MANCHESTER, England (AP)Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag refused to let Cristiano Ronaldo overshadow arguably his team’s most complete performance under him in a 2-0 win against Tottenham on Wednesday.
Ronaldo headed to the changing room before the final whistle at Old Trafford after being left as an unused substitute.
”I don’t pay attention today,” Ten Hag said. ”We deal with that tomorrow. I want to keep the focus on this team. It was a magnificent performance from all the 11 players.”
It was understandable that the Dutchman wanted to focus on on-field matters, rather than his veteran forward.
Second-half goals from Fred and Bruno Fernandes saw his team move to within a point of the Premier League’s top four.
But for Hugo Lloris, who pulled off a string of fine saves, the margin of victory would have been more emphatic.
United now sits one point behind fourth-place Chelsea and four off Tottenham, who have played a game more.
Ten Hag is increasingly making his presence felt at Old Trafford, with standout wins against Liverpool and Premier League leader Arsenal already this season.
And Spurs became the latest big name to fall in front of United’s home fans, who were repeatedly out of their seats in response to some of the slickest football they’ve seen from their team under the new Dutch manager.
”I think it was the best team performance so far this season, so you see today we are developing, you see the in the last weeks the way we want to play, we want to get better every time on the pitch,” said Ten Hag. ”I said to the lads in the dressing room it was really enjoyable to watch them.”
If not for Lloris, United would have held a sizeable lead by halftime, with the goalkeeper coming up with a host of impressive saves.
But he was finally beaten by Fred and Fernandes after the break after United’s dominance paid off.
Lloris was almost guilty of gifting United the lead after just six minutes when fumbling Antony’s long-range effort.
But he recovered to produce saves to deny Marcus Rashford, Fernandes and Luke Shaw before the break, while Antony saw another shot clip the outside of the post.
Harry Kane’s effort from a tight angle just before halftime was as close as Tottenham came to taking the lead.
Ten Hag has seen his team fail to make the most of chances in front of goal in recent weeks – most recently the goalless draw with Newcastle on Sunday.
But United was ahead at the start of the second half – even if it relied on a touch of fortune when Fred’s 47th-minute shot from outside the area was diverted past Lloris by the outstretched leg of Ben Davies.
As impressive as United’s performance was, Tottenham provided little in return.
Antonio Conte appeared helpless to coax his team into life as his players were repeatedly forced into errors and struggled to build attacks.
”We have to be honest and say United deserved to win,” the Tottenham manager said. ”They created chances to score. From our side we didn’t start the game and it was really difficult because I think we made a lot of mistakes in simple things.
”For sure not a good game for us, but I have to be honest and first of all with my players, this was not the first time for us this season.”
On one of the rare occasions Tottenham did look threatening, United punished the visitors with a rapid break to make it 2-0 after 69 minutes.
Kane had seen a close-range shot blocked by David de Gea – and from there United pounced, quickly moving the ball into the Spurs penalty area.
When Fred’s effort was blocked, Fernandes was quick to send a first-time shot curling past Lloris.
Fernandes and Rashford both saw further chances blocked by Lloris as United went in search for more – and Ronaldo went in search of the changing room.
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