It was a special night at Wembley, as always. The National Stadium played host to this year’s first FA Cup semi-final, last night, between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. The FA Cup was the only piece of silverware either team had a chance to win. Jose Mourinho played down his squad. Mauricio Pochettino played down the competition’s importance. The match was finely balanced. We were in for an epic encounter.
Manchester United were deservedly the victors against Spurs last night, coming from a goal behind to win the game 2-1. Dele Alli struck first in the 11th minute, rounding off a brilliant play in which Davinson Sanchez circumvented Mourinho’s narrow 4-2-3-1 with a long ball down the right byline. Christian Eriksen ran onto it then squared a cross to the far post for Alli.
Spurs continued their dominance. At first, United had no answer for the Lilywhites’ intensity, but Tottenham couldn’t double the advantage.
Finally, United made them pay. Paul Pogba dispossessed Mousa Dembele, muscling him off the ball in the same manner the Belgian had treated him in their earlier league meeting at Wembley. He raced towards the box then crossed perfectly for Alexis Sanchez to run in and head against the grain into the goal. Ander Herrera scored the winner in the second half to send the Mancs to their 20th FA Cup final.
Here are the major talking points.
United turn up in yet another big game after conceding
Crystal Palace away, Chelsea home, Manchester City away, now Spurs. Manchester United have made a habit of waking up angry after opponents open the scoring. United were horrendous for the opening quarter-hour. Tottenham pressed them out of the park. Long balls didn’t work. There was no build-up play, no organisation. It was all in disarray until the golden duo struck again. Pogba assisted Sanchez for the equaliser. It was a stroll in the park for United afterwards.
The Red Devils’ performance was solid and professional. It got the job done. The ultimate Jose Mourinho performance, no matter how angry the Portuguese appeared. The midfield three worked wonders for Pogba and Mourinho. It was a calm, collected, mature display from the Frenchman. The defence showcased its vulnerabilities at times. At others, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling made timely interventions to save Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young’s bacon. Alexis did it again at Wembley. Everyone played a part, although David de Gea was not tested beyond Alli’s goal.
Tottenham Hotspur bottle it again
The Lilywhites have now lost eight FA Cup semi-finals in a row. They last won in 1991.
Tottenham bottled it under pressure again. They looked like they were going to cruise past this United side as they did in February. They completely dominated the opening stages of the tie and now must be kicking themselves for not converting those chances. Deja vu, Manchester City?
Spurs had no answer to United when the Red Devils settled in. They couldn’t break down the deep block. Harry Kane went missing. The substitutions failed to have much impact on the game. Spurs crashed out of the Cup. The only player who didn’t deserve to be on the losing side was Christian Eriksen. The Dane created chances from spare change. Otherwise, Spurs were lacklustre. A visibly unhappy Mauricio Pochettino said after the game, ‘We are disappointed because we are so close. We need to think, move on, finish the season and try to finish in the top four. I think we need to understand where we have come from. It’s easy to talk about winning trophies. To win a trophy when you face a side like Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City is not easy. But the most important thing is we are able to compete’.He does have a point when you consider that eight failures in 27 years mean Tottenham are making the final flour roughly every third season on average. Few other clubs can claim that rate of success but then,so close, yet so far.
The Alexis and Ander Show
The two main catalysts in the comeback against City delivered big performances again.
Ander Herrera is a renowned big-game performer. The Basque never shies away from the bigger occasions. He steps up. Last night was no different. As the fans chanted ‘Ole, Ole Ander Herrera’, the object of their love covered every blade of grass on the Wembley turf. Apart from scoring the winner, Herrera made one key pass, five tackles, three clearances, three interceptions and won two aerial duels.
His positioning and awareness were on point, as always. He freed up Paul Pogba and shielded the back four alongside Matic. He kept making tackles to disrupt Spurs’ rhythm and even after he was booked. That is just a normal day in the life of Ander. And that first-time finish was just perfectly timed.
He has the heart of a champion, a will to win, loves the club and would do anything for the team. He deserves all the plaudits. More importantly, he deserves to have been playing earlier in the season.
Alexis Sanchez scored his ninth FA Cup goal last night. Six came at Wembley. It just had to be him. The former Arsenal man scoring against Tottenham Hotspur. He continues to impress with his relentless desire to win the ball when he doesn’t have it. If necessary, he would run back to Old Trafford to regain possession. His dedication was clearly visible. As soon as he won the ball back, he sought to make things happen on the counterattack.
It was just the performance you’d expect from your marquee signing. The Chilean superstar won two tackles, created two chances, and scored the all-important equalizer. Alexis is finally finding his feet under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. It is very nice to see him deliver match-winning performances when it most matters.