It is not every game week that two teams that have won three consecutive top division titles play each other. Only four teams have achieved this feat – Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal are the easily identified of those four. The fourth team to have achieved this is Huddersfield Town. This Saturday will see Huddersfield host Manchester United after a very long time – more than 46 years.
Huddersfield are no longer the force that won those three league titles consecutively. That history is 90+ year old and this team has just been promoted back to the top division after 45 years. After a spirited start to this campaign David Wagner’s team seems to have faltered recently. After beating Crystal Palace and Newcastle United in their first two matches, the Terriers have not won a single league game out of six (D3L3). Coming up against Manchester United who were in a rampaging form till recently would have been a daunting challenge.
Manchester United however have had an indifferent week. They did prevail versus Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday night, but the performance was not upto the standards the Red Devils had set themselves at the beginning of the season. Similarly, last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Anfield also showed United’s vulnerability against attacking teams. Jose Mourinho is nothing if not predictable and as expected he did cite his side’s numerous injuries as the reason for this drop in performance. Whatever be the reasons for the last two performances but Mourinho has to ensure that his team steamroll Huddersfield, just like they did in games prior to the Liverpool match.
- Huddersfield and Manchester United are playing each other after 45 years, 7 months and 10 days. This is the longest wait after which two sides are playing each other in England’s top division.
- The Terriers have a respectable record versus the Red Devils, having won 10 and drawn 15 out of their 45 meetings in all competitions so far.
- Manchester United are undefeated in their last eleven matches against Huddersfield having won eight and drawn three. Their previous loss to Huddersfield was a 3-2 away loss in March 1952.
With Manchester United boasting one of the better attacks in the league, Huddersfield cannot hope just to stifle the attack. Their best chance lies in trying to win the midfield battles as United’s midfield is depleted due to injuries to Pogba and Fellaini . In winning these battles, Huddersfield need help from Aaron Mooy, who was a key player in getting his side promoted last season. Mooy is as of now, statistically speaking, the third best player that Wagner has in his side. As his WhoScored page mentions, Mooy is strong in tackling, as well as dribbling and hence is instrumental in breaking up opponents’ play and creating chances for his team. On an average he has been creating 1.8 chances per game and he has a 13% chance of providing an assist per 90 minutes. On the top of that he can also score a goal or two himself.
Romelu Lukaku has for quite some time now been called a flat-track bully. It is believed that he can score freely against the weaker sides but gets easily stifled against better teams. His performance prior to running into Liverpool and Benfica’s defenses have been top-class but all of them were against teams that can be expected to finish in the bottom half of the Premier League table. Of course, with expected goals per 90 minutes of 0.96 and expected assists per 90 minutes is 0.14. Thus it might be a safe bet to assume that he will get on the scoresheet on Saturday, and probably provide an assist as well.
Philip Billing had to be taken off against Swansea and is very likely to miss out on Saturday as well. Mooy started on the bench against the Swans but should start against the Red Devils. Steve Mounie remains a doubt due to his heel injury.
After a relatively injury-free start, Manchester United are now depleted by different injuries. Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo are closer to a return but are almost definitely going to miss out on Saturday’s game. To make matters worse, Marcus Rashford injured himself versus Benfica and is doubtful for Saturday. Mourinho will need to rotate to ensure that the injuries do not pile up further. Any such rotation will help Darmian and Jesse Lingard. Eric Bailly is also expected to miss Saturday’s game but Phil Jones should be back in defense.
This match offers Mourinho the much-required chance of breaking out of the defensive mindset his team seems to have entered in the last two matches. Wagner’s team will press like Liverpool but they lack the quality upfront for Mourinho to worry too much. Manchester United should be able to win Saturday’s game easily.
Huddersfield 1 – 3 Manchester United