Manchester United lost 3-2 at home to Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the season.
Manchester United travel to White Hart Lane for the 178th time to take on 4th place Tottenham Hotspur. United lost 3-2 at Old Trafford earlier in the season, despite a flurry of attacks in the second half.
Andre Villas-Boas has, so far, done a superb job in challenging for a champions league place but will be aware that Spurs have not beaten United at home since 2000/01, in a match that saw United field a weakened side having wrapped up the Premier League already. Although, Spurs have a great opportunity to do the double over United, the first time since 1989/90. Here we take a look at the match preview including a view from the opposition, injury news, a potential United lineup and prediction.
View from the opposition
1. How would you assess Spurs’ season so far?
So far, so good. Other than the League Cup (where a “rotated” side went out away at Norwich), we are progressing well in every competition we’re in. The league is going better than expected, with the win at Old Trafford being the icing on the cake. We look a good bet to have a decent FA Cup run, and we’re through to the next phase of the Europa League, where we face Lyon over two legs.
2. AVB inherited a good squad but one with injuries and that had just lost two very influential midfielders and a club captain. What do you think of him and what’s the general stance on him held by Spurs fans?
The first sentence is something that the mainstream media have seemingly only just started to recognise. I blogged on AVB’s start at Spurs last week; in a nut shell, I’m delighted with the way things have gone so far.
I was chuffed with his appointment (and Redknapp’s exit, for various reasons) and welcomed the new approach that I felt he would bring. Whilst there have been surprises – a persistence with 4-4-2, when Adebayor/Defoe clearly doesn’t work as a partnership being one example – he has mostly made very positive changes and we are improving in crucial areas. For example, we look far more threatening from set pieces (indeed, scoring from another two against Coventry), which presumably reflects the fact that we are practising them in training.
Off the pitch, it finally feels like people behind the scenes are pulling in the same direction, which I think is hugely important for a club to move forward. This was never the case with Redknapp, who refused to toe the party line, and frequently seemed at odds with Daniel Levy.
Crucially, I am finally starting to feel like I, as a fan, am a part of the club again (whereas Redknapp seemed to see us – “them” – as more of an annoyance). Long may this continue.
3. Do you think you’ll finish inside the top four?
At the start of the season I wrote that top 6 was probably realistic but, in the position we’re in now, and with the likes of Parker and Assou-Ekotto back, and Kaboul back soon, I don’t think fourth is an unrealistic expectation. We will certainly need Adebayor back to peak form (as Defoe has dropped off massively), and we could do with a play-maker coming in sooner rather than later, but I think we’ve got a chance.
4. Vertonghen, Lloris and Demebele have been very solid summer signings – why have Sigurdsson and Dempsey not yet really got to grips with Spurs?
Agree with the first three, but I’d also say that Dempsey has started to deliver in recent weeks. It took him a while, and AVB generally explained this as him having to learn how to play off the striker – remember that he normally started wide left for Fulham, which affords that little extra time and space. Sigurdsson has had some bright moments off the bench, but I can’t see him flourishing with Defoe; he’s not a van der Vaart type player who will get on the ball and control tempo/possession. Instead, he’s reliant on a striker keeping the ball alive long enough for him to make a late run or pick up the pieces on the edge of the box. In essence I just don’t think he’s compatible with Defoe. If Adebayor can get back to the level he was at last year, they could work out as a duo.
5. Bale’s arguably the best left winger in the world – how much longer do you think you can hold onto him for?
Agreed, and he’s gone up another level this year. Realistically, I think he’ll be off in the summer. He deserves to play for one of the best teams in the world and has consistently said that he’s not phased by the prospect of playing abroad, so Real Madrid makes sense.
6. Fergie’s noted that Bale is coming infield a lot more this year, much like Ronaldo used to do for United – will that and the form of Lennon be the biggest threats for United to counter?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that that is the case – he came inside plenty from the left last year too (his destruction of Norwich being an example), and also Redknapp frequently played him on the right (which many fans hated) and he would naturally cut inside on to his left foot then.
Lennon’s in excellent form – and his workrate is just unbelievable – perhaps even better since he was made captain for a couple of games – and I think he’ll be a threat. Bale’s the main man, though. If he’s in the mood, he’s unstoppable at the moment.
7. What have you made of United so far this season?
I think the regular changes at the back have caused United to be less resilient than normal, but van Persie has fit in ridiculously quickly. What a signing. I also think Carrick is back to his best form – he’s a pleasure to watch.
8. Do you have one memory in particular of games against United that stands out?
Pedro Mendes’ goal that wasn’t, sadly. I think that is the case for a lot of Spurs fans. Oh the injustice!
9. You can take one player from United to play for Spurs, who do you choose and why?
Rooney. We so badly lack that creative number 10, and he plays that role beautifully. He’s a talisman too, isn’t he? Fabulous player.
10. Who’s your favourite Spurs player of all time?
Ledley. Wonderful footballer (note: footballer, not just defender), a one club man, and he’s now doing a great job as a club ambassador. I’d give my left knee to have him back.
Manchester United welcomed back Nani, Wayne Rooney and Anderson from injury in the 1-0 victory over West Ham in the FA Cup mid week. All three looked a little off the pace, with Nani and Anderson getting substituted in the second half. Having said that, both players haven’t featured since Braga away (Nani) and Reading away (Anderson), so it will take some time to reach a consistent match fitness level. Ashley Young will miss the match with a knee injury, whilst in form Jonny Evans has a hamstring problem and has been ruled out by Sir Alex Ferguson. Darren Fletcher has been ruled out for the rest of the season having undergone surgery to resolve his chronic bowel disease.
Tottenham are without Sandro, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season, and Scott Parker is expected to start in the centre of midfield. Emmanuel Adebayor will miss the match as he is representing Togo at the Africa Cup of nations.
Quotes in build up to match
Sir Alex Ferguson:
(On Jonny Evans)
“We’ve got a strong squad. Jonny Evans still isn’t available. He’s not 100 per cent. Other than that, we’re not too bad. We got a lot of players a game on Wednesday and I thought they did well. It was a good performance.”
“This was raised at the League Managers’ Association meeting during the week. What are the sanctions on that? Do they come from the club or do they come from the FA? I think the FA have a problem because is it legal what they do? Can they prove that a lad has positively tried to dive? It’s a very difficult one. They’ve always said that, haven’t they? They have no sanctions on diving. So, does it go to the club? At the end of the day it probably does. You have to [warn players if they dive]. I’ve done it with Cristiano. He was only a young boy, 18, when he came here and it took him maybe a couple of years to understand that. But after that he was fine.”
(On Darren Fetcher)
“He tried to manage the condition with the treatments he was using. But the last couple of weeks the problems came back. We hope this operation can solve the problems he’s in terms of his career and we expect him to be back in July. It’s a blow for the boy. He’ll need time to recover from the operation and that will be quite a while. But this will improve his prospects. He’s had to change his game. When he played the games he did this season he wasn’t the Darren Fletcher we knew. He was sitting in front of the back-four and he did that very well. That could be his role in the future. When he comes back – and I’m sure he will – it will be in a different role.”
(On Wayne Rooney)
“We’re always very unlucky as he seems to return just in time for our games. We recognise that we had a fantastic first half in that game but he came on for the second and made a difference and created lots of problems for us. He had this game against West Ham to come back to form and so we’ll just have to wait and see if he is selected or not but I think he’s the player who makes Manchester United tick. Because of his movements and he always sacrifices himself for the team. And he has the team spirit, desire to win, and the focus. He has had some difficult moments in his career but always comeback. He is a top-quality footballer.”
(On facing a better Manchester United side)
“You have to be very organised and I’m not sure if an all-out attack posture is the one that will lead you to success against such a strong team. I think it will be a good reference this game, regarding what we want to achieve towards the future, if we want to challenge for trophies.”
Potential Manchester United team
David De Gea should continue in goal, despite missing the FA Cup replay midweek, whilst the defence picks itself with the news that Evans misses the match through injury. Carrick and Cleverley are forming a formidable midfield partnership, whilst under fire Antonio Valencia will look to push Gareth Bale back and offer protection for Rafael. Robin van Persie will start up top, but the big question is, who will partner him?
A fit Wayne Rooney would be a definite starter in this match, however – Welbeck impressed in the 2-1 victory over Liverpool and could well partner the Dutchman, with Rooney and Hernandez on the bench. Kagawa is still trying to find his feet after coming back from injury against WBA and Ferguson has tinkered with playing the Japanese star on the left hand side, despite his more impressive performances coming playing as a number ten off the front man. A noticeable mention for Ryan Giggs who impressed midweek and could provide assistance for Patrice Evra who does struggle against Aaron Lennon, who has been in great form of late.
Conclusion and prediction
As mentioned in the introduction, Spurs have a great opportunity to do the double over Manchester United, and have a decent price at the bookies (see https://sports.bwin.com/en/sports/4/betting/football,) for the first time since 1989/90. Despite some crazy score lines against Reading and Newcastle United, Sir Alex’s side have tighten up defensively and there shouldn’t be a repeat of the open first half Spurs experienced at Old Trafford. Defoe is Spurs’ top scorer in the league, with ten goals, although has only hit the back of the net once in the past month. Gareth Bale is the second top scorer in the league with nine goals, including a recent hattrick against Aston Villa. Both Bale and Lennon will be a constant threat to Rafael and Evra tomorrow and United’s left back has struggled in the past to deal with Lennon’s scintillating pace.
Sandro is a big loss to Spurs, not just tomorrow but for the rest of the season as he was having a fine campaign. United’s midfield duo of Carrick and Cleverley have started together in six of the last seven games, and as mentioned previously on the blog, Carrick is having a superb season, dominating the midfield and dictating play with his passing range.
Tottenham last lost at home to Wigan Athletic at the start of November, which marked the start of a three game losing streak – away at Manchester City and north London rivals Arsenal. They have won three of the last four, only dropping points to lowly QPR last weekend in the 0-0 draw at Loftus Road. At the start of the season, I predicted that Chelsea would struggle to match the heights of their Champions League success last year, whilst Tottenham will be a surprise package, finishing in the top four under the guidance of Andre Villas-Boas. I still think this will be the case come the end of the season, however – Sir Alex has the knack of ‘putting things right’ and will no doubt have the 3-2 defeat in the back of his mind. Combine this with a number of players returning from injury and United’s record at Spurs, i think United will edge it, just.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Manchester United