Two of the Premier League’s most in-form teams finally face off in a crucial encounter for the aspirations of both sides.
Spurs vs Manchester United Preview and Prediction
Caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer will be keen to extend his impressive start with Manchester United, while Mauricio Pochettino will be eager to capitalize on last week’s defeat for Liverpool against Manchester City by keeping Spurs in the title race.
Fact of Interest:
- Spurs and Man United have alternated wins against each other in all competitions for the last 8 matches in all competitions. The last time either of them managed to win consecutively was Man United, winning back to back home league games in March and August 2015.
- The last draw in this fixture was December 2014’s tepid 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane in December 2014.
- Spurs have won the last 3 matches at home against Man United. Before that, 3 consecutive draws at home against the same opponent makes their current home record unbeaten in 6 against the Red Devils.
- Man United’s last away win against Spurs was in March 2012, a 3-1 win featuring a brace for Ashley Young. Alex Ferguson was still the manager of Man United at the time.
- Spurs’ home record isn’t especially favourable; 3 of their 5 defeats in this season’s campaign have come at Wembley, with 2 of those defeats at the hands of title rivals (Liverpool and Man City).
- Despite scoring as many goals away from home (22) as Liverpool and Arsenal, with only Tottenham having scored more, Man United’s away record hasn’t produced much to celebrate with 5 wins and 4 defeats.
- Spurs have scored 54% of their league goals thus far in the first half, but intriguingly, 40% of their goals have come either side of halftime.
- Man United have a fairly even split between halves; 51% of their goals arrive in the first half of matches, with 28% of their total scoring coming in the 15 minutes before halftime..
- Harry Kane (in 10 matches), Dele Alli (in 9 matches) and Christian Eriksen (in 13 matches) have each scored 2 goals against Man United.
- Heung-min Son has never scored against Man United.
- Romelu Lukaku has scored once against Spurs in 2 appearances, with the goal being scored in Everton colours.
- Anthony Martial has scored once against Spurs in 5 appearances.
- Alexis Sanchez has scored 3 times against Spurs in 11 appearances, with one scored while playing for Man United.
- Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba have never scored against Spurs.
Both sides enter the match after comfortable FA Cup ties last weekend, but Spurs had to navigate the first leg of the League Cup against Chelsea in midweek, an uncomfortable 1-0 win.
Midfielders Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier remain on the sidelines due to a knee injury and appendicitis, respectively. Man United are without defenders Rojo and Smalling, while Pogba’s recent injury against Newcastle may keep him out further beyond the FA Cup win over Reading.
Expected Line-ups and Tactical Considerations:
As much as performances of Liverpool and Man City are getting praise, Pochettino’s results this season with Spurs require an equal measure of admiration, especially given their slight outlier place in the title race. Injuries have been an issue, but compensated for accordingly, and the performances of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Song, Kieran Trippier and Dele Alli in particular have left the manager with much to smile about. Fatigue may be a concern; Spurs haven’t had the luxury of rotating given their light squad depth and a near full strength team lined up against Chelsea in the midweek tie for the first leg of the League Cup.
Injuries remain a challenge, but it appears that Spurs are superbly resilient, if nothing else. With a 4231 shape likely against the Red Devils, the back five should feature a familiar back four of Hugo Lloris with Kieran Tripper, Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez and Danny Rose lining up ahead of him. In midfield, the double pivot of Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko is poised to repeat its use with creative outlet Christian Eriksen used as a 3rd midfielder or a more advanced set playmaker depending on Spurs’ needs. If it’s the latter, it’s anticipated that the Dane will slot in alongside Dele Alli and Heung Min Son; the former will keep Eriksen in midfield, with Alli behind Son and star striker Harry Kane.
The performances and results under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer make any systemic similarities to the previous regime ultimately ridiculous; the Norwegian has generated a response far more akin to the Man United of old in their output and style of play. Curiously, the team has cycled between 433 and 4231 with the key change being the role of Paul Pogba, who has become completely revolutionized under new management (at least, on the surface). Solskjaer is yet to lose a match, and has enjoyed two consecutive clean sheets – but how they cope with a test of this nature should be a much clearer indicator of how material his improvement with the Red Devils has been.
Assuming a clean bill of health for all players, it’s anticipated that the 4231 system will be used away to Spurs. The back five should revert to the first team used against Newcastle – De Gea in goal with Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw across the back from right to left. In midfield, the improving double pivot of Matic and Herrera, offering both workrate and combativeness. The front 4 should feature Marcus Rashford supported by the restored Anthony Martial and veteran Juan Mata. If Pogba passes for fitness, he’ll be the obvious choice to navigate the spot behind Rashford; failing which its most likely Jese Lingard will line up in the Frenchman’s place.
Match Facts & Summary
|Head to Head||Tottenham||Man United|
|Current League Record||Played 21, Won 16, Lost 5||Played 21, Won 11, Lost 5|
|Current League Top Scorers||Kane (14), Son (8)||Martial / Lukaku (8), Pogba (7)|
|Last 10 Competitive Matches||Tottenham 4 Wins, 1 Draw, Man United 5 Wins|
|Last 10 Competitive Matches at Wembley / White Hart Lane||Tottenham 3 Wins, 5 Draws, Man United 2 Wins|
|Last Season’s Result||Tottenham 2-0 Man United|
|Odds of Interest (as at 5 Jan)||Tottenham||Man United|
|Odds – Result (Draw = 2.64)||1.07||2.53|
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Solskjaer’s record makes for excellent viewing, but there’s a healthy caution about the fact that he has yet to face a “bigger” team; Spurs will provide an excellent barometer to the Norwegian’s full credentials. But there’s the equalizer as well, as while Spurs continue to impress, their home record has undermined them, even though the team’s careful blend of tactical flexibility and squad rotation hasn’t hurt away results. The title race is still in their grasps and they’ll be considerate of the need to win regardless.
Both sides are well matched in player quality and roles; injuries have hurt both into using some of the less illustrious options, but the performances have held up. Man United do possess the more obvious talent, especially in midfield, but to underestimate the Spurs attack is considerably unwise given its recent ability to put lesser teams to the sword. With so many elements cancelling each other out, something has to give. Spurs have yet to draw this season in the league, and Solskjaer has yet to drop any points – but in the absence of the obvious winner, expect an exciting score draw to end some short trendlines but ultimately leave the neutrals excited about a quality encounter within the top 6.
Please note betting odds quoted are correct at time of publication and are subject to change. View the latest EPL Betting Odds