Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United | Sunday 10 April | White Hart Lane | 17:00
It’s fascinating to think of what Sir Alex would have made of this. Under his stewardship, Spurs were the proverbial ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ of English football: an entertaining but largely insubstantial sideshow act next to the United juggernaut that dominated the land. Now United are the ones struggling for relevance in a league table that offers little creature comforts to the established power bases of English football.
Spurs are challenging for the title, with a slew of English internationals enhancing the image of the club as the new frontier of English football. United’s last-gasp push for Champions League qualification sees them desperately searching for a nostalgic paean to the good old days, when Spurs were a bye-line to their headline act.
To Win (90 Mins)
Tottenham 9/10 | Draw 5/2 | United 31/10
Spurs know that they can ill afford another slip up here. Ultimately, they will feel fairly grateful to have left Liverpool with a point on Saturday. Dele Alli was virtually anonymous under the pressure of Liverpool’s pressing game while Rose and Wimmer’s attacking urges were kept largely in check.
United don’t quite possess the athleticism of Liverpool, which should free up playmaker Alli. Additionally, United will likely opt for the makeshift pairing of Rojo and Valencia in the full-back roles, which may encourage Walker and Rose to utilize their expansive running game.
Lamella looks set to remain sidelined due to that injury he picked up on international duty for Argentina. Pochettino will have to start the more creative Son as he searches for victory, and I believe that the creative midfielder will be far more effective against this stand-offish United side.
Jan Verthongen is back in training and may well be available for this game, but I doubt Pochettino will rush the Belgian’s return to action. Kurt Wimmer has proved an extremely able deputy and will likely continue alongside Alderweireld.
I do have a certain amount of sympathy of Louis Van Gaal. United’s season has been beset by injury issues, with Wayne Rooney only now approaching full fitness again. The long-term injury to Luke Shaw really epitomised a season that has just failed to launch in many respects. Van Gaal will be mindful of the threat posed by Spurs in wider areas, which may see him opt for the experienced Antonio Valencia in the right full-back position. Smalling and Blind will need to communicate effectively if they are to contain English football’s hottest striker: Harry Kane.
Schneiderlin and Herrera are unlikely to match Can and Henderson in terms of industry, and on this basis I see Dele Alli becoming a far greater factor in this match. Martial has been far more consistent recently and may prove a handful for Walker. I do, however, see Juan Mata struggling to find those elusive pockets of space so effectively against Dier and Dembele.
I also don’t see the impressive Marcus Rashford coming into the game at all this weekend, with Alderweireld probably the best centre-half in the country this season.
So, all in all, it seems as if the Mancunians will be left further disappointed this weekend as their side slips further into the ether of past glories.
Verdict: Spurs 9/10
I can only see one result here. Even when United have won recently, it’s been laboured and bereft of spark. This Spurs side has far too much mobility for a static United side that relies too heavily on their undeniable pace up front.