Manchester United will be back in Premier League action on Sunday afternoon when they entertain Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in their second home match of the season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have turned a poor start to the season into a positive with wins in their last three matches following their opening day defeat to Crystal Palace. United will be seeking to get another three points on the board against Jose Mourinho’s Spurs side, who are in good form after playing in the qualification rounds of the UEFA Europa League, although they could be tired after having played four matches in eight days.
Over the past week or so, there has been some banter between Solskjaer and Mourinho which was started following United’s victory over Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League last week after Brighton levelled the score in added time only for United to win a penalty after the final whistle, awarded by VAR for a Neal Maupay hand ball inside the box. Solskjaer, speaking about the victory, told talkSPORT:
“We got away with one, to be fair. When they equalised I thought that’s two points lost. Maybe one point was what we deserved – I don’t think we deserved more but the character we showed deserved more.”
Solskjaer then spoke about the fact that Brighton hit the frame of the goal five times with the Norwegian jokingly saying:
“We have to be grateful Jose (Mourinho) is not here to measure the goalposts, it might have been smaller goals!”
Mourinho hit back regarding the number of penalties that United have won over the past season, including their winning penalty against Brighton, seemingly keeping the banter going. Speaking to Sky Sports by reported by talkSPORT, Mourinho said:
“I don’t think he [Solskjaer] will concern himself with the size of the goal but the size of the penalty box. He will not play with an 18 yard box, only 22 yards.”
Solskjaer was asked about Mourinho’s insinuation during his pre-match press conference on Friday regarding the number of penalties that United have been awarded. Instead of stoking the fire before the Old Trafford encounter, Solskjaer, as reported by The Metro, said:
“The rules are as they are in football, aren’t they? I didn’t really think more about that one. It’s more for you and the media. I think it’s important that we have a bit of entertainment as well.
“And Jose throughout the years has given us all some fantastic moments in football both in his press conferences and on the pitch. But as a striker I didn’t mind how big the box was, when I got in there it was just a strike on goal.”
How United have faired against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.
United have met Spurs a total of 56 times in the Premier League with United winning 35, drawing 12 and losing just nine times. In all those matches, United have scored 94 goals with Spurs scoring 50. United have been awarded seven penalties against Spurs, scoring all of them with Spurs having won no penalties at all. United have kept 28 clean sheets compared to Spurs’ eight. A total of 96 yellow cards were shown to United players with Spurs getting 91. United have had three players sent off in matches against Spurs with the North London club having one player sent off. Based on the previous matches, this fixture will be the biggest of the season so far.
In this fixture last season, played at Old Trafford, United won 2-1 with Marcus Rashford opening the scoring in the sixth minute of the match. However, Dele Alli levelled the score in the 39th minute if the match. United took the lead again in the 49th minute with Rashford scoring from the penalty spot. It was a good win for United. In the last match between the two clubs which was played in June and was the first match back after the coronavirus lockdown, it ended 1-1 with Steven Bergwijn opening the scoring in the 27th minute and United again scoring from the penalty spot in the 81st minute of the match with Bruno Fernandes scoring it.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The Spanish number one is being challenged this season by Dean Henderson, who has started twice for United in the Carabao Cup against both Luton Town and Brighton and Hove Albion, seeing United win both matches with the same 3-0 scoreline and keep two clean sheets, which is impressive. David De Gea seems to be playing in the Premier League with Henderson playing in the cup competitions so far, but with the UEFA Champions League being tough this season, that might change. One day, Henderson will play in the Premier League for United. Against Spurs, De Gea will most likely start but he needs to be watching over his shoulder.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
It is fair to say that United’s defence needs work. Victor Lindelof has been terrible at times. Harry Maguire has problems at the club and Eric Bailly is injury prone and can be rash at times, which is sometimes needed. These are the experiences players who are regularly playing for the club at this moment in time. Axel Tuanzebe is injured, as is Phil Jones. Marcos Rojo is in limbo and Chris Smalling seems to be close to an exit. Teden Mengi has great prospects but in terms of solving a problem, nothing seems to do that. Against Spurs, Bailly and Maguire, if fit, should start with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw in the fullback roles. More is needed though.
Midfield Two: Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic
United have a strong midfield. Donny van de Beek arrived this summer and I would like to see him start alongside Paul Pogba with Bruno Fernandes playing in the number ten role but I don’t think United’s defence would be ready for that at this moment in time. When they have found their feet and built a steel defence to thwart the attack, this trio in the midfield triangle might work. Until then, Nemanja Matic will have to play regularly, which he might not be able to do all the time, shielding the defence. He is good at that, as long as he is fit. He missed the midweek match, so might be ready and he will get a break over the next fortnight. Pogba to partner him.
Midfield Three: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford
United’s attacking three behind the striker, in the 4-2-3-1 formation, is a great bunch of players but behind them, in terms of rotation, there are players but the quality is perhaps not as good. United will need to bring in new players in this positions so that freshness is always a factor as the likes of Jesse Lingard and Daniel James are clearly not the players that will continue in the same vein as Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood. The trio should start against Spurs, if Fernandes is fit, as they are the best chance of creativity. Rashford has had a few good matches recently, as has Fernandes and Greenwood is still as deadly in attack.
Forward: Anthony Martial
The Frenchman has still not scored this season and has only played in the Premier League, being rested from both of the Carabao Cup matches against Luton Town and Brighton and Hove Albion. He will be seeking to open his account at the club this season, aiming to build on his 23 goals and 12 assists last season, which was his best season at the club by a long shot. Martial is a talented attacking player, maybe not the striker that would thrive at United, but he is their best option at this moment in time. The seemingly impending arrival of Edinson Cavani could be good for him though, both taking the pressure off him and helping perfect his skills.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Teden Mengi; Juan Mata, Daniel James, Donny van de Beek; Odion Ighalo
With three substitutes able to be used in the Premier League, Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup, when it starts – plus the fact that the UEFA Champions League will see up to five substitutions, like in all competitions after the restart next season, things could become complicated in the coming weeks. Against Spurs, Dean Henderson will likely be the goalkeeper on the bench with Sergio Romero seemingly out of the picture right now. In defence, Victor Lindelof and Teden Mengi could be called upon, if needed. In midfield, Juan Mata, Daniel James and Donny van de Beek could add some depth with the only attacking player being Odion Ighalo.
Written by John Walker