Manchester United will welcome Jose Mourinho back to Old Trafford as Tottenham come to town. This will be one of the eye-catching fixtures of the midweek games and neither team will want to lose. It could be the end of the road for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer if he loses to his predecessor at home, especially given he has only won four matches in the Premier League this season. To provide context, Mourinho has won two in two at Tottenham and is providing fresh impetus to the North Londoners season. There are only two points separating these two teams. A victory would provide a huge boost for either team in their Champions League hopes.
There seems to be an understanding that Solskjaer will be given time to rebuild the squad, with the board seeing positives around the club. The supporters are willing to give time to their former hero, but there will come a point that this patience fades. After all, this is Manchester United and nobody at the club is used to tolerating average results and performances. It could come full circle if Mourinho returns to Old Trafford and takes all three points. The Portuguese manager is a divisive figure, but he is a proven winner and has a CV that can’t be matched by the current United manager.
There are signs of improvement under Mourinho at Tottenham with three successive victories since he took over from Mauricio Pochettino. However, there hasn’t been enough to suggest that they are capable of finishing in the top four. They continue to struggle at the back, with six goals conceded in only three matches under their new manager. There is also a problem with the balance of the first eleven, with Mourinho struggling to find the correct blend of players. This will be a big early test of his tenure and a victory will go a long way to winning over his new supporters. He is usually very adept at approaching the big games and few would back against him on Wednesday night.
Manchester United have taken only 18 points during the season so far. This is their lowest total after 14 games during the Premier League era.
Moussa Sissoko scored his first goal in 69 matches for Tottenham. His last came against Huddersfield Town in 2017.
Despite Manchester United’s struggles, Marcus Rashford is continuing to develop nicely at Old Trafford and he is now arguably the poster boy for the current set of players. He continues to perform in difficult circumstances and Solskjaer deserves praise for the way that he has utilised the young forward. The England international was sometimes wasted by Mourinho and there was a feeling that the signings made by the Portuguese coach stunted the academy graduate’s progress. There may be extra motivation for Rashford to perform on Wednesday, in a statement to his former manager. Although there has been criticism levelled at him in the past, the striker normally steps up in the big matches. He has scored crucial goals against Manchester City and Liverpool in the past. The 22-year-old may not be one of the league leaders in goals this season, but he is performing well lately and could press on over the festive period. The forward has eight goals and two assists in his last ten matches for club and country. If the home side are to win on Wednesday, he will need to perform well. Tottenham have struggled at the back in recent weeks and Rashford has the quality to cause them real problems.
The coming months will be crucial for Dele Alli, as he tries to establish himself as one of the best players in the league again. There is a general feeling that Jose Mourinho will get the best out of the midfielder and the early indications are very positive. At the weekend, he scored twice and his movement caused problems for Bournemouth all game. It will be a good opportunity to put himself back into Gareth Southgate’s plans with a good performance against another of the top-six. During the last international tournament, the midfielder managed to play a big role as England got to the semi-final of the World Cup. He will be wanting to get back into the squad ahead of the European Championships. If he continues to score goals, he will surely get the call-up. The 23-year-old now has four goals in the Premier League and could be set for a much improved season under the new manager.
Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba are closing in on returns, but the former is more likely to feature. Nemanja Matic and Eric Bailly could both be back this month, but this game will come too soon. Marcos Rojo and Diogo Dalot are long term absentees.
Erik Lamela and Ben Davies are both out injured, while Hugo Lloris remains a long term absentee. Lucas Moura will be competing with Moussa Sissoko for a starting place.
This is going to be a huge game for both teams, as they target a Champions League place for the next season. Jose Mourinho will be desperate to get one over on his former employers and announce himself on the Premier League stage once more with a victory at Old Trafford. For his opposing counterpart, Solskjaer needs a statement result to consolidate his own position in the home dugout. This should be a great game to watch, with neither team capable of defending with confidence. However, as a tactician, Mourinho has an advantage and the feel good feeling around Tottenham should be enough to see them to three points.
Manchester United 1-2 Tottenham