Manchester United vs Tottenham | Saturday 08 August | Old Trafford | 13:45
And so it begins. The 2015/16 season gets underway with big spenders Manchester United welcoming Tottenham to Old Trafford in the first match of the new season. Spurs have improved their form against United having lost just one of their last six encounters with two wins and three draws. However, the Red Devils thumped them 3-0 in their last outing and they return this season even stronger.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester United 11/20
Manchester United will be hoping that lightning doesn’t strike twice when they again launch the Premier League season at Old Trafford. Louis van Gaal’s first competitive match in charge ended with a shocking 2-1 defeat to Swansea City and the last thing the Dutchman will want is to go through a repeat of that miserable experience. Instead, he will want his revamped team to perform much more like they did at home to Spurs in March when United produced one of their best displays of the season to win 3-0 with first-half goals from Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney. Last season, the goal for Manchester United was a top-four finish and berth in the Champions League. Both of those were accomplished as the Red Devils head into the new season with their sights set on bringing silverware back to Manchester.
Van Gaal has spent massively to bring in top talent for his side while holding onto goalkeeper David de Gea for at least a while longer. Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao have left the club – the latter joining rivals Chelsea – with Angel Di Maria on the verge of joining Paris Saint-Germain. Five new players have arrived in Manchester and all are well known. The highlights are Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but the additions of Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Sergio Romero shouldn't go unnoticed either. Now, in Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger, United possess a ferocious midfield pairing capable of breaking up attacks and starting a few of their own. Most United fans still have to pinch themselves when they see Schweinsteiger lining up in the midfield. The German captain still has something to offer and will be looking to test himself in the Premier League. Depay tore it up in the Netherlands last season and is very familiar with Van Gaal, and the exciting attacker should make an immediate impact. Depay has been playing just in behind Rooney of late, but their seamless ability to switch roles will undoubtedly play into United hands. This will be the first season since 2011/12 where Rooney will spearhead the attack. He was United's leading goalscorer with twelve goals last season, despite making only fourteen starts in attack, which, in an ever changing system, was a respectable return. Van Gaal will be reliant on Rooney to produce the goods and hassle the Belgian partnership of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
Once more Tottenham will head into the campaign harbouring ambitions of reaching the top four and will have their work cut out for them right from the start as they will face twenty-time champions Manchester United on the road. Mauricio Pochettino has been given a second season after showing what he could do on the pitch and making it to the 2015 League Cup final against Chelsea. Even though Spurs would lose that game, that alone gave Daniel Levy faith that the Argentine coach can help steer Tottenham into a top-four finish and back into the Champions League. Pochettino has finally had his way with the Spurs squad. Vlad Chiriches, Younes Kaboul, Paulinho, Benjamin Stambouli, Lewis Holtby and Etienne Capoue have all been sold for decent fees. New defenders Kieran Trippier, Kevin Wimmer and Spurs’ biggest signing so far Toby Alderweireld, have all been acquired while still turning a profit. Spurs conceded over fifty goals last season in the Premier League and strengthening of the back line was needed again.
Spurs have a very promising young attacking core spearheaded by last year’s breakout star Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, and Nacer Chadli, who are all expected to improve in their second year playing Pochettino’s fast-pace system. Eriksen is a creative force from the middle of the park. The Dane offers a threat in the final third as he has the ability to score goals and create opportunities for his team-mates. Eriksen was swamped at Old Trafford in March and was not among his side's most noteworthy performers in other games against top-four rivals last term. He will be as desperate as anyone to make up for the previous defeat to United and prove he is making strides with this team. Spurs will also need Nacer Chadli at his bold best if they are to give United something to worry about. Scoring would obviously be nice, but if nothing else, the attacking midfielder gives his team a hope of putting their opponents on the back foot. The man to watch will be Kane. The 22 year-old scored 21 goals in the Premier League last season and 31 in all competitions. He can score with his head, his left foot, his right foot, and also won a lot of admirers through his work rate and selfless running into the channels in addition to his eye for a pass.
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VERDICT: Manchester United 11/20
Manchester United ran out comfortable winners in this fixture last time and they’ve only improved since then with their high-profile signings. United have played some good football in their friendly games even beating Barcelona 3-1, and with home advantage they look good for the win. The home win is tipped at 11/20.