Manchester United edge tight FA Cup semi-final to end Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of silverware this season
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
FA Cup semi-final: Manchester United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Tottenham Hotspur’s 10-year wait for silverware will extend into an 11th year after it was Manchester United who triumphed in this evening’s FA Cup semi-final clash at Wembley Stadium.
Dele Alli fired Mauricio Pochettino’s team into an early lead, but slack play at the back allowed the Red Devils to equalise through ex-Arsenal man Alexis Sanchez midway through the first 45.
It was even for the rest of the first half, but Jose Mourinho saw his side edge in front when Ander Herrera lashed in from just inside the area in the 62nd minute.
Although Spurs pushed for a way back into the contest, they couldn’t break down the Manchester club and will end another season without silverware.
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Pochettino kept faith with cup goalkeeper Michel Vorm, as Hugo Lloris dropped to the bench - like he had done for each of the previous ties in this season’s tournament.
Heung-min Son also earned a start over Erik Lamela as the Spurs boss made two changes to the team which lost 3-1 to Manchester City in the Premier League last Saturday.
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Tottenham had played during the week at Brighton & Hove Albion and come away with a 1-1 draw.
Belgium centre back Toby Alderweireld started that fixture, but had to settle for a place on the bench this afternoon.
Mourinho picked nine of the players who had lost 1-0 at home to West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
Jesse Lingard and Phil Jones returned while Juan Mata and Victor Lindelof had to be content with a role among the substitutes.
A minute’s applause took place minutes before kick-off for two former footballers associated with both clubs.
On this day in 2017, Spurs under-23 coach Ugo Ehiogu passed away while earlier this month former Man United midfielder Ray Wilkins died.
Both were honoured before the game got underway at Wembley and the two sets of fans were given flags which added to the scenic atmosphere at the national stadium.
United got the semi-final underway with Tottenham supporters in fine voice and making it known this is their home for the season.
The previous meeting between the two clubs back on January 31 ended 2-0 to Spurs with Christian Eriksen opening the scoring after 11 seconds.
Harry Kane tried his best to almost repeat that feat when he let fly 20 seconds into the game, but his deflected effort went over David de Gea’s crossbar for a corner.
Spurs managed to win another corner quickly with Eriksen sliding in Son on the left, but United captain Antonio Valencia stood up to the South Korean and deflected his cross behind.
From this set-piece, the Red Devils looked to break as Sanchez controlled the ball, but found he was greeted by loud boos from the Tottenham fans.
A big cheer occurred from the same set of supporters when the former Arsenal attacker lost possession.
United almost created their first opportunity in the fifth minute when Nemanja Matic crossed towards Sanchez, but Kieran Trippier got back to clear behind for a corner.
Matic was beginning to dominate and produced a fine pass for Lingard in the seventh minute, but Jan Vertonghen was there to clear.
More pressing from the ‘home’ side occurred two minutes later when Matic’s centre found Romelu Lukaku unmarked in the area. The Belgium headed over, however, and the chance was gone.
Spurs were able to fashion the next opportunity and crucially for them showed a clinical touch in front of goal.
Sanchez started the move by producing a sensational ball over the top for Eriksen to run onto.
The Dane, who had peeled off Paul Pogba far too easily, controlled before assessing his options and spotting Alli making a late surge into the area.
Eriksen crossed in towards the six-yard box and there was Tottenham’s number 20 to tap in the opener with 10 minutes played.
The goal sparked a fist punch from Pochettino on the touchline as his side had drawn first blood at Wembley.
Spurs seemed to have a spring in their step now and Son twice looked to create chances for his team-mates, but his first centre fractionally evaded Kane and his second was cleared by Jones with Alli in close proximity.
Another opportunity was created in the 17th minute as Alli produced a delicious pass with the outside of his boot for Kane. The Tottenham captain controlled and teed up Eriksen from 16-yards, but the Denmark playmaker scuffed his shot wide.
The north Londoners were well on top at this stage, but invited pressure in the 23rd minute when Vertonghan passed back to Vorm and the goalkeeper tried to chip back to the Belgium, but got his execution wrong and handed United a throw.
It was an unnecessary action and appeared to add some extra nerves to the occasion for the Lilywhites.
Less than 60 seconds later and more needless play on the ball saw them punished as Mourinho’s team drew level.
Spurs looked to have evaded danger as Trippier raced to keep a loose ball in play by the corner flag. Instead of clearing up field though, he passed into Mousa Dembele’s path.
Dembele, in hindsight foolishly, tried to get past Pogba despite being close to his own penalty area and was made to pay when the Frenchman outmuscled him and crossed in for the unmarked Sanchez to head home the equaliser.
It was a poor goal for Tottenham to concede, but a superb piece of midfield play by the much maligned Pogba and an outstanding header by ex-Arsenal man Sanchez.
The pace of the match calmed a touch following the two goals and the next incidents of note were booking for Valencia and Son.
United were looking a threat whenever they attacked though, and Spurs were wasting good set-piece opportunities with a couple of free kicks and corners failing to beat the first man.
Given how close these two teams are positioned in the table, it was no surprise to see a tight contest developing at Wembley after a frantic opening 25 minutes.
Pogba almost gave the Red Devils a half-time lead when he tried his luck from range, but Vorm, scrambling across his goal, managed to get a hand to push the shot wide.
United failed to do much from the resulting corner and then it was Tottenham’s turn to almost find the net again.
Dier was given plenty of time and space around 25-yards-out and let fly and his low drive took a slight deflection off a United player and hit the post before the loose ball was cleared.
It was the last significant action of an enthralling first 45, which probably fairly ended all square at the national stadium.
Like the second part of the first half, the most notable action of the early period of the second half was a yellow card being shown to Alli for a poor challenge on England team-mate Lingard.
By the 55th minute, no chance had yet to be created since the restart, but Tottenham were the team dictating play and trying to make something happen.
Slowly but surely they began to create more openings as in the 57th minute Dembele spread the play out to Trippier. He slide in Eriksen on the right, but the Dane’s fizzed cross evaded Kane and Alli.
Not even a minute had passed and Tottenham were again on the attack and Eriksen and Alli combined in the middle of the pitch before the latter threat a superb pass into Kane’s path.
The England forward, who had been a peripheral figure so far, controlled and looked to cut inside Chris Smalling, but his international team-mate did enough to deflect Kane’s shot behind for a corner.
After another period of sustained Spurs possession, United won it back and showed their winning mentality with a second goal in next to no time.
Lukaku first of all beat Sanchez in the air and United’s Sanchez controlled in a one-v-one battle with Trippier.
The Chilean looked to tee up Lukaku, but the Belgium failed to control, although he did get a faint touch and it took it into the path of Lingard, but he left it for Herrera and the Red Devils Spanish midfielder slotted past Vorm from 16-yards.
It was another frustrating goal for the Lilywhites to concede and one Vorm may not want to look back on with the ball hitting the centre of the goal in the 62nd minute.
Spurs reacted positively, but Pochettino immediately went to make a change and got Lucas Moura ready.
The substitution occurred with 22 minutes of normal time remaining and tempers were heated soon after when Dembele caught Sanchez with his forearm and gave away a free kick when Tottenham were in a dangerous position.
With the United fans full of voice, Pochettino’s men were facing a huge uphill battle to get back into the last-four tie at Wembley.
The decision to introduce Moura saw Vertonghen move to left-back, Dier drop back into the heart of Tottenham’s defence and Eriksen now in the centre of midfield alongside Dembele with Moura on the right of a three-man attack behind Kane.
Another caution was shown in the 72nd minute, this time to Young, after he took too long with a free kick, which he eventually hit straight out of play for a Spurs goal kick.
Tottenham were pushing further men forward now and it was creating gaps between their midfield and defence.
United took advantage of this when Pogba released Lukaku, but Vorm saved with ease before Spurs attacked through Eriksen and his long-range strike went inches wide and hit de Gea’s water bottle by the side of his goal.
Mourinho’s men almost grabbed a third with quarter of an hour left when Pogba tested Vorm from outside the area and then Smalling headed the resulting corner over.
Back came Tottenham and they thought United should have been reduced to 10-men in the 78th minute.
Valencia tried to let the ball run out of play and Alli closed him down, so the Red Devils captain attempted to win a free kick by going down.
Referee Anthony Taylor ignored his pleas and Alli won it back, which forced United’s captain to pull down the England man near his own penalty area.
Spurs players fairly questioned why the foul wasn’t worthy of a second yellow and Mourinho agreed as two minutes later he replaced his captain for Matteo Darmian.
By this point Tottenham had brought off the lacklustre Dembele and introduced Victor Wanyama in his place.
Pochettino’s final roll of the dice was to bring on Lamela for Son with four minutes of normal time remaining.
Spurs continued to push and probe, but United, to their credit, were defending manfully and not giving away an inch for the ‘visitors’.
When the fourth official signalled for five minutes of stoppage time, it offered Tottenham and their supporters some hope.
A dangerous ball into the area by Vertonghen added to the drama at the national stadium, but again United clear.
Mourinho continued to kill time with substitutions as Marcus Rashford and Marouane Fellaini came on during the final exchanges.
The game ran into the 97th minute with further stoppages, but Tottenham were unable to create a final opportunity and when Eriksen knocked the ball out for a goal kick the chase was up.
Referee Taylor blew the full time whistle moments later and it confirmed United’s spot in the final of the FA Cup.
For Spurs and Pochettino, it is a case of déjà vu after coming close in this competition last season and falling short at the last-four stage.
His decision to play Vorm also came in for scrutiny with the Dutchman perhaps at fault for the decisive winning goal.
Tottenham will now turn their attention to securing a Premier League top-four finish with Chelsea breathing down their necks again and only four points off them.
Manchester United: de Gea; Valencia (Darmian 80), Jones, Smalling, Young; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard (Rashford 83), Lukaku, Sanchez (Fellaini).
Unused substitutes: Pereira, Lindelof, Mata, Martial.
Tottenham Hotspur: Vorm; Trippier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies (Moura 68); Dier, Dembele (Wanyama 78); Eriksen, Alli, Son (Lamela 86); Kane (c).
Unused substitutes: Lloris, Alderweireld, Sissoko, Aurier.