Tottenham Hotspur’s hopes of sealing a top-four finish this season were dealt a devastating blow on Saturday evening as they were defeated by a direct rival in Manchester United.
Antonio Conte and his men witnessed a masterclass from Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford as he notched a game-winning hat-trick – his first in 14 years for the club.
Spurs twice responded to the Portuguese’s exploits but it wasn’t enough as he headed home from Alex Telles’ corner just nine minutes from time.
Harry Kane scored from the spot for the visitors, whilst Harry Maguire also turned the ball into his own net for Tottenham’s two strikes.
Once again though, it was a disappointing defensive display – players lost their man from set-pieces and some failed to track back, leaving Hugo Lloris practically hopeless at times.
But for all of the negatives up in Manchester, there was perhaps one shining light in Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
The Denmark international was a key influence in winning the ball back and driving up the pitch, something that has been lacking in Spurs’ previous defeats under Conte.
Indeed, as per SofaScore, the 26-year-old registered more touches than anyone else on the pitch (105). That was even nearly 40 more touches than the Red Devils’ most influential player.
Hojbjerg also made 90% of his 91 passing attempts, including six successful long balls from nine attempts and four dribbles completed from four attempts, further proving that he was trying to make a positive impact in the final third.
It’s no wonder he’s been lauded as a “monster” by one-time Denmark and Derby County midfielder Morten Bisgaard, who once told The Athletic:
“I think you can see that under Pep Guardiola (his manager at Bayern Munich) he learned a lot, is very smart, and his positioning is excellent,” he said before later adding: ” He’s a very intelligent player, who makes very few positional errors.”
Hojbjerg earned plenty of praise from the media after the match, with football.london reporter Alasdair Gold describing him as ‘one of Spurs’ better players on the day.’
On that evidence alone, the Copenhagen-born beast was perhaps Spurs’ only silver lining from the defeat up at Old Trafford this weekend. Conte can at least be pleased by the Dane’s performance. He stood out amongst the rest, that’s for sure.