Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping to keep the ball rolling as Manchester United travel to Wembley to face Tottenham on Sunday.
Tottenham seem to have put the disappointment from their defeat to Wolves behind them with three brilliant results. Convincing wins over Cardiff City and Tranmere Rovers was followed by a 1-0 win over Chelsea in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final.
Nine points behind Liverpool after the Reds won their respective gameweek fixture, Tottenham would be more aware of Chelsea, who are just a point behind them after a nervy 2-1 win over Newcastle United.
For Manchester United, it is more of a case of catching up to Arsenal, taking each game as it comes. They can go level on points with the Gunners should they manage to overcome Tottenham on Sunday. But, what will be playing in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s mind is the need for his players to continue taking large strides towards regaining the lost aura surrounding the club that is Manchester United.
This is ideally billed as a head-to-head for the permanent managerial position for Manchester United when Solskjaer’s interim period ends.
Tottenham beat Manchester United in their last home meeting. But, the fixture was not at Wembley, where United have a decent overall record. Let us now take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
The injury issues have started to ease up for Mauricio Pochettino, with most of his key players on the mend. Victor Wanyama is out injured while Eric Dier is likely to sit the tie out despite returning to training. Lucas Moura will have his knee assessed before the game.
Jan Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele are also back in training. But, the latter should not appear on the starting eleven, having been linked with a move to the Chinese Super League. As far as the formation is concerned, Pochettino usually goes for a 4-2-3-1.
While they take the field as a 4-2-3-1, the shape converts into a more of a 4-3-1-2, with Christian Eriksen dropping deep to form a midfield three and Son Heung-Min pushing up to support Harry Kane.
Jan Vertonghen should make the bench. But, Pochettino should retain the pairing of Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez in central defence, with Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier on either side of the pair. Moussa Sissoko has been resourceful during the troubled time for Tottenham and the midfielder should start alongside academy ace Harry Winks.
Eriksen, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane are one of the most potent quartets in European football right now and all of them should start for Tottenham on Sunday.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies; Sissoko, Winks; Son, Alli, Eriksen; Kane
Eric Bailly will still be serving his suspension for a careless challenge in the 4-1 win over Bournemouth. Marcos Rojo is out injured while Chris Smalling is doubtful, meaning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is down to his bare bones in central defence. Victor Lindelof has been redefining his career at Manchester United since Solskjaer’s arrival and should be partnered by Phil Jones in central defence.
Antonio Valencia should not start, but neither should Diogo Dalot, with the Portuguese not looking entirely convincing yet, especially getting caught out by pace. Ashley Young is likely to start on the right, with Luke Shaw the reliable option in his natural position on the left.
In midfield, Paul Pogba is likely to have recovered from the niggle he picked up at Newcastle and will start against Tottenham. The Frenchman should be accompanied by Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera – three midfielders who have impressed people the most under Solskjaer.
In attack, Marcus Rashford should still lead the line, despite a couple of prolific cameos by Romelu Lukaku. Anthony Martial is likely to start as well, with Alexis Sanchez a doubt after coming off injured against Reading. The last spot is up for grabs, with Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard the options.
Ideally, Mata should start. But, Solskjaer could go for the lively presence and movement of Lingard to trouble the Tottenham backline.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): de Gea; Young, Jones, Lindelof, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.53
2. Full Time Result – Draw or Manchester United @ 1.80
1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 3.70
2. Marcus Rashford to score anytime @ 3.50
1. Tottenham and Manchester United have played out just one draw in their last 10 meetings.
2. Manchester United have lost their last three away league matches against Tottenham.
3. Paul Pogba has four goals and three assists in four league games under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer while he boasted a record of three goals and three assists in 14 league games under Jose Mourinho this season.
4. Marcus Rashford is one goal away from equalling his best return in a single league campaign (7 goals), having already equalled the best numbers in terms of direct contributions (12 goals and assists).
5. Harry Kane has either scored or assisted in his last nine games for Tottenham.
Player to Watch
While Rashford had picked up steam under Jose Mourinho itself before the Portuguese’s sack, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival has seen the striker being played out front, which has liberated the academy graduate. Not only does Rashford emanate confidence but an infectious desire to work to get the ball back as well.
But, the fixtures have been a bit easy and Tottenham will be the ultimate fixture to prove to Solskjaer, Manchester United fans and everyone around the world that he is more than just a tenacious and agile striker. There have been statements highlighting that Rashford might never boast a return of a natural forward. Time for Rashford to give people second thoughts?
Tottenham 2-2 Manchester United
Manchester United and Tottenham are both on a high, albeit with different reasons. Tottenham have inched closer to reaching a cup final while Manchester United are now realistically in with an actual chance of achieving top four in the 2018-19 season. But, the game will be much more than just form.
No matter how much Tottenham try to keep Mauricio Pochettino from commenting on speculation linking him to Manchester United, everyone knows it is there and perhaps a mutual wish. Gamewise, Solskjaer’s men have actually accepted freedom and revelled in it thus far.
But, this will be the toughest test yet. We should see United ship in goals but score as well. Expect a scoring draw at Wembley.