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Key Battles: Pogba, Mkhitaryan and Bailly to be key against Spurs

Manchester United welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford on Sunday in a clash where United could half the gap between themselves and their visitors. Tottenham head to Manchester with a record of two wins in seven Premier League games this term, far from a formidable return. United will be looking to take all three points at Old Trafford, with anything less only creating more distance between Jose Mourinho’s side and the leading pack. If United are to come away with the result so desperately needed, Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Eric Bailly could hold the keys in overcoming a very dangerous Spurs side.

Paul Pogba v Mousa Dembele 

It seems repetitive involving Paul Pogba in each week’s key battles, however, the reality is that week in week out, when Pogba performs, United glisten. The Frenchman and his Belgian counterpart both share a similar, domineering style in the centre of midfield – with both prone to burst through the lines and drag their team forward. In three of Dembele’s eight games for Spurs this season, Squakwa adjudged him to be their best player. It will be crucial that Pogba gets the better of him to limit Spurs’ creative power from deep. On the other hand, Pogba has created 26 chances for United in 14 games this season, placing him head and shoulders above his teammates as his side’s most creative influence. It will be the individual who can assert his authority on this game more convincingly who will walk down the tunnel part of the winning side.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan v Danny Rose

With Anthony Martial likely retaining his place on the left-hand side, it will be between Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata as to who starts on the right-hand side – however, with Danny Rose’s attacking threat down the left, Jose Mourinho is more likely to start the more energetic Mkhitaryan on the right. United’s midfield Armenian has made real waves since his return to the United starting XI and it quickly growing into one of the first names on the team sheet. In the United number 22’s first start in the Premier League last Sunday at Goodison Park, he earned Squawka’s Man of the Match award, showing his successful adaptation to the English game. Although the Armenia captain will inevitably drift infield throughout the game, it will be primarily Rose’s responsibility to shackle him. Mkhitaryan has contributed two assists and one goal in his last three games for United, so if Rose allows him to continue in this vein, United may well finally wield the cutting edge to finish a team off at Old Trafford.

Eric Bailly v Harry Kane 

Eric Bailly has been sorely missed for United and he showed just how his presence has been lacking on Thursday night in Odessa. In the second half, Bailly raised a big Ivorian boot up to brilliantly intercept and  prevent Zorya a likely one on one opportunity, which may have been the moment that in recent weeks has cost United. Harry Kane, similarly, is a figure who has been sorely missed by Spurs. Since his return, the England striker has found the net five times in four Premier League appearances for the London club, so represents Spurs’ greatest goalscoring threat and will need to be handled with caution by Bailly. Take Kane out of the game and Spurs’ threat going forward is significantly impaired; should Bailly keep the ex-Arsenal youth player under wraps, United should be able to more comfortably commit men forward, and unleash the attacking talents at United’s disposal on Sunday.

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