Manchester United will resume their pursuit of a top four finish in the Premier League on Friday with a game against former boss Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham side.
The Premier League made its much-awaited return on Wednesday with two games. And the action continues on Friday as Manchester United lock horns with fellow top four hopefuls Tottenham at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
It has been a disappointing campaign for Tottenham following their UEFA Champions League finals run last time out. A poor start to the season saw the Lilywhites sack fan favourite Mauricio Pochettino in November with former Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho replacing him. After a positive start, it all went downhill for Mourinho since the turn of the year, with injuries to key players playing a role in the decline of form.
Tottenham head into Friday’s game without a win in their last six games in all competitions, with their last fixture before stoppage ending in 3-0 loss to RB Leipzig in the Champions League. They are currently eighth in the Premier League table, seven points below Chelsea in fourth place. And Mourinho will be hoping to close that gap, while getting one over his former employers.
Manchester United, in contrast, were in brilliant form prior to the suspension of football. After a rather slow start to the campaign, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team had picked up momentum since January. Before the lockdown, the Red Devils had been on an eleven-game unbeaten run across all competitions, with their last defeat coming against Burnley back in January.
Manchester United’s last match before football was halted saw them thrash Austrian outfit LASK 5-0 in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 stages. Sitting fifth in the table, just three points below Chelsea, the 20-time English champions will be aiming to put pressure on their rivals with a win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Team News & Tactics
Tottenham have been handed a huge boost ahead of the game as a host of their injured players are now fit and available for selection. Star striker Harry Kane is back after having not played since January, while Moussa Sissoko, Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn have all made full recoveries as well.
However, Dele Alli misses out after being handed a one-match ban by the FA for the controversial Snapchat video he posted back in February. The hosts will be without youngster Japhet Tanganga, who has grown into a regular under Mourinho, while Troy Parrott is also ruled out. Giovani Lo Celso is struggling for match fitness, but is expected to play a bit-part role.
Captain Hugo Lloris, who has shown signs of decline, will need to be at the top of his game in the Tottenham goal on Friday. He will need all the protection he can get from the backline comprising of Serge Aurier, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Ben Davies.
Harry Winks, who has grown into a key cog, should anchor the three-man midfield unit for Spurs. He will be partnered by the returning Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele, who will have a lot to prove after a slow start to life at Tottenham.
Mourinho has already confirmed that both Kane and Son will start in attack for Tottenham on Friday. The third slot is likely to fall to Lucas Moura ahead of Bergwijn, who could be used as an impact substitute.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Sissoko, Winks, Ndombele; Moura, Kane, Son
Much like Tottenham, Manchester United will also welcome a couple of key players from lengthy injury layoffs. Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba are back in contention for the first time since December and January respectively. However, Solskjaer will continue to be without defenders Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe, although that is unlikely to affect his selection.
Solskjaer has often opted to play with a three-man backline against the Big Six sides but may switch things up and set his team up in a 4-2-3-1 with David de Gea in goal.
Victor Lindelof, who recently completed three years at the club, should start alongside captain Harry Maguire at the heart of the Red Devils’ defence. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw are the undisputed first-choices for the two full-back slots although Brandon Williams will be pushing for a start at left-back.
The midfield department will pose a selection headache for Solskjaer given Pogba’s return and the form that Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic were in before the stoppage. McTominay could be the unlucky one to miss out though, while Pogba is likely to be eased back into action as well. Bruno Fernandes is a guaranteed starter in the No.10 role.
The fit-again Rashford should walk back into the lineup on the left flank, with Daniel James providing the pace and directness on the opposite wing. Anthony Martial, who was also in good goalscoring form three months ago, will spearhead the Manchester United attack with Odion Ighalo and Mason Greenwood being options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, Matic; James, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial
- Manchester United are looking to record consecutive away Premier League wins against Tottenham for the first time since a run of six in a row between September 2001 and February 2007.
- Tottenham Hotspur have lost their last two Premier League games against Manchester United. They last lost three in a row back in October 2010.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in five Premier League games, winning three and drawing two. The Red Devils have kept four clean sheets in that run – as many as they had managed in their previous 35 league games.
- No side has kept fewer clean sheets in the Premier League than Tottenham this season (4). The last time they had kept as few clean sheets after 29 league games was in 2006/07.
- This will be Manchester United’s first ever visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Red Devils have won at every London ground in which they have played in the Premier League. They are one of only four clubs to have done so – Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham being the other three.
Player to Watch
It has been a long time since Marcus Rashford kicked the football. A back injury in January meant he was sidelined before football was suspended because of the pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped the Manchester United academy graduate from being in the news as he has been doing some exceptional work off the field to help the community in these difficult times.
Rashford has received great plaudits for the work he has been doing and deservedly so. Now, he will be hoping to carry on from where he left off on the field. The 22-year-old has scored 19 goals and set up 6 more in 31 games in 2019/20, including a brace against Tottenham in the reverse fixture. Expect him to be a menace for the Lilywhites on Friday night.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Manchester United
Tottenham were in a poor place prior to the campaign being halted, while Manchester United had been flying high on the back of some very impressive results. However, form won’t count for much given the lengthy layoff and both teams welcoming back key players into the side changes the dynamics as well.
But Manchester United have looked a top unit since Bruno Fernandes’s arrival in January and under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer they have developed a habit of notching up wins in the big games. As a result, we at The Hard Tackle are backing the Norwegian to get another win over his predecessor on Friday and put pressure on fourth-placed Chelsea.