Football Features

“What Solskjaer wouldn’t give to take five years off him” – Player ratings as Manchester United bet on experience to batter Spurs 0-3

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:55, 30 October 2021 | Updated: 14:31, 21 September 2022

In a battling night of football, Manchester United beat Spurs 0-3 in a must-win clash for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Nuno Espirito Santo was the manager who left this showdown under the most pressure as United’s players really turned up for their boss and playing their old 3-5-2 “big game ballista” they shot Spurs out of the sky.

Here’s how the players rated at Tottenham Stadium:

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Hugo Lloris- 5 – Had little to do but could do little about the goals that beat him.

Emerson Royal – 5 – A non-event in attack but probably Spurs’ best defender, although even he debased himself on United’s third goal as he just stood there watching Rashford run in behind Spurs.

Cristian Romero – 5 – Blameless for the first goal but how he managed to leave Cavani wide open for the second is something even the great philosophers of antiquity would struggle to understand. Crying out for a better coach.

Eric Dier – 4 – He’s never a centre-back, is he? Can head a ball well enough but his understanding of space is lacking and his contribution defending both goals was basically raising his hand to (wrongfully) claim offside. The way he let the ball roll under him for United’s disallowed goal was utter tragedy.

Ben Davies – 3 – Hopeless on the first goal was he was left marking thin-air by Cristiano Ronaldo. Hopeless again on the third goal as he played Marcus Rashford onside. Did basically nothing in attack, either. Sergio Reguilon spent the whole game on the bench.

Oliver Skipp – 4 – Was battling as best he could, but wasn’t good enough. Got robbed of possession on the second goal but then also tracked back enough to get spun by some Cristiano skill as well. Not his best afternoon.

Pierre Emile Hojbjerg – 5 – Out-fought by Scott McTominay. Had no impact on the game.

Gio Lo Celso – 5 – His bright movement was married to some atrocious use of the ball.

Lucas Moura – 7 – Spurs’ best player by miles. Created more chances than anyone (2) and only Emerson made more tackles than his 3. Made Spurs’ best chance of the game with a delectable scoop pass. Was bafflingly subbed off early, and that decision was met with a chorus of boos from the Tottenham faithful.

Heung-min Son – 6 – Some bright movement in the first-half but could never make the most of his chances.

Harry Kane – 4 – Spurs’ decision to keep Harry Kane rather than take £120m for him in the summer will go down as one of the stupidest decisions in the modern history of the club, and given the club in question is Spurs that really is saying something. Once you down tools, even if only for a couple of weeks, it’s basically impossible to pick them back up again in the same garden. Kane looks finished.


Steven Bergwijn (for Lucas 54′) – 5 – Added nothing, which is unfortunate as he came on for Spurs’ best player on the day.

Tanguy Ndombele (for Skipp 66′) – 5 – Kept the ball nicely.

Dele Alli (for Lo Celso 73′) – 5 – Opta says he touched the ball 10 times but that seems to be overly generous.

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Manchester United

David de Gea – 5 – Had nothing to do. Stood by with his hands in the air as Spurs’ best chance was blazed over the bar.

Victor Lindelof – 7 – Impressively aggressive, especially in the first-half as United forced Spurs back.

Raphael Varane – 8 – It felt right that Varane’s return to the side coincided with a clean sheet. An immaculate display from one of the very best defenders in the world. If he can stay fit, United can do well even with their managerial misfirings.

Harry Maguire – 7 – Played the game like a defeat would have been a personal affront to him. Didn’t have much to deal with in terms of Spurs actually trying to expose him (especially as Varane was around to cover) but still handled himself well and his passing was class.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 8 – Brilliant up and down the right-flank all night. Defended supremely (his chasedown block on Heung-min Son was sublime) and was even impactful in attack as his dribbling and crossing added more punch than usual.

Scott McTominay – 8 – Often excels in big games, physical games and games where his manager desperately needs something. This was all three and so predictably, McTominay was great. Just great.

Fred – 8 – Is wildly inconsistent with the ball but in terms of being a tackler and source of energy, Fred is just great. A properly coached team would only need him or McTominay in midfield, but United are what they are. 4 tackles, 3 interceptions. Superb.

Luke Shaw – 7 – Was alright. Still nowhere near his levels of last season.

Bruno Fernandes – 8 – The heart of everything good United did. His movement into space added some much-needed verticality. He created mnore than anyone else (3) and his assist for the opening goal was an absolutely dreamy cross in behind the defence. His pressing and intensity won the ball back for United’s second as well. Just brilliant.

Cristiano Ronaldo – 8 – Put Cristiano in a position where he doesn’t have to move much and he will still destroy sides. His goal saw him make a 10 yard sprint off the shoulder of a defender and finish with the ruthless brilliance we’ve all come to expect. He scored a second with a barely believable strike from the edge of the box but that was correctly ruled out for offside. He then created the second goal with a classic “Ronaldo chop” to get enough space to play a nice pass to Cavani.

Mr. Matchwinner was at it again, appearing in the crucial moments to decide the game in his team’s favour. One wonders if 3-5-2 will now become the norm to extract maximum value from Cristiano’s capabilities; and how that will impact United’s young attackers like Jadon Sancho and Mason Greenwood.

Edinson Cavani – 8 – Movement, energy, pressing. Cavani offered what Cavani always does. Simultaneously a foil for Cristiano’s movement and a reference for the entire United side. A brilliant finish for the second goal. What Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wouldn’t do to take five years off this guy. What a player. Absolutely sensational.


Marcus Rashford (for Cristiano 71′) – 7 – Came on and instantly added a level of pace and vertical threat that United had been missing all game long. Scored a sublime third and one can only imagine the havoc he could wreak in this formation if unleashed from the start.

Nemanja Matic (for Bruno 76′) – 6 – Added solidity. Played a nice pass to Rashford for the third.

Jesse Lingard (for Cavani 82′) – n/a – Came on late.