Sitting beside Alex Ferguson in the directors’ box at Old Trafford, Jim Ratcliffe took in a Manchester United game in person for the first time since agreeing a deal to buy a 25% stake in the boyhood club he hopes to restore as a major power.
If he wasn't aware already, the rebuilding job is going to take some time.
A 2-2 draw against Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday underlined the current state of United — a team capable of stunning isolated passages of play but, in general, is ragged and can be outplayed by its rivals.
United’s goals, scored by Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford, were things of beauty at the start and end of the first half.
Between them, the marking was poor at a corner to allow Richarlison to glance in a header and Tottenham’s equalizer — scored barely 50 seconds into the second half — also exposed defensive flaws as Rodrigo Bentancur was allowed to wander into United’s area before unleashing a fierce shot past Andre Onana.
The result left United in seventh place and eight points off the top five, from where England’s Champions League entrants for next season — it remains to be seen whether there will be four or five — will come.
Tottenham is among them — in fifth — after an encouraging display with the team still missing a clutch of key players like James Maddison, Son Heung-min and Yves Bissouma, whose return could yet help qualify Spurs for Europe’s top competition.
Ratcliffe, the owner of petrochemicals giant INEOS, agreed last month to buy a minority stake in United and will take charge of United’s soccer operations. The deal was worth $1.3 billion for “up to 25%” of the club and will see him invest a further $300 million in the Old Trafford stadium.
The deal requires Premier League approval, which Ratcliffe said Sunday he expects to come next month.
“I have done a few exciting things," the British billionaire told media before kickoff, "but this caps it all. There’s no question about that.”
Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou said he was aware how big the game was for United, given Ratcliffe's presence and United's position in the standings, and was “delighted” with his team's performance.
“I just thought we played really well,” the Australian said. “Knowing the situation Man United are in, I thought our response was outstanding.”
Germany forward Timo Werner made his debut for Tottenham and laid on the goal by Bentancur.
Aston Villa's players headed to Everton seeking a win to move level on points with league leader Liverpool, the team from just across Stanley Park.
They missed their opportunity.
A 0-0 draw at Goodison Park will still be seen as a solid result for Villa, keeping the team in the thick of the title conversation — two points behind Liverpool and level on points with second-place Manchester City.
Villa had a goal by Alex Moreno ruled out for offside in the buildup and needed a couple of stunning saves from Emiliano Martinez later in the first half.
Set back by a 10-point penalty at the end of last year for financial mismanagement, Everton restored its one-point cushion above the bottom three.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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