MANCHESTER UNITED

v

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Old Trafford, Manchester

August 22, 2011; 19:00 GMT

***

 

Premier League football returns to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, with Harry Redknapp’s Spurs in attendence. Manchester United would be looking to consolidate on a good start to the season after wins against City in the Shield and West Brom in the first league game. The North London club, on the other hand, will be playing their first Barclays Premier league game of the season after their scheduled opener against the Toffees was postponed due to rather unfortunate incidents in the capital. Tottenham, however, can take solace from their midweek performance in the Europa League against Scottish side Hearts as the Lilywhites annihilated their opponents 5-0. The two teams have been involved in some of Premier League’s memorable games as both teams like to play attacking football and are not shy in taking the attack to the opposition and much of the same can be expected on Monday night.

Man United go into the game having huge concerns, especially in the defence where a plethora of experienced players have been sidelined due to injury. Furthermore, all eyes will once again be on United’s new number 1, Spanish shot stopper David De Gea. Its fair to say that the highly-rated youngster hasn’t hit the ground running with some rather unfortunate mistakes, yet there is absolutely no reason to panic, not yet anyway. De Gea should take heart from the fact that  at Old Trafford he will certainly not lack any support, with a capacity crowd cheering him on from the stands.


Harry has never won at OT

 

Also, in the spotlight will be the one Luka Modric. The Croatian’s head seemed turned by the advances of the Stamford Bridge club and he did burn some bridges at Tottenham. Nevertheless if Harry Redknapp decides to start with his prized asset, expect a strong showing from the nimble-footed Croatian as he has always brought out his ‘A’ game against Fergie’s men. Moreover, Spurs would be under a lot of scrutiny as to whether they can live upto being part of ‘Big Six’ and fight for the coveted Champions League spot.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Manchester United

Sir Alex is having a defensive crisis to say the least as three of his first choice defenders are missing from this game. While Rafael and Vidic are expected to be out for lengthy periods, there is good news on Ferdinand’s injury as he is expected to be back for the Arsenal game next weekend after initially being ruled out until the end of September. Another good news for the Red Devils is the return of experienced full-back Patrice Evra who missed the last game through injury. Also nearing his return is midfielder Darren Fletcher who played the full 90 minutes for the reserves in midweek. However, this game comes too early for the Scot who, according to the manager, needs another reserve game to regain his match fitness. Valencia, Hernandez, Owen and Diouf are other players of the squad who are out injured.

With Ferdinand and Vidic out injured, Sir Alex has already announced his back four that will take part in the game. Evans will partner new-boy Phil Jones with Smalling to play at right-back, while Evra would start in his customary position at left-back. David de Gea is likely to keep his place between the sticks despite yet another error in the game against West Brom last weekend. In the midfield, Young and Nani are expected to take up the position on the wings. However, it would be interesting to see the combination selected by the manager in central midfield. Although, Anderson and Cleverley have done well in the last couple of games, Sir Alex might go for his experienced pairing of Giggs and Carrick, which did very well in the fag end of last season. Up-front, it would be Rooney as usual, but Berbatov is more likely to start in place of young Welbeck, who has started the first two games of the season.

It would be a 4-4-1-1 formation for United with Rooney playing in a withdrawn role and dropping back in midfield to match against the Spurs’ middle five. Also, Carrick would be taking the onus of keeping Van Der Vaart in check as the Dutchmen likes to play in the hole and is not shy of shooting from distance if given time and space. Also, the inexperienced back four will need all the cover that they can get from the men in-front of them.

Probable Starting XI: De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Evans, Evra, Nani, Giggs, Carrick, Young, Rooney, Berbatov

football formations

Tottenham Hotspur

Harry Redknapp is not having the same sort of injury worries faced by his counterpart. Nonetheless, there are a few players missing for Tottenham as well. Ledley King is still not able to come over his injury problems in the new season and hence is ruled out for the game. Also missing are Alan Hutton and William Gallas, leaving the manager a little short on experience in the defensive department. Spurs will also keep a close eye on Peter Crouch’ ankle injury suffered in pre-season which forced him out of the Europa League play-of game in midweek. There is also a doubt regarding Luka Modric, who was reported of having a groin injury in midweek but might very well have been kept out of the squad due to the on-going saga surrounding his future, he would have been cup-tied had he played the game against Hearts. With no such problems here, he might be included in the starting line-up by the manager.

Spurs, with no big name addition to their squad in the summer so far, have a familiar look to their team as they are likely to go in with a 4-5-1 formation used by them last season. Luka Modric might take his place in the central midfield, alongside Tom Huddlestone. Van Der Vaart would be playing in the advanced role as usual, looking to exploit the inexperience of United defence. Defoe is expected to lead the line in the absence of Crouch. But, like always, most of Spurs’ attacks will be from the wings as Lennon and Bale like to have a go at defenders and get the crosses in. Evra, in particular, has had lots of problems against Lennon in the past and hence would be needing good support from Ashley Young to help him out in defensive duties.  Also, it was interesting to see the manager put his faith in Gomes in midweek despite his well known blunders in the past seasons. The Brazilian is expected to keep his place above Friedel and Cudicini, with nothing dramatic happening against Hearts.

Probable Starting XI: Gomes, Walker, Assou-Ekotto, Dawson, Kaboul, Bale, Modric, Huddlestone, Lennon, Van Der Vaart, Defoe

Key Match Facts

1) United won 18 out of 19 games at Old Trafford last term – equaling the most home wins in a top flight season.

2) The Red Devils managed just one shot on target in the last game against West Brom.

3) Spurs scored most goals from outside the box in the league last season while De Gea conceded the most from outside the area in La Liga last term.

TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

Unstoppable on his day

The Welsh wizard had a superb last season and would be looking to keep his good run going. In the past, Rafael has managed to keep the winger in check, but with the Brazilian missing through injury, Bale would back himself to get the better of Chris Smalling, playing at right-back. United will have a difficult time keeping the Welshman in check and if they fail, Spurs would have a very good chance in the game.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION

Manchester United 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur

It will be an entertaining fixture as usual between the two sides. United’s makeshift defence will fail to keep a clean sheet, but they will have far too much in attack for Spurs to come out with a win.

TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST