game
mentally, Kyle put in a really good performance, helping the full
backs with advice as they went through the game.
Massimo Luongo : - Captain for the match, he was perhaps the most
impressive player on display. While goals win matches, his effort in
midfield closing down and challenging his United counterparts and
his passing and running with the ball were a major part of
Dean Parrett : - A player who has been at Spurs a few years now,
without making the breakthrough, but he showed here that he has
developed into a dynamic midfielder, who has the experience of when
to release other players with threaded passes.
Tom Carroll : - Midfielder with first team experience had a quiet
game, but he was always available to receive the ball and kept it
moving when Spurs were in possession.
Jon Obika : - Not the most aggressive of strikers, but appears to be
the sort of forward who has the knock of being in the right place at
the right time. Took his goals well and they were all different
finishes, but also linked play well. Needs to be aware of others if
better placed than him.
Harry Kane : - Played off Obika and worked hard to get the ball and
used it well when he had it. Didn't have many chances to get shots
on goal, but the few he did hit the target. Linked well with the
other forwards and especially Ceballos.
Cristian Ceballos : - Flighty winger, who put in some jinky runs on
the flanks. Provided some good crosses and had some efforts on goal,
but his moves tended to be outside the defender and it might have
been interesting to see him coming infield sometimes.
Jack Munns : - Only had five minutes as a substitute, but ran
directly at the United defence causing them problems.
Marco van Hip