Another F.A. Cup semi-final, another loss for Spurs, eighth on the trot, even Pochettino can’t turn this hoodoo around.
No, 27 years and continuing without an F.A. Cup final appearance, Pochettino has got a few monkeys off the back of Spurs in his time at the club but he hasn’t managed this one and will he ever?
His pre-match press conference where he pretty much downgraded the cup to a meaningless bauble suggests it’s not very high on his priorities. No winning teh Cup isn’t the same as winning the league or winning the Champions League but as Spurs under Pochettino haven’t done either of those things it’s a pretty damn good second best.
Jose Mourinho and Man united have won the league and CL, as have the team they’ll face in the cup final, and yet both of them want to win the trophy this year.
And you felt when Spurs went behind that mindset of the manager just filtered through to the players. Yes, he might have celebrated Dele’s opener like it meant something. Win the cup and the players might just go that bit further and win something bigger. Say the cup means nothing and the players might just not really bother when they go behind.
Because when Herrera put United ahead just after the hour it never looked like Spurs would get back into the game. From the the glum faces on the pitch to the glum faces in the stands it was over. Half an hour to get an equaliser but during that time did anyone really tell themselves it was coming?
More chance of a substitution coming with enough time to get into the game to make a difference.
No, what followed the winner was the same as what followed the opening period, when Spurs were on the up, and it was never going to produce a goal in response. Dithering, sideways passing, backwards passing. From being on the front foot, in United’s face and going forward, they stopped and played right into United’s hands.
The opener came from attacking space, Sanchez’s ball over the top for Eriksen to run onto going forward, keeping wide and getting a decent cross in for a player in the box.
After that they went inside, into the crowded middle, and were passing sideways and back all the time. Trippier on the right was in acres of space time and time again but never got the ball in those situations. When he did, he turned inside and passed the ball back.
After Dembele gave the ball away for the equaliser – I know you go on your left like that all the time but why then when going left was going towards your own goal – he completely went into his shell and his sideways passing became ridiculous. A huge swath of Wembley turf in front of him, he makes forward stops and passes three yards sideways. That’s when he wasn’t losing the ball, in what was one of his worst performances.
All the criticism of Harry coming from fans who’d kill to have him in their team – I mean really, Lukaku, United only score the winner because of his inept first touch – it wasn’t Smalling or Jones that kept him quiet it was those in white that did it for United.
After running the first 20 minutes, Eriksen faded, especially after the break, there was no urgency in any of the Spurs players but it showed after his excellence earlier. Life needed added but of course that would require changes and well, the hour wasn’t up so changes were not forthcoming. When they did you figured, yes Moura, that’s a decent one but for Davies it required a shift in formation and I don’t think that helped. Lamela should have replaced Son earlier than four minutes from the end, if not at half time. The Korean was struggling with too many touches and running into too many cul-de-sacs.
I wasn’t confident before the game, the aforementioned Pochettino comments along with the resent performances, struggling to beat Stoke, drawing with Brighton and capitulating to City. Then you add in Jose and the way he gets his teams to just win things and the lack of luck that Spurs get in games like this. The rub of the green. Two mistakes cost Spurs two goals. Dier has a shot that deflects off Smalling and hits the post, the other way and you figure it would have just spun inside Vorm’s post. I mean Herrera gets the winner, it’s his 17th goal in the four years at United, it’s much like Matic scoring the screamer last year.
And now Pochettino is talking about someone else doing the job. Veiled threats? I thought he had a relationship with Levy that meant he didn’t have to play these “back me or I’m off” games.