Fresh from the midweek exertions in the Carabao Cup and the draw that took 48 years to finish, United and Spurs face each other in a massive fixture on Saturday noon in the Premier League – which could truly swing the momentum one way or the other.
Manchester United dusted off the cobwebs and put in a professional performance taking the game to Swansea City and winning it 2-0, thanks to Jesse Lingard, booking their place in the quarter-final against Bristol City away from home in the second week of December. In the Premier League however, the Red Devils cannot afford any more setbacks given how their nearest rivals are faring at the moment and Saturday’s game is probably one of the most important fixtures they will be involved in since Mourinho’s took over the reins.
Tottenham Hotspur, after a start which has been very solid yet typically under the radar, the result against Liverpool was a statement made to the rest of the challengers. Spurs absolutely pounced on a Liverpool side littered with mistakes at the back and made a meal out of the visitors scoring four – with Harry Kane leading from the front at Wembley as they went level on points with Manchester United on the league table.
In midweek, the North London outfit suffered a blip – in the form of a defeat to West Ham after leading the game 2-0 at one stage followed by the post-match comments from Pochettino that attracted a fair bit of criticism from sections of media and the supporters. Whether that will distract Spurs remains to be seen – but the visitors definitely need a positive result at Old Trafford to keep building towards a strong title challenge they look to pose in the forthcoming weeks and months.
Mourinho confirmed after the cup win at Swansea that Phil Jones has declared himself available for the game, having been withdrawn at Huddersfield through injury the previous week, while fellow defenders Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo are thought to be close to returning to full fitness. There is no further news yet on midfielders Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini, although Mourinho could give a further update on the current injury situation in his pre-match press conference on Friday.
For the visitors, Danny Rose and Mousa Dembele could feature after returning from injury in their Carabao Cup defeat at home to West Ham United, a game for which boss Mauricio Pochettino made seven changes, but midfielders Erik Lamela and Victor Wanyama are expected to be sidelined once again.
- United have won 32 of the teams’ 50 Premier League encounters, including the last three in a row at Old Trafford.
- Tottenham have won their last 6 away matches (Premier League).
- Manchester Utd have kept a clean sheet in 5 of their last 7 home matches against Tottenham in all competitions.
Romelu Lukaku – Manchester United
With 10 goals and 2 assists in 13 starts in all competitions, Lukaku has eased into life at Manchester United. The Belgian has instantly improved the conversion rate at United – which from being the worst of all top six sides last season (by some distance) now is the best of all ‘big six’ sides, who are likely to end up in the first six places.
Averaging a goal in every 3.5 shots, Lukaku is the striker that United needed to be decisive in fixtures that can change the course of the season – like the one on Saturday. Following a relatively barren spell goal-scoring wise, it will be interesting to see how he comes up a Spurs side who have conceded less Premier League goals than all sides bar United in 2017.
Dele Alli – Tottenham Hotspur
Alli was one of the goalscorers in Tottenham’s emphatic victory over Liverpool and is starting to get into his groove again – with 5 goals and an assist in 11 appearances so far. His almost telepathic partnership with Kane and Eriksen has been key for Spurs for most of this season and will continue to hurt teams on the break.
Without Paul Pogba, Manchester United will lack a runner who could keep Alli in check meaning the 21-year old will prove crucial to the visitors as they attempt to claim an impressive result at Old Trafford – where they have won only 3 times in the Premier League era.
Manchester United have not lost at Old Trafford in the last 21 games in the Premier League. Spurs have won their last 6 fixtures on the road. Immovable object versus unstoppable force, you say?
Manchester United 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur