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United will face their first big home game of the Premier League season when Spurs visit on Saturday afternoon. After the defeat at Everton in their opening game of the season, United have won every game since and conceded just twice in their last two games. Spurs, after a shaky start under new coach, Andre Villas-Boas, have now won three of their last four but have a terrible recent record at Old Trafford and not won there for 23 years. We welcome comments from both sets of supporters.
Spurs, despite a miserable record at Old Trafford, will always be considered formidable opponents. It’s not uncommon for them to play well either – van der Vaart in particular used to enjoy a lot of freedom playing ‘between the lines’ when United would still opt for a 4-4-2 system. This time round United are playing with both new personnel and something of a new style. It makes for an intriguing affair with both sides set to play attacking football.
It was an interesting summer for Spurs – AVB arrived but wasn’t helped with the way in which Spurs conducted their summer transfer business. Previously key players, Modric and van der Vaart were sold along with some other squad members. Although Sigurdsson and Vertonghen joined in good time, the bulk of their summer spending wasn’t done till very late on in the window and arguably, Levy didn’t necessarily provide AVB with all the players in all the positions he’d have liked.
One area that’s come under scrutiny from the press is the goalkeeping department. With Friedel, Lloris, Gomes and Cudicini, Spurs are incredibly well stocked but have a problem in terms of keeping everyone happy. Lloris, the French number one, is yet to start a league game with Friedel favoured. The French press seem unhappy and have painted the picture that Lloris too is disappointed. A starting berth at Old Trafford would be some welcome to the league though – mind you, given that Freidel seems to love playing United, they may want to keep him for another game.
In terms of injuries – Spurs may be forced to play either Vertonghen or even Bale at left back with Assou-Ekotto out and Naughton a slight doubt. Should Vertonghen move wide then it’ll be interesting to see if Dawson comes in to partner Gallas or whether AVB opts for youth in the form of Caulker. It was thought that Dawson wouldn’t necessarily be able to play the high pressing game that AVB wanted his side to play and hence they were willing to let him join QPR at one point but a deal fell through.
It’s a tad simpler in midfield where Spurs are powerful even without Parker who’s injured. Dembele could face United for the second time this season and continue what seems a formidable pairing with Sandro. Lennon and Bale provide width and pace with Sigurdsson in the middle behind Defoe. Adebayor’s still not quite fully fit but may be an option from the bench.
Although in many ways the system looks similar to the one played in the Redknapp era on paper, this Spurs side seems to be more about midfield power rather than delicacy. United have already shown themselves to be weak centrally and other sides have enjoyed exploiting that so it’s certainly something AVB should look to take advantage of. It seems harsh to reiterate it, but Spurs’ Premier League record at Old Trafford really is poor – they’ve only once in that period scored more than one goal, something you feel they’d surely have to do to try and win this one.
It’s not a normal week for United if there is no new injury news. This week was a normal week. Vidic is out for 8 weeks and Valencia is a doubt with some bruising. Mind you, that doesn’t make it any easier to predict which names will come out of the Fergie-tombola but here’s what I think:
The biggest question is how far ahead is Fergie looking when he picks the team. United have two tricky away games coming up in the next week – at Cluj and Newcastle – and he’ll want to ensure he can freshen the team up in both games. One area that really doesn’t need messing around with is in goal. Despite semi-understandable reasonings, it remains bizarre that United still don’t have an obvious number one. De Gea for me remains the better goalkeeper and therefore I continue to think he should play.
At the back, unless there are any mysterious injuries that Fergie is yet to reveal, the defence picks itself. Given that neither Smalling, Jones or Vidic are due back soon though, he may take a risk with either Wootton or Keane at some point this week given that Ferdinand and Evans both got bumped around a bit last weekend and will need to play three times this week.
Oddly, given the options, the midfield should be a relatively straight forward decision. Cleverley and Anderson played midweek, with the latter blowing hard late on as the pace embarrassingly took its toll. Carrick and Scholes seem very likely to be recalled with Nani used on the right hand side – the wing he’s unquestionably better on. Who plays on the left remains up for debate then; Giggs may seem the obvious choice but I reckon he’ll be held back for Cluj and a combination of Kagawa, Rooney and van Persie will take it in shifts to spend time out there whilst also concentrating on their central roles. Welbeck might be the other option but he also played midweek and although Rooney tired, his performance was surely too good to ignore when it comes to selection tomorrow.
United will have to be careful though. Spurs are likely to try and press high and Scholes, despite remaining a master of his art, has somewhat struggled when his space is reduced and United are forced deeper. Ferguson may try and therefore get away with starting Cleverley and using Scholes as a sub if need be. Either way, United at home to Spurs has only gone one way lately and despite this being a good Spurs team, one has to fancy United to take maximum points again, and, depending on the result in London at lunch time, potentially go top of the league.