Preview: Manchester United have the confidence to beat Spurs but the big game mentality and desire needs to be shown by all


Tottenham Hotspur -v- Manchester United

Premier League

Wembley Stadium, London

Sunday 13 January 2019; KO 16:30 GMT

Referee: Mike Dean

Manchester United face a big challenge under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday afternoon as the Red Devils face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. United have won the last five matches in a row since the Norwegian replaced Jose Mourinho at the helm of the club and the level of football has been pretty exciting, although the Emirates FA Cup match against Reading last weekend was dire despite United winning 2-0. Solskjaer did mate wholesale changes to his starting XI though.

There is some excitement surrounding the club once again and the players now seem to be enjoying themselves under Solskjaer’s leadership. United ended up being beaten 3-0 by Spurs at the start of the season at Old Trafford. Two goals in two minutes at the start of the second half caught United out with a third goal coming in the final few minutes of the match. It was a poor game of football. Spurs had nine attempts on goal, five on target with United having 23 shots, five also on target.

This United team, which has played with confidence for the last five matches, should be up for the challenge of Spurs. This season, United have been given chances to claw back the gap between them and the top four, failing to take those chances. Now United need to create their own chances which should see them finish the season on a high, which is where the club needs to be. This United side has had 68 shots on goal in the last five matches, 29 on target, scoring 16 goals. Now it is on them to beat Spurs.

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Pre-Match Opinion: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has rejuvenated this Manchester United team with confidence at an all-time high!

Solskjaer knows exactly what Manchester United is about and he has brought that back into the team. 2019 will mark the sixth year since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and this has got to be one of the first times that the identity of the club has been apparent. There are many factors for this; the Glazers, Ed Woodward, misspending in the transfer market, three different permanent managers and the fact that the board do not seem to have much knowledge of football with the club being seen more like a business.

All that aside, Solskjaer has brought back the confidence of an ailing team. The attacking prowess of the club has been well-known by most supporters but the restrictive football, which had been played because of the fragile defence, and other reasons, was enough to knock the confidence out of the strongest willed people. United should be attacking from the offset, which is where they can punish their opposition. Spurs should feel the wrath of United in this respect as the 3-0 defeat in August was not United at their best.

The Norwegian has the skills and the knowledge to bring the best out of this United side. Granted, in the past five matches they have not faced big teams but the level of confidence on the pitch was a massive change from what we had seen previously. Confidence builds things and the momentum United have right now is partly because of that confidence. I am not saying United are unstoppable, but they are more unstoppable than they were before this period. That should put United in a good position.

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Team News: Paul Pogba fit to face Spurs after Newcastle injury; Eric Bailly suspended; Marcos Rojo injured

Solskjaer sat down with the media on Thursday evening, just under three days before the Premier League clash with Spurs at Wembley. £89 million midfielder Paul Pogba missed the FA Cup victory over Reading last weekend after sustaining a knock in that horror-challenge by Jonjo Shelvey against Newcastle United. The midfield against Reading looked poor and Pogba’s return will welcome. Eric Bailly will miss this game, the third of his three-match suspension. Marcos Rojo is out of action again and is in Argentina.

Chris Smalling is working to recover from his injury. He did travel to the warm weather training camp in Dubai with Solskjaer suggesting that he could return around the time of the Spurs match, of which we will see when the team travel down to London at some point on Saturday. Mauricio Pochettino will most likely be without Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier for the visit of United with Lucas Moura and Jan Vertonghen doubts for the match.

United have played some impressive football under Solskjaer since he replaced Mourinho. The Norwegian himself spoke about the matches United have played, four in the league and one in the FA Cup, which have all come against lesser opposition. This game will be different for United as Spurs are a top side and they may not allow United to attack them as others have. Solskjaer, speaking in his press conference about attacking, said:

“You always adapt to any opposition we play. You all know the best teams in the league and of course we have to be aware of their strengths. But I’ve been brought up in a way that we need to attack teams. I think that’s our strength as well, going forward and attacking, as a team when you look at us now the way we’ve played.

“We’re not going to get as many chances to attack against these [Spurs] as we’ve had before, so we’ve got to be ready for when we get hold of the ball and play well with it to make sure we use the whole pitch because Wembley is a decent-sized pitch as well.”

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Predicted Starting XI: Marcus Rashford has grown under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and should be Manchester United’s main striker…

Marcus Rashford has scored three goals, assisting a further goal in the last five matches, which has shown how he has grown under Solskjaer in as many matches. Reports suggest that the Norwegian has installed Rashford as the main striker, which if correct will see Romelu Lukaku on the bench more often than not. Lukaku has scored three goals in his last three appearances, two from the bench but in terms of what he has offered as the front man, Rashford has more in his locker.

Anthony Martial has played in three of the last five matches, scoring once and assisting once. He might not be showing the blistering form we know he is capable of yet but the signs are that it is coming. The playability between him and Luke Shaw is a key to the level of support offered on the left, which can unlock the very best for United. Paul Pogba is the in-form player under Solskjaer, playing four of the five matches, scoring four goals and three assists.

Jesse Lingard is another who has excelled, scoring twice and assisting twice, playing as many games as his Academy graduate teammate, Pogba. Having Rashford, Martial, Pogba and Lingard as the four attacking players is the best option for United and Solakjaer right now. His ability to call upon Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez will give him more firepower against the bigger teams, also allow him to rotate how squad, which will need to happen with the UEFA Champions League a month away from its return.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United Betting Tips

The two sides have scored 40 goals between them in their last six matches. Bet on over 3.5 goals at odds of 6/4 with 138 UK. Romelu Lukaku has scored three goals in his last three matches. Bet on the striker to score any time against Spurs at 15/8 with 138 UK. United look capable of beating Spurs this weekend. Bet on both sides to score and United to win at 17/4 with 138 UK.

Match Prediction: Manchester United have the players to teach Spurs a lesson and now the confidence to ensure that it happens…

United are best when everyone has written them off. That seems to have been done by many this season already. The last five matches, United have arisen from the depths of obscurity. Winning all five, four of them in the Premier League, sees United’s best winning streak in the competition since the end of last season when Mourinho’s side beat Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Swansea City and Manchester City.

Granted, beating Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth and Newcastle United is not the same as beating three of the top six teams last season but in terms of the season United have had, it is a massive improvement. They are merely battles which United have won and there are so many more of them to come. Winning the last five matches could mean nothing if United do not leave London with any points on Sunday. A draw would be a good result, a win even better.

Solskjaer will want to see his team beat Spurs but it is the United players who owe that to the interim manager and the supporters. Spurs are a good team in the Premier League but they have not achieved anything yet. They have challenged to win the league but always fallen short when it matters. That history they have is what United need to capitalise on. This team has all the ingredients to build on the results of the last five matches, stretching it to six games will be the best scenario for the club, players and the fans.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Manchester United

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