Key Battles: Tuanzebe, Mitchell and McTominay to be given the nod against Spurs?


Manchester United travel to North London on Sunday afternoon to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, the final competitive match at White Hart Lane. Spurs will be playing for nothing on Sunday being that Chelsea clinched the Premier League title on Friday evening with a 1-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion. Spurs have already finished in second place this season with Liverpool seven points behind the North London club with six points left for them to play for. United have nothing to play for either, being back in sixth place after Arsenal beat them last Sunday, then beat Southampton in midweek, with a place in the Champions League possible only by winning the Europa League in a week and a half. Jose Mourinho could do something good in the league for United in their final three matches, playing youth! Not a full team, but players who have seemingly been knocking on the door of the first team this season. For this match, the key battles will be about three players who could find themselves starting for United this weekend.

Axel Tuanzebe

Axel Tuanzebe made his Manchester United debut during the 4-0 thrashing of Wigan Athletic in the Emirates FA Cup at the end of January after he replaced Timothy Fosu-Mensah in the 68th minute of the match, playing 22 minutes with United 2-0 up at the time. Tuanzebe then made his full debut last weekend, starting against Arsenal at right back, doing well throughout the match, keeping Alexis Sanchez on his feet and seemingly pegged back through the United defenders pace, intelligence and ability on and off the ball. Tuanzebe is a player who has a big future at United, being praised by Mourinho during pre-season, where he played in a friendly against Wigan with United winning that match 2-0. Tuanzebe is a central defender but can play in other positions, right-back being one of them. That position has been a problem for United this season with Antonio Valencia clearly first-choice but Matteo Darmian had been switched to left-back with Luke Shaw’s season going from bad to worse with injury and poor form. Ashley Young has also filled in at both fullback positions, but he too is injured and out for the remainder of the season, along with Shaw. Tuanzebe could fill in for Valencia again, placing him in a more central role, alongside Eric Bailly could give Mourinho a better option to rely on over Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.

Demetri Mitchell

Demetri Mitchell is a player who has endured an injury-plagued early career at United over recent seasons but this season, at this moment in actual fact, Mitchell is fit and ready to go. Mitchell has played in a defensive role for the U23’s this season, which has seen him put in some good performances for his side. The fact United do not have much cover at left-back at this stage of the season with Daley Blind playing a central role, Ashley Young and Luke Shaw on the sidelines and Matteo Darmian playing the role currently, the chances of him being rested would be slim. In steps Mitchell, who can put in a shift in this role, showing Mourinho and his side that he need not look at players outside of the club to fill the void in his squad, seemingly looking at youth to solve problems, which is where the Class of 92 came in for United under Sir Alex Ferguson more than 20 years ago now. Mitchell is quick on his feet, has the ability both on and off the ball and can do the role needed at left-back, playing there for the U23’s. I would not be surprised if Mourinho used the next three Premier League matches to blood in youth, giving them a chance to impress ahead of next season, where United’s players will need to step up as the excuses have been used during the past four seasons.

Scott McTominay

Scott McTominay made his Manchester United debut against Arsenal at the Emirates last Sunday, coming on for Juan Mata in the 84th minute of the match. McTominay, despite it being his debut and only being on the pitch for six minutes plus injury time, did not disappoint the on looking crowd. The 20-year-old had one shot on goal, which was saved, maintained possession with 100% of his passes successfully reaching a teammate, blocking an effort a minute after entering the pitch, also making a headed clearance in the 90th minute of the match, which thwarted an attempt for the home side to extend their lead once again. McTominay graced the pitch at the Emirates just over 24 hours later, playing for the U23’s, sadly on the losing side again. The fact McTominay made the best of his cameo shows his character. He’s a central midfield with some attacking flair, which has shone through this season in the U23 squad with them not having an out-and-out striker in the team with McTominay, Willock, and others stepping in at times to guide United through the season. I believe McTominay, the only player with Scottish roots at the club currently, will be an asset to both United and Mourinho, offering something new and more importantly rising through the ranks, furthering his career and looking to impress ahead of the new season. Whilst he may not be fully ready, not playing at the top-level will thwart that from coming through, so there would be no time like the present to test players abilities, which may see United not needing to spend top dollar in the summer, needing patience for players to develop, which is all part of the game.

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