Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United are flying high after their victory over Manchester City in the derby last weekend and he will be hoping he can do the league double over both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho in the same season. United’s Norwegian coach is unbeaten in the last ten games across all competitions with eight clean sheets but it has gone under the radar as the Red Devils position on the Premier League table has not changed.
Mourinho squares off against his former employers in completely contrasting form. Spurs are winless in five matches in all competitions and are short of attacking quality at the top of the pitch due to long-term injury absentees Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. Both teams travel in their respective campaigns in UEFA Champions League and Europa League in midweek before this clash. Spurs go to Germany to play RB Leipzig while United travel to Austria for their matchup against LASK.
Manchester United 27/20
Both attacking spearheads Kane and Son are huge misses for the Londoners. There is no focal point in the attacking sense and we can’t really tell where the goals are going to come from. Combined, the duo of Kane and Son have netted 20 of Tottenham’s 47 league goals.
Tottenham looked lost with no clear game plan in the 1-1 draw at Turf Moor against a very game Burnley team. There was no productivity whatsoever in midfield during the first half. Youngster Oliver Skipp played alongside Tanguay Ndombele and the pair performed poorly against Sean Dyche’s industrious midfield. Frankly record-signing Ndombele appears to be unfit and overweight and needs to redeem himself and justify the sizable price tag he commanded when swapping Lyon for Tottenham.
Mourinho was critical of the central midfielder post-match commenting, “But I’m not going to run away and I have to say he (Ndombele) has had enough time to come to a different level. I know the Premier League is difficult, and some players take a long time to adapt to a different league. But a player with his potential has to give us more than he is giving us.”
Personally, I feel there is no dynamism and creativity in the middle of the park and Giovanni Lo Celso can provide it with his vision to pick out good attacking passes and keep the game flowing in transition. Lo Celso came on as a substitute for the struggling Ndombele after 45 minutes and is expected to start this important clash that could leave both sides in varying levels of European football next season. Since Moussa Sissoko was side-lined with a knee injury, it has been difficult to be as dynamic in the deep lying midfield areas. The box-to-box midfielder is one of Mourinho’s favourites and is only expected to be back in action in one months’ time.
Mourinho’s match tactics in big six clashes are regularly to keep numbers behind the ball and “park the bus”. It has been forced upon him against all opposition with the lack of attacking ability available in the last month or two. Three attackers will play on the break with seven players defending the space in their own half. Lucas Moura, Dele Alli and Steven Bergwijn are the most potent trio that could prove problematic for United with Eric Lamela also an option.
Bruno Fernandes is proving to be the Red Devils’ lucky charm; they are unbeaten in eight games since his arrival. The influential Portuguese midfielder has lifted United’s fortunes by playing more direct and attacking football. His quick thinking off a free-kick to chip a ball into Anthony Martial’s path brilliantly setup the striker for his fourth goal in his last five appearances.
The glimpses of sheer quality that Fernandes has shown and what Paul Pogba is capable of has United fans dreaming of reclaiming the top spot next season. A player that has the quality that Bruno possesses is what Pogba needs to succeed at United.
Pogba has not yet started training with the first team and is still intensively working with physios to get back to full fitness. The French midfielder could be named on the bench against Spurs. Marcus Rashford scored both goals in the 2-1 victory at Old Trafford in the reverse leg and will definitely miss this clash. All of United’s midfielders are performing well at the moment and Pogba will have to be fully fit to dislodge anyone of them.
Nemanja Matic is turning back the clock and looks like the player that was at his prime at Chelsea again. Fred and Scott McTominay will play more regularly as Solskjaer will look to savour the experienced Serbian lynchpin for the bigger occasions.
David De Gea’s blunder against Everton made the goalkeeper come under heavy scrutiny. The Spaniard has made the most mistakes leading to a goal in the league. The mistake brought unwanted attention and took away the fact that together with club captain Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw, the Red Devils have kept eight clean sheets in 10 games.
A stat that Mourinho would have loved to have in his time at Old Trafford. Tottenham have dropped seven points in three matches and are seven points away from Chelsea who occupy the coveted fourth spot.
Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Tanganga; Winks, Dier; Lamela, Alli, Bergwijn; Moura
Manchester United: 3-4-1-2
De Gea; Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; Wan-Bissaka, Fred, McTominay, Williams; Fernandes; James, Martial.
Prediction: Manchester United (-1) Handicap 7/2
Martial is in red-hot form and seems to have found an understanding and effective partnership with Fernandes, while Tottenham keep falling off the pace each week. Take United on the (-1) Handicap at 7/2 to get more value or back the straight away win for the safer option.
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