By John Ryan
- United are still missing Pogba, Fellaini and Carrick
- Jones and Bailly could return to heart of defence
- Tottenham set to be without Harry Kane
‘Keep it tight, don’t let them get in front. Defend along your box, break with speed. One chance will decide this game, you get it you take it’.
This could easily be Jose Mourinho’s team talk for the visit of Spurs to Old Trafford on Saturday. While United flew out of the blocks it has been Tottenham who have been the more impressive side to date.
Third and second in the last two Premier League races, Pochettino’s men are looking to go one better this season.
Both Managers Missing Key Players
They travel to Old Trafford without Harry Kane and with Wanyama and Lamela already out the odds are somewhat evened up.
With Pogba, Carrick and Fellaini out. Herrera, Rashford and Bailly are all struggling with knocks. Both managers may be tempted to play for a point but both need to win to keep pace with Manchester City.
Mourinho has faced criticism for his style of play in recent weeks.
As a manager who has won European trophies with three clubs it is strange to see him questioned. Pogba has been a loss to his game plan as has Fellaini, both currently out injured.
This is one area where Mourinho has so far struggled to match Sir Alex Ferguson who often won games with players like John O’Shea, Quinton Fortune and Phil Neville in the middle of the park.
Mourinho tends to rely on players playing in his system rather than exploring other talents they might not have known they had.
Tottenham have lost twenty of their twenty five Premier League games at Old Trafford and in 2005 Pedro Mendes strike clearly went over the line after catching out Roy Carroll but was not awarded by the linesman on the night.
While this is the North Londoners worst away record in the Premier League they have won twice at the Theatre of Dreams in the last five seasons including Ferguson’s final one.
As their positional finishes in the division have improved, Tottenham have become a consistent and efficient match for any of the top six.
Their achilles heel is primed as a target when they need to be ruthless to win a trophy. Facing the best manager in the league at stopping the opposition will be a daunting task for Spurs.
How Will Mourinho Approach This Game?
In last season’s Europa League final Mourinho showed that he is still adept at snuffing out the threat of good footballing sides.
In four European finals his teams have conceded in just one. What he needs to do in this game is to create a cup final mentality; a one off game to head off a title rival and to let Guardiola know that the Huddersfield defeat was a blip.
United will need to close down the Tottenham midfield and get their defenders facing their own goal. Perhaps the Manager’s team selection against Swansea midweek had Saturday’s game in mind.
For Pochettino the aim will be to keep the ball in midfield and to use the late runs of Dele Alli to good effect.
Tottenham have won their last four in the Premier League while United have taken seven points in the same period.
Head to head United have won almost half of the meetings to date and with a slightly better defence than Spurs the home side might just shade this one.
Expect a backs to the wall performance with limited possession and a clinical moment to produce single goal win.
Verdict: United 1-0 Tottenham