Old Trafford, Manchester
January 1, 2014; 17:30 GMT
When Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur lock horns this New Year’s day it will be a case of the 6th best side in England taking on the 7th best side. Their league positions point to the fact that both these clubs have under-performed this season, but due to the erratic form of those higher placed, they find themselves only 3 points adrift of a Champions League place.
Manchester United come into this match on the back of 6 consecutive wins in all competitions but Moyes will know that his side have not looked very convincing in their recent performances. Against Norwich City on Boxing Day, United looked woefully short of ideas until the introduction of eventual match winner Danny Welbeck. Before his introduction Javier Hernandez looked all at sea as a lone striker and it is hard to see Moyes deploying him in a similar role any time soon. The return from injury of captain Nemanja Vidic was also a defining factor in the match as he helped to shore up the previously leaky defense.
Tottenham meanwhile, come into this match having played possibly their best football of the season in their defeat of Stoke City. They looked lively up front, bossed the midfield and looked assured at the back. Whether this is a sign of things to come or just a one off performance only time will tell, but Tim Sherwood’s side will be severely tested at Old Trafford.
Team News & Tactical Brief: It will be interesting to see whether David Moyes decides to give Rio Ferdinand a rare recent start. The veteran defender last played in the Champions League defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk, when he suffered what’s known around Old Trafford as a “Gary Neville at West Brom” moment when he was easily beaten for pace. Moyes has also indicated that he wants more energy in the side and as a result we could be seeing Rio’s United career entering its home straight.
In midfield Carrick, Cleverley and Valencia should expect to start. The selection for the left side of midfield is where there are lots of options for Moyes. He can choose from between Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj & Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese should get the nod for this game as he can provide defensive cover for Patrice Evra who has looked every bit his 32 years in United’s recent games.
Upfront, Rooney should start this game if he has sufficiently recovered from the groin strain which kept him out of the Norwich game. Danny Welbeck’s recent goal scoring exploits should ensure that he gets the nod ahead of Javier Hernandez.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-4-2]: De Gea; Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Kagawa; Rooney, Welbeck
Team News & Tactical Brief: The Spurs back 4 picks itself really for this game. Both Kyle Walker who was suspended at the weekend against Stoke and Danny Rose who was rested should walk back in to the Spurs defense. The London side will continue to lack the service of injured duo Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen.
The Spurs will look to Paulinho and Mousa Dembele to help them expose United’s frailties in the middle of the park. These two will act as pivots around which Sherwood would like to unleash his creative talents in Christian Eriksen and Aaron Lennon. Lennon has frequently caused Evra a lot of problems with his pace and directness and Tottenham will look for more of the same from him.
Sherwood has adopted the 4-4-2 formation in place of the 4-5-1 which had become so popular in the Andre Villas Boas era. As a result, Emmanuel Adebayor has found himself in favour again. Against United, the Togolese should expect to partner Roberto Soldado up front.
Probable Starting Lineup [4-4-2]: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Rose; Lennon, Paulinho, Dembele, Eriksen; Adebayor, Soldado
• In the Premier League era, the aggregate score between the two sides is 82-36 in United’s favour. The record after 43 Premier League matches is 29-4 to the Red Devils with ten draws.
• Last year represented the first occasion since the inception of the Premier League in which the Spurs were unbeaten against United
• The 3-2 win enjoyed by Tottenham last season was the first occasion that they had beaten United at Old Trafford in the Premier League era
• Ryan Giggs has scored more Premier League goals against Spurs (10) than any other opponents
Player to Watch
If Dembele plays well, Tottenham play well. That is how important the Belgian has become to the North London side since his 15 million pound transfer from Fulham at the beginning of last season. He was majestic against Stoke City at the weekend and capped off a wonderful display with a goal to match his performance. In the absence of Sandro the onus will be on him to dominate United’s midfield.
Manchester United 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Whenever these sides meet they never fail to disappoint and expect no different this time around. United should just shade this given that they are playing at home. The return of Rooney further tilts the balance in favour of David Moyes’s side.