Match Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United

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By Richard Evans

Introduction

Manchester United travel to White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon, hoping to extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League and maintain their healthy points margin over neighbours Manchester City.

Last weekend the Red Devils secured victory over Liverpool at Old Trafford, after goals from Robin van Persie and Nemanja Vidic earned United a 2-1 win. The lead at the top of the table was briefly extended to 10 points, however City comfortably won away at Arsenal meaning it was a case of as you were.

The Reds will travel to North London full of belief, with Sir Alex’s team winning nine out of their last ten games in the league, and scoring 26 times in the process.

They will also be confident of securing a positive result when analysing the recent games between the two sides. Before this season’s result at Old Trafford United had gone 22 games unbeaten against Spurs, winning an incredible 17 of those games and drawing the other five. They also boast an enviable record at the Lane, having not lost there for 11 matches and Andre Villas Boas will be hoping his team can end that poor run of results.

The North London outfit go into the game in good form having tasted defeat only once in their last ten games, when they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory away at Everton, and Villas Boas will be confident of repeating their exploits at Old Trafford earlier in the season, when they weathered a second half storm to run out 3-2 winners in Manchester.

Last season at the Lane, United were efficiency personified as they secured a 3-1 victory despite being second best for large parts of the game. A Wayne Rooney header, and a sumptuous brace from Ashley Young saw the Reds come out on top, even though Spurs had more possession and shots on target than the visitors. The Red Devils will definitely settle for being outplayed and emerging with three points against a Spurs side packed with so much attacking talent.

Team Selection Thoughts

Anders Lindegaard deputised for David de Gea in goal on Wednesday night, keeping a clean sheet as the Reds progressed to the next round of the FA Cup courtesy of a 1-0 win over West Ham. The Dane did his chances no harm but de Gea should return to starting line up bearing in mind United’s excellent form in the league. Sir Alex is unlikely to want to change a winning formula, and the Spaniard has established a better relationship with the defenders. The Reds have only conceded one goal in their last three league games, and United finally look more convincing defensively.

Sir Alex has confirmed that Jonny Evans will remain on the sidelines, however Nemanja Vidic will be in the travelling squad after the Serbian recovered from concussion. The centre half brings so many qualities to the Red Devils when he plays, and without question United are a better side when he is on the pitch. He should be partnered by Rio Ferdinand who was rested in midweek, and will be fresh for the trip to London. As usual Rafael and Patrice Evra will continue at right and left back, with the Frenchman looking to add to his four goals already this season. Amazingly he is United’s fourth highest scorer this season; an incredible stat bearing in mind his inability to find the net in previous seasons.

In midfield United have key players finally fit again in the shape of Nani, Shinji Kagawa and Anderson, giving the manager good options. Darren Fletcher has been ruled out for the rest of the season following an operation, and Ashley Young is still on the treatment table but those two aside United have a clean bill of health. Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Kagawa were all given a watching brief on Wednesday and could return to the starting line up after the trio put in good performances against Liverpool, in the first half especially. The out of form Antonio Valencia could start on the right wing in Young’s absence, although Nani could be handed a first Premier League start since the end of September when ironically, United took on Spurs. If that is the case Kagawa could continue on the left of midfield and Rooney deployed in his favoured central position.

Robin van Persie will lead the line once again, and the prolific Dutchman will be looking to make it 10 goals in 10 games. He just can’t stop scoring and there is an air of inevitability every time he steps onto the pitch. Also, having played in numerous North London derbies he knows all about scoring against Spurs, and if partnered by Rooney there is every chance he will find the net once more.

Opposition View

Here, at Stretford End Arising we spoke to members of TottenhamHotspurs.tv and asked their thoughts on the upcoming game and more:

Sunday’s Match

Tottenham Hotspur versus Manchester United at White Hart Lane is always an exciting game and we don’t expect Sunday to be any different.

News about Sandro being ruled out for the remainder of the season has dented our optimism for this game. He has been superb this season, although we are lucky to have Scott Parker as a backup, who was badly missed in the corresponding encounter last season. Our probable formation will be 4-2-3-1, with Dempsey replacing Adebayor (who is unavailable due to African Cup of Nations) and Parker in for Sandro the likely changes from the regular starting eleven.

To have a chance of winning we need big performances from Bale and Lennon. If Rafael and Evra snuff out the danger from wide positions we will create very little. Sunday could be one of those games where Defoe doesn’t get a kick. Our full backs (Assou-Ekotto and Walker are struggling for fitness and form respectively) against United’s wide men is a worry.

The number of goals United have conceded this season is obviously encouraging, though we don’t buy into the idea that United have a weak midfield. Carrick and Cleverley is a good, well balanced partnership. We fully expect Rooney to play deeper, like he does for United’s bigger away games. He is a big danger in that position, so hopefully he will be rusty after his recent injury.

Spurs’ 2012-13 Season

Allow us to use AVB’s word for this one: Tremendous. We are going to fight hard for the 4th spot, possibly push for 3rd but given a choice, we’d rather 4th and a cup, be it either FA or Europa. That’s what we would call a successful season.

Tottenham’s best players this season?

Tough question because there have been so many stand outs. Lloris, Vertonghen, Dembele, Sandro, Bale and Lennon have all been top class. If we had to pick one it’d be Bale, he’s simply unplayable whenever he’s on fire and it appears he has overcome his inconsistency problem, but they really all have been excellent.

Andre Villas-Boas

Andre Villas-Boas is a very good young manager, who is clever, tactically aware and has lots of passion. Having said that, it’s still too early to judge whether or not he can build a dynasty here, but most have full faith in the man for now. Freund’s appointment has also been instrumental. Together they could bring us to the next level.

Ezekiel Fryers

Fryers looks a good young player. He’s played a few games for the development squad and has been solid according to reports. He seems a shy lad, but hopefully he progresses and will be in the first team defence in a few years time similarly to Caulker.

Regarding Fergie’s comments towards Levy? We couldn’t really care less to be honest. Levy technically did nothing wrong, it’s just business.

Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham vs. Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham

Most of us back whoever is in charge, thus our answer is AVB. His football philosophy looks promising and the team are more disciplined under him, as in they do what they are told to and follow instructions. There have been fewer moments of individual brilliance, but there has been greater consistency in the team’s performance, which is what we need to achieve our goals.

Three Key Battles

Robin van Persie vs. Michael Dawson

Van Persie has scored five and assisted five in his last 10 games against Tottenham and with nine goals in the same amount of games, he will be the one Spurs fear most. Sometimes he is simply unplayable with his ability to score and create goals from anywhere, and Dawson, as well as the rest of the back four, will have to be at the top of their game. If however they struggle to contain United’s number 20 then he could carry on his great scoring run.

Gareth Bale vs. Rafael

The Welsh winger has been much maligned in the media for his theatrics in recent weeks, but nevertheless he remains a very good player with the ability to hurt any team. He scored at Old Trafford in September with a fine solo goal, and Rafael will have his work cut out to subdue him. Down the years Rafael has fared well against Bale and Sunday’s battle will be an intriguing one to say the least, especially if Rafael tries to get forward to support attacks.

Michael Carrick vs. Mousa Dembele

Carrick has been one of United’s most consistent and influential performers this season, earning praise throughout the British media for his contribution to United’s success up to now. He is calmness personified and has struck up a good understanding with Robin van Persie; probably more than any other player in United red. On Sunday he comes up against the dynamic Dembele who has the ability to take hold of a game and dominate any midfield battle. He can glide past players but is also an accomplished passer, and if the Red Devils want to dominate midfield  then Carrick in particular will have to win this battle.

Summary

United have fared well against the top teams this season beating Liverpool, Chelsea, City and Arsenal already, with Spurs being the only one of these so called ‘big teams’ to inflict defeat upon them. Tottenham head into the game in good form but the Red Devils have been performing even better, having not tasted defeat for 10 games. United also have history on their side, with Spurs not recording three points against United on home soil for 11 years. It promises to be a fast paced game, and goals are often the norm when these two meet, and with the likes of van Persie, Rooney, Defoe and Bale on show it is hard not to see both sides scoring. Sir Alex would settle for a point right now but the Reds will want to gain revenge for their defeat earlier in the season and maintain their lead at the top of the table.

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SEA’s Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United match day thread HERE.
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