Man United welcome Spurs to Old Trafford on Wednesday in an eagerly anticipated clash between two of the traditional ‘Big Six’ clubs, both vying for a top four finish. Both Clubs sit in and around the Champions League spots, but with the Premier League being particularly tight at the top, it’s tricky to decipher who needs the win more.
Spurs are currently 3rd in the league standings, level on points with champions Man City, but below them on goal difference. Opponents and hosts United, sit seven points and two places below the North Londoners, having played a game less.
Man United head into the fixture off the back of a goalless draw with Newcastle United at Old Trafford on the weekend. The result represents a missed opportunity for the Red Devils as they face two tough games in the preceding week: Spurs on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea on the weekend.
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United boss Erik Ten Hag believes that his side will improve once Cristiano Ronaldo and Anthony Martial are fully fit and consistently available.
“We had to deal with problems offensively from the start: Cristiano Ronaldo was unavailable, Anthony Martial was not on the pitch and didn’t play a full game until now,” said the Red Devil’s manager during his pre-match press conference.
“I’m sure when that is better, with two No.9s present and fit in a good, combative shape, the results from the team will improve.
“I’m a person that is never satisfied. I am happy to be here but I’m not satisfied where we are but I also know that I’m impatient. I think good is not good enough, we have to do better.
“I see many things that can go better but I also see improvement so when we keep going with this progress we’ll improve more and I will be even happier.”
The Red Devils have a great record at Old Trafford against the ‘big six’ clubs this season, beating both Liverpool and Arsenal by a 2-1 and 3-1 scoreline, respectively.
However, Spurs pose a different threat as United would sit back and soak up pressure before hitting the teams in the aforementioned victories on the counter-attack. But Antonio Conte deploys a similar tactic within his playing style, unless facing lowly opposition. And with United being at home the impetus will be on them to have a more pragmatic approach.
Spurs will look to do to United what the Red Devils did to both Liverpool and Arsenal: lure the opposition in and sucker-punch them on the break.
Former United defender Rio Ferdinand, has urged his old team to play on the front foot, and look to win the game.
Speaking on his YouTube show FIVE, Rio said: “I think the game is there for us to win. I think it will be tight, I don’t think it will be a free-scoring game but I think there will be some stuff going on in there.
“I don’t think there is much between the teams, United should be going out there and saying we are going to win this game.
“You’re at home at Old Trafford, against Spurs – at the end of the day that should be looking like three points so you should be going out there with the intention of taking three points.”
Antonio Conte’s side have had their best ever start to a Premier League campaign, racking up 23 points from a possible 30. The Lilywhites also sit top of their UCL group, albeit just, as only 3 points separate them and 4th place Eintracht Frankfurt.
Spurs have kept two clean sheets in their last two PL fixtures, but Conte is wary of the threat posed by United superstar and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. The Italian has explained how in the corresponding fixture last season it was CR7 who beat them, and not Man United.
“Last season he [Ronaldo] scored a hat-trick against us,” said Conte in his pre-match presser. “We’re talking about an incredible player, a top player. We’re talking about a player who continues to make a difference for the team in which he plays.
“I have a lot of admiration for Cristiano, for his professionalism, but I hope he will remain calm, not like last season, when he scored three goals. We lost 3-2, but we lost to him, not to United last season. I remember that very well, because we played a very good game.”
Given Spurs’ fine start and United dropping points at the weekend, as well as a tough run-in prior to the World Cup, the pressure is on the Red Devils to get a result in the clash in order to keep pace with the current top four.
Failure to do so could see United fall six points off 4th spot, and potentially slip down to 9th in the league, should the teams around them win.
Very hypothetical, but it illustrates the importance of this game for the Red Devils.
Man United 2 – 2 Spurs
On paper, Spurs head into the game as favourites given their impressive form. However, United have shown that at Old Trafford in the big matches, they can raise their game.
Since United haven’t come up against this sort of stylistic approach from a big team in their victories at home this season, it’s tough to say they will most certainly win the game, but we can’t see them losing either.
There will be goals as we may see both teams trying to strike in transition. Given the quality across both frontlines, we should see the ball hit the back of the net a few times.