Manchester United are back in London tomorrow to face Tottenham Hotspur in the reversal of the infamous 1-6 defeat last October.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær will meet the man he replaced at Old Trafford, José Mourinho, for the fourth time in the MUFC hot seat, following one win, one draw, and one loss from the preceding encounters.
The Red Devils are in the capital for revenge.
Kick-off: 16:30 [BST]
Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Referee: Chris KavanaghEmbed from Getty Images
Despite their aforementioned Theatre of Dreams demolition, which struck many to consider Tottenham for a title tilt, Mourinho’s men significantly dropped off during the winter, a period compounded by an injury to talisman Harry Kane.
Now in the race for a top-four finish, another crushing late goal conceded in the North East last weekend added to their long list of squandered opportunities, and their chances of playing in the Champions League next season are beginning to fade.
Before the international break, their hope took an even heavier hit, blowing a 2-0 first-leg lead over Croatian champions Dynamo Zagreb in the Europa League round-of-16 by losing the second leg 3-0, sandwiching a limp North London derby loss to rivals Arsenal.
Still, they aren’t out of the chase yet and know a win here could propel them to a strong end to the campaign, with a Carabao Cup final against Manchester City coming up in a fortnight, having been without silverware since 2007.
Concerningly, expected points would see them sit 10th in the table, having scored and conceded seven goals more and fewer, respectively, than predicted by the metric.
The toxic Mourinho tirade may be underway but beware of the siege mentality.
Previous result: Newcastle United 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Harry Kane x2)
Top goalscorer: Harry Kane (29)
Most assists: Harry Kane (16)
One to watch: Heung-min Son
Reverse fixture: Manchester United 1-6 Tottenham Hotspur (Harry Kane x2, Heung-min Son x2, Serge Aurier, Tanguy Ndombele)Embed from Getty Images
Under Mauricio Pochettino, Pep Guardiola labeled Spurs ‘the Harry Kane team,’ and right now, it’s more true than back in 2017.
The England and Tottenham captain is seemingly at the peak of his powers, aged 27, registering 19 goals and 13 assists in 28 Premier League matches, making that 32 direct goal contributions.
Stunningly, the highly-touted striker has been fortunate to double his expected assist output, which stands at just 6.74, in reality – it’s a team game.
Kane is clinical himself, too, only averaging four shots each top-flight outing and remains on fire, having scored 10 times in his last 10 games for club and country.
His partner in crime, Heung-min Son, often combines with his skipper and has 13 strikes to his name and nine lay-ons this domestic term.
Beyond those two, though, there isn’t much to marvel at – even the South Korean star dropped off when Kane was out injured in February, during a run of three consecutive PL losses.
Their joint-third-highest hitters (each with 10 goals in all competitions) are Real Madrid loanee Gareth Bale and Kane’s understudy, Carlos Vinícius.
Brazilian Benfica loanee Vinícius has only netted once in league play, while four of Bale’s five domestic strikes came in the space of seven days at the turn of March.
Winger Lucas Moura and dynamic midfielder Ndombele have chipped in, and the latter Frenchman regularly partners Pierre-Emile Højbjerg in a double midfield pivot, but in the reverse fixture, played as a number 10 with compatriot Moussa Sissoko sitting in as defensive support.
Giovani Lo Celso is a usual starter, playing as an inverted right-winger lately, as Mourinho has gone with Kane and Vinícius up front in Son’s recent absence.
However, it’s expected that the Portuguese boss will revert to the tried and trusted 4-2-3-1, incorporating his trademark low block.
Sergio Reguilón is set to retain his spot at left-back given Ben Davies is out, while 22-year-old Japhet Tanganga has deputised for the also injured Matt Doherty at right-back in Spurs’ last two Premier League matches.
Welsh youngster Joe Rodon has played 90 minutes in the Lilywhites’ last pair of contests, partnering the hit or miss Davinson Sánchez in front of declining but still decent stopper, Hugo Lloris.
Swansea City import Rodon is a solid defender and more than capable in possession, boasting an impressive 88.2% pass success rate from his league appearances, the level-best in the squad along with Højbjerg.
Dele Alli remains an outcast and buddy Eric Dier is also struggling for minutes, like Harry Winks and fellow Pochettino mainstays, Toby Alderweireld and Serge Aurier.Embed from Getty Images
Tottenham set up as an archetypal Mourinho side, being direct and working around focal point Kane, with the likes of Son running off him.
Another option, Steven Bergwijn, typified their central approach in the corresponding fixture as both sides resumed their seasons post-lockdown, driving past Harry Maguire and unleashing an effort that got the better of David De Gea.
The Dutchman isn’t living up to his early promise, though – yet to score in PL action this term – but is still 23.
Ndombele’s ball progression (boasting 2.5 successful dribbles per-90 top-flight minutes) compliments Højbjerg’s persistent s***housery, giving Spurs a strong base to build from.
The Dane’s rough style of play leads to him making 2.2 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per Premier League game but gives away an average of 1.8 fouls (by far the highest in the squad) in those.
Statistically, Spurs’ lack of key passes shows their uninventive brand of football, with Son’s 1.8 leading the charts, and only Kane’s 1.4 above the one threshold in league clashes.
Having dropped 15 points from winning positions this term, something not associated with Mourinho until his return to London with the Lilywhites, the three-time English top tier title-winning manager was asked on Sunday why he hasn’t had the same metal at Tottenham and said: “Same coach, different players.”
Maybe finishing fourth with Spurs this season will be one of his self-proclaimed greatest ever achievements, up there with United’s second spot in 2017/18.
Absentees (estimated return)
- Ben Davies – shin (unknown)
- Matt Doherty – muscle (unknown)
(4-2-3-1) Lloris; Tanganga, Sánchez, Rodon, Reguilón; Højbjerg, Sissoko; Bale, Ndombele, Son; Kane
Quote from the boss
“I believe that 6-1 doesn’t reflect the reality. It can happen — between two great, the results they can happen in an isolated way. I go much more in the direction of the other two previous matches between us and United.” – José Mourinho
Next match: Everton [A] Friday, April 16Embed from Getty Images
THE RED DEVILS
Thursday’s 0-2 win in Spain means United have one football in a Europa League semi-final, with Granada coming to Manchester knowing that they have a mountain to climb next week.
Now their task isn’t to climb the Premier League but fend off others from below, with nine points separating Solskjær’s side and fifth-placed Chelsea at the beginning of the gameweek, and West Ham United (who are fourth) will welcome Leicester City (third) shortly before the Red Devils and Tottenham get underway.
During the boss’ interim spell in January 2019, United ended a six-game winless away run against tomorrow’s opposition, as Marcus Rashford latched onto Paul Pogba’s pinpoint pass to score the only goal of the game at Wembley.
Less encouragingly, the Red Devils have endured three successive 0-0 draws in the capital since a win at Fulham just under three months ago, so a strike wouldn’t go a miss.
Prior to kick-off, a minute’s silence will be observed following the death of Prince Phillip, and black armbands will be worn as a mark of respect.Embed from Getty Images
David De Gea was hardly troubled in his homeland in midweek and is set to not be tomorrow, as Dean Henderson should replace him between the posts.
Victor Lindelöf was immense at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes alongside Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, who is a doubt, and the latter pair will miss the second leg like Scott McTominay due to accumulated yellow cards.
Pogba could help Aaron Wan-Bissaka out on the right against Reguilón and Son, with Rashford (if fit) set to start on the left flank.
The Frenchman’s second-half introduction in last season’s trip to Tottenham made an instant impact, winning United’s penalty to earn a draw.Embed from Getty Images
Edinson Cavani made a cameo in southern Spain and is expected to take Mason Greenwood’s place in the side given how deep Spurs will be and the potential need for an aerial presence.
Pre-match with the media, Mourinho made the point that three of United’s four goals against his Lilywhites have been penalties, while Solskjær warned of the Londoners’ dark arts which saw Anthony Martial harshly sent off for ‘violent conduct’ on Erik Lamela to turn the tide after Bruno Fernandes had given the hosts the lead in the 1-6.
Patience and concentration are expected to be key tenets for a successful journey to the state-of-the-art stadium as results begin to overshadow performances at this stage of the campaign, with the end of term and post-Easter run in approaching.
Absentees (estimated return)
- Phil Jones – knee (rehabilitation)
- Anthony Martial – knee (six weeks)
- Marcus Rashford – foot (late assessment)
- Luke Shaw – knock (late assessment)
(4-2-3-1) Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; Pogba, Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani
Quote from the boss
“I think the players will remember that game with a lot of pain and their pride has been hurt. Our professional pride has been hurt, the manner we lost is not ourselves and worthy of our team and we know that. We gave ourselves a difficult game by having 10 men. Pre-season was short and we weren’t up to the standard required, but we were so poor and I’m pretty, pretty sure we’ll see some players wanting to prove that we’re better than that.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Next match: Granada [H] Thursday, April 15Embed from Getty Images
Head-to-head (194 meetings)
- Tottenham – 53 (27%)
- Draw – 49 (25%)
- United – 92 (48%)
- Harry Kane vs Harry Maguire
- Heung-min Son vs Aaron Wan-Bissaka
- Pierre-Emile Højbjerg vs Bruno Fernandes
Let us know your thoughts ahead of the match and enjoy the game!