Manchester United against Tottenham Hotspur has always been one of the most entertaining games in the league, more so in the last five years when the two sides have been trading blows, at Old Trafford.
United will come off the back of a tough 2-0 win in Odessa, Europa League progress and a six-hour journey from Manchester. Their form away from the Premier League has been fantastic with a place in the League Cup semi-final ensured followed by the group stage success in the Europe where the Red Devils have managed to win 4 out of 6 games, scoring 12 goals and conceding 4. But in the league, they have only won one game in the last 8 – drawing 4 consecutive fixtures at home; meaning the last time they took maximum points at Old Trafford in a Premier League fixture was in September. Also, the fact that Mourinho’s side have not beat a team in the top 8 is reflective of the gap that lies between themselves and the teams above them in the league table, which is why Sunday’s fixture could be a decisive one in terms of whether or not they are up for the challenge to finish in one of the Champions League spots.
For Tottenham Hotspur, the goals have been coming with the return of star-striker Harry Kane who recently signed a long-term deal alongside seven other first team members of the squad. They will make the trip north, after a 3-1 win against CSKA Moscow in Wembley which was enough for them to be able to participate in the knockout phase in the Europa League. Their last win in the Premier League could not have come at a better time, a 5-0 rout against relegation battling Swansea City which will provide their slightly inconsistent side with a lot of confidence boost ahead of a crucial couple of months in the competition. Pochettino’s greatest win with Tottenham Hotspur arguably came against Mourinho’s eventual champions Chelsea, a 5-3 victory at White Hart Lane – his only win till date against the Portuguese in 10 meetings. It will be interesting to see if he can out-think his counterpart again on Sunday afternoon.
Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling remain absent for Manchester United’s clash with Tottenham. The defenders continue to be sidelined through injury, but those that featured in Thursday’s Europa League win at Zorya Luhansk have emerged unscathed including Eric Bailly. Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian come back into contention after being rested for the trip to Ukraine and so is Wayne Rooney who has served his one-match domestic suspension.
Pochettino gets a major squad boost in the shape of returning Toby Alderweireld who is set to make his first start in eight weeks when Tottenham take on Manchester United on Sunday. Erik Lamela is unavailable and Vincent Janssen remains out with an ankle problem.
- Manchester United’s players have covered just 1490.6km overall in the Premier League this season combined – lower than any other team in the competition.
- Kane has now scored seven goals in his last six Premier League appearances – this after failing to score in his previous five in a row.
- Manchester United have won only two of their last eight Premier League contests against Spurs (D3 L3).
- Tottenham Hotspur’s average starting XI age this season in the Premier League is 25 years, 238 days old – the youngest in the competition.
Ander Herrera – Manchester United
Ever since Mourinho took over the reins in Manchester, there has only been a handful of players that have been fully trusted by the manager. One of those privileged few is Ander Herrera and deservedly so, given his consistency. The 27-year old is finally beginning to look like a player the supporters always knew he was – tireless runner in midfield, tidy on the ball and sets the tempo more often than not with his high pressing and precisely timed interceptions. He’s been showing that he is capable of playing different roles in midfield – excelled in games when he was the holding midfielder particularly against Liverpool at Anfield, when he made 11 interceptions but also proved his worth in a slightly advanced number 8 role in a midfield three. Popular among the fans, it wouldn’t surprise many if Herrera captained Manchester United at some stage in his career and his leadership and tenacity in midfield will prove very crucial on Sunday and the rest of the season.
Christian Eriksen – Tottenham Hotspur
The 24-year old has well settled in England under Pochettino’s tutelage and has found his feet this season after a tough start, it has to be said. His goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge showed he can be Spurs’ most potent outlet on his day and it’s time he started doing it on a more consistent basis. He’s scored 3 goals and assisted a further 4, in 13 starts for Spurs including 2 goals and an assist in their most recent league win against Swansea City. With Kane on fire with 7 goals in the last Premier League games and Dele Alli also getting into his groove, Tottenham can make a statement by beating another Manchester club in the first half of the campaign if the Danish midfielder could unlock United’s back four, for his peers to find the back of the net.
It’s a game that Manchester United cannot afford to lose. Tottenham Hotspur have been inconsistent themselves with 3 wins in the last 10 games in all competitions. So I’m leaning towards a fifth Old Trafford draw for Manchester United.
Manchester United 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur