Fresh from the midweek exertions in the Carabao Cup, and the draw that was 48 years in the making, United and Spurs face each other in a massive fixture at noon on Saturday. This match could truly swing the momentum one way or the other in the Premier League.
Manchester United, taking the game to Swansea City and winning it 2-0, dusted off the cobwebs and put in a professional performance. Thanks to Jesse Lingard, they booked their place in the quarterfinal. They will face Bristol City away from home in the second week of December. In the Premier League, however, the Red Devils cannot afford any more setbacks. This is especially true given how their nearest rivals are faring at the moment. Hence, Saturday’s game is probably one of the most important fixtures they will be involved in since Mourinho took the reins.
Tottenham Hotspur had a very solid start this season. Typically under the radar, the result against Liverpool was a blatant statement to the rest of the challengers. Spurs absolutely pounced on Liverpool side. They were littered with mistakes at the back and the Spurs made a meal out of the visitors. Scoring four goals at Wembley, with Harry Kane leading from the front, they went level on points with Manchester United on the league table.
In midweek, the North London outfit suffered a blip in the form of a defeat to West Ham—after leading the game 2-0 at one stage. This was followed by the post-match comments from Pochettino that attracted a fair bit of criticism from sections of the media and supporters. Whether that will distract Spurs remains to be seen. The visitors definitely need a positive result at Old Trafford to keep building towards the strong title challenge they look to pose in the forthcoming weeks and months.
After the cup win at Swansea, Mourinho confirmed that Phil Jones has declared himself available for the game. He had been withdrawn at Huddersfield through an injury the previous week. Fellow defenders Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo are thought to be close to returning to full fitness. There is no further news yet on midfielders Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini. During Mourinho’s pre-match press conference on Friday, he offered little hope of their imminent return.
For the visitors, Danny Rose and Mousa Dembélé could feature after returning from injury. It happened in their Carabao Cup defeat at home to West Ham United, a game for which boss Mauricio Pochettino made seven changes. Also, midfielders Erik Lamela and Victor Wanyama are expected to be sidelined once again.
United have won 32 of the team’s 50 Premier League encounters, including the last three in a row at Old Trafford.
Tottenham have won their last six away matches (Premier League).
Manchester Utd have kept a clean sheet in five of their last seven home matches against Tottenham in all competitions.
Romelu Lukaku—Manchester United
With 10 goals and two assists in 13 starts in all competitions, Lukaku has eased into life at Manchester United. The Belgian instantly improved the conversion rate at United. Last season, they were the worst of all top six sides (by some distance). Now, they have moved to the best of all ‘big six’ sides—those likely to end up in the first six places.
Averaging a goal in every 3.5 shots, Lukaku is the striker that United needed. He will be decisive in fixtures that can change the course of the season—like the one on Saturday. Following a relatively barren goal-scoring spell, it will be interesting to see how he comes up a Spurs side who have conceded less Premier League goals than all sides—bar United in 2017.
Dele Alli—Tottenham Hotspur
Alli was one of the goalscorers in Tottenham’s emphatic victory over Liverpool. He is starting to get into his groove again, with five goals and an assist in 11 appearances, so far. For most of the season, his almost telepathic partnership with Kane and Eriksen has been key for Spurs. This will continue to hurt teams on the break.
Without Paul Pogba, Manchester United will lack a runner who could keep Alli in check. This means that the 21-year-old will prove crucial to the visitors. They will attempt to claim an impressive result at Old Trafford, where they have won only three times in the Premier League era.
Manchester United have not lost at Old Trafford in the last 21 games in the Premier League. Spurs have won their last six fixtures on the road. Immovable object versus unstoppable force, you say?
Manchester United 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur