In what is billed as the heavyweight clash of the week, a bruised Manchester United side will take on a confident Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Monday Night.
United are not in great shape at the moment, there are question marks everywhere you look at Old Trafford. Since the defeat at Brighton last week, the club has been steadily engulfed in a cloud of negativity – with the side desperate now for a big result and a positive one to momentarily free themselves of more media scrutiny.
The Red Devils faced Spurs in a similar situation last season during one of their low points – it was a fixture that ended 1-0 to the home side, in a crucial victory for Mourinho that got the momentum going for a few weeks. With crucial players returning to the first team, all is not lost for the Portuguese as he leads Manchester United to another significant juncture in the season.
Tottenham Hotspur have made a perfect start to the season winning their opening games against Newcastle and Fulham – but this will be their first litmus test of the campaign. In recent past, Spurs have struggled at Manchester United – losing the last four without scoring – albeit most of them being narrow defeats with little between the two sides. With the news of club captain Hugo Lloris’ drink-driving charge, there is likely to be some uncertainty now in their camp, which may come as a disadvantage ahead of an important and difficult fixture, the kind of which warrants unwavering focus from their best players.
Nemanja Matic, Antonio Valencia and Alexis Sanchez have been training with Manchester United this week. Diogo Dalot has also joined his new team-matches on the training field, although is unlikely to feature on Monday.
Victor Wanyama (knee) has begun training with the team but will not feature at Old Trafford, while Juan Foyth (thigh) is continuing his rehabilitation. Heung-Min Son will also not be available as he continues to take part in the Asian Games with South Korea.
The side playing at home in Premier League meetings between Manchester United and Spurs has won each of the last seven matches, stretching back to March 2015 – prior to this run, the home team in this fixture had won just seven of the previous 24 meetings.
Spurs have lost more away Premier League matches at Old Trafford (21) than any team has lost away from home at a stadium in the competition’s history.
A team from London hasn’t won away against Manchester United in the Premier League since Spurs’ win on New Year’s Day 2014 – since then, London clubs have taken just seven points from a possible 66 at Old Trafford (P22 W0 D7 L15).
Eric Bailly – Manchester United
Bailly was a subject of heavy criticism after the defeat last week to Brighton – with Graeme Souness claiming the defender did not know ‘if he is in New York or New Year’ on live television. The Ivory Coast canter half is highly rated by the supporters – and he is, on his day, the best defender at the club without question – with his sense of timing and athleticism and calmness under pressure.
But his tendency to not be aware of his brashness at times – in vulnerable areas in and around the box has been pointed out as room to improve. Nonetheless, he is very crucial to Mourinho’s Manchester United and whoever comes out on top – between him and Harry Kane, could end up deciding the outcome on Monday.
Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur
Kane finally put the hoodoo to rest by scoring a Premier League goal in August last week in the win against London rivals Fulham.
With the absence of Hugo Lloris, the mantle falls on the striker now – and as a player who has never shied away from shouldering responsibility, it is important that the 25-year old continues to lead the line on Monday, taking the game to the home side – who can clearly be got at, going by the evidence provided by Brighton last week, and take advantage of the lack of confidence in their back five as a group together.
Score draw written all over.
Manchester United 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur