Tottenham vs. Man Utd PREVIEW + Predicted XIFlying Pig
PREVIEW:- Tottenham Hotspur VS Manchester United
8:15pm Kick-off -19th June 2020
Venue:- Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Premier League Form:-
Man Utd – DWWDW
Tottenham – WWLLD
Manchester United’s first game back after lock down is a truly mouth watering affair with the reds set to meet Tottenham Hotspur in London on Friday where another battle of wits will take place between current manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and ex-United manager/Portuguese football legend Jose Mourinho.
This is Manchester United’s first ever game at Tottenham’s newly built state of the art and imaginatively named stadium ‘The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium’ so we have no away record there to speak of but before lock down the Red devils were in a great run of form on the back of signing new fan favourite Bruno Fernandes in January. United beating Manchester City 2-0 at Old Trafford and a 5-0 drubbing of LASK Linz in the Europa League being the last 2 games United played before the stoppage with positive results and great team and individual performances throughout.
Behind closed doors
The game will be played behind closed doors and is the likely scenario for all remaining Premier League games this season. We will see how or if this plays into United’s favour as the fans have always been known as “the 12th man” offering an added motivation and boost to their players on the pitch. Without the Tottenham faithful chanting from the stands will this give Solksjaer’s boys a slightly easier task than usual? It probably won’t make much difference with both teams coming back after nearly 100 days of inactivity but it could be a factor in certain fixtures and games this season where an atmosphere home or away can play a role. Social distancing will take place with all staff and players in the travel and lead up to the game with no handshakes permitted before or after the game.
Solkjaer’s midfield selection conundrum
This is going to be an interesting game for United and Ole to see what the club legend plans to do for the rest of the season with his midfield. This game could be a big indicator. When Bruno came in in January he was a breath of fresh air and ignited the red devils forward line while giving United’s defensive midfielders an outlet. Someone to get the ball to who will drive forward and genuinely take the pressure off the defensive unit in the team with attacking intent.
Before lock down world cup winner Paul Pogba was not available due to an extended recovery period after ankle surgery. Scott Mctominay was also out injured for a long time. As good as Pogba and Mctominay were in some games near the start of the season, this exclusion of the pair saw the cementing of in my opinion United’s best midfield partnership of the season in terms of form together. Nemanja Matic and Fred. Nobody can deny the improvement Fred has made and the excellent role he has played sitting in front of United’s back line with Matic also impressing in this period. Allowing Bruno to gallivant forward and create drama for opposition defences. Personally I was very happy with how Fred and Matic performed their roles for the team and I would be happy to see the same midfield partnership play in behind Bruno in this game against Spurs, but the combination that Solskjaer will go with on Friday is as up in the air as Elon Musk’s space-X rockets. Which leads me on to my next point…
Fernandes and Pogba Time?
One of the reasons why Fred/Matic/Bruno worked so well after January is having the same high work rate but differing qualities that the trio each brings to the table. Nemanja Matic, though now slower than a few years ago has a real wealth of experience to call on and for the couple of months before football was suspended carried out the role of defensive midfielder fantastically well for United and was generally a very calming influence on the ball too.
Fred’s energy levels are through the roof tirelessly working backwards and harrying opposition players throughout the game, providing a great foil to Matic’s solid as a rock but slow as a stone style. Buzzing mercilessly around the centre of the park, often winning the ball back, driving forward and usually finding a good simple pass to Bruno Fernandes or one of the wingers in the process.
Bruno Fernandes looked so good for United not only because he gave these players an outlet going forward but because he himself was being given what he needed to shine from Matic and Fred in the short 6 games we saw from our new signing, with a stable base to play forward from. Fernandes’ best position has to be in behind the strikers and in front of the holding midfielders with his goal threat and ‘harpist like’ pulling of the strings evident for all to see in this position not just for United but for his old club Sporting too.
I cannot see Solskjaer moving Bruno back to a deeper position no matter how good his range of passing is. This will have to be the role filled by Paul Pogba if he is going to be successful in United’s midfield going forward. Pogba’s best position is arguably the same as Bruno Fernandes at CAM as opposed to a holding midfielder because to be a holding midfielder there are many defensive responsibilities to carry out and the energy levels required to be the box to box midfielder in a holding midfield duo in a 4231 is as much required as anywhere on the pitch. Paul Pogba’s comfort in this position, determination and effort has been a concern in the role previously with the French world cup winner occasionally showing a lack of desire to get back, get stuck in and sometimes being guilty of appearing to ‘let his head go’. This is not the same characteristic that Fred and Matic have displayed in the lead up to the football break so personally, I hope that we see Matic, Fred and Bruno start in midfield for the Spurs game as it’s a tested and proven partnership to allow Bruno the freedom to do his thing. Not to say that I wouldn’t welcome a revitalised Pogba in this role going forward. If he can play his way back into the side and be effective. He’s also coming back from a long term injury so throwing him in against Spurs maybe too big of a game to ‘experiment’ like this, though most of the players won’t be match sharp anyway.
Not just United fans but the whole world of football is licking their lips at the prospect of seeing Bruno and Pogba in midfield because on paper it sounds like it could be sensational. Two technically gifted and creative players both with world class credentials. However, we all know that football is played on grass and not on paper so we will see what happens going forward and what Solksjaer decides to do in Man Utd’s returning game against Spurs on Friday..
Brandon Williams or Luke Shaw at left back?
Up until this season I honestly thought the ceiling had been reached by Luke Shaw. A horror injury a couple of years ago stunting his progress as potentially England’s best left back for a decade on the back of his best form too. Under Jose Mourinho Luke Shaw really struggled, as did a lot of players! Receiving bi-monthly criticism from his own manager after games and in the press and at one point looked like he would never be that top class left back United really needed.
In came Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and I’m happy to report that Luke Shaw is one of United’s best performers this season and one of the players in form before the Premier League halted play. I credit this a lot to Solskjaer with his man management. The attitudes of the players seem night and day compared to when Jose was here. Solskjaer extending the arm around the shoulder of the players with a more gentle style of management seems to have benefited some of the players such as Luke.
The emergence of Brandon Williams at left back will also have to be credited for a big reason for Luke Shaw’s improvement in the first team this year. There’s nothing like having a young hungry whipper snapper being given opportunities instead of you (and largely taking them) by the manager to light the fire in the belly of a professional footballer. I think you have to factor this in when looking at the resurgence of Luke Shaw this season. He’s had competition for his place and with that competition Luke has had to step up.
As good as Brandon Williams is at 19 and boy do I think he’s good, he’s of course still lacking the experience of Luke Shaw. I believe in the future, Williams will be one of the best left backs in the league but he’s still young and honestly, Luke Shaw’s form up to football stopping means that he has to be United’s number one choice for left back. I welcome the competition. This doesn’t mean that Williams will not play against Spurs in fact we could see both feature, with Solskajer favouring a 532 variation in big games we could see both Williams at LWB and Luke Shaw as the left centre back once again.
Any Players still out injured?
The break was very welcome for both managers with Manchester United and Spurs having a number of players unavailable before lock down. The break may have benefited Spurs more who have seen many players return from injury in this spell out.
Currently the only player who is in doubt for United for Friday’s game is Phil Jones. It could be worse!
Jose on the other hand will welcome back forward players like Kane, Son, Moura who were either out injured or not fully fit for the original fixture date. Troy Parrott is now their only forward not available for the game! Jose must be very happy about this!
He won’t however be happy about not having Dele Alli available for the match as he is currently suspended by the FA for one match after making an insensitive joke about coronavirus on his social media.
Formation and Predicted line ups –
If the big games against the big teams are anything to go by under Solskjaer then it’s fair to say he likes to set the team up in a 352(532) variation and play defensively on the counter attack. Something that has actually worked out for him more often than not against the big managers and teams this season. We could see this employed in the game against Spurs on Friday, in fact I’d say it’s more likely than a 4-2-3-1 formation in this fixture. Here are 2 predicted line ups I have made showing a potential 4231 and 352 formation with a couple of personnel changes to go along with these possible tactics.
On the back of the news that Odion Ighalo has extended his loan stay at Manchester United from Shanghai Shenhua until January 2021, United find themselves in a healthy position with a bevy of attacking talents to choose from.
Marcus Rashford has been our best goalscorer this season looking best in a wide left wing position having scored 14 league goals in 22 appearances before getting injured. Not only is he securing meals for the nations youth in his spare time and changing things in parliament but he really has come on leaps and bounds under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season. I will be very happy to see him back in United’s line up on Friday should he play. Which he should.
Anthony Martial is not far behind in terms of improvement under Solskjaer but has been a little inconsistent over the season. He’s notched 11 league goals in 23 league games this season which is good but it’s still not on course for the 25-30 goals a season man we should have at number 9 but this is first full season playing in this position. He had a spell injured near the start of the season which didn’t help his flow but since coming back from that looked sharper and more determined to be United’s number 9 and key goalscorer going forward. He should start at number 9 against Spurs for me with Rashford on the left.
Odion Ighalo and Mason Greenwood too are fantastic options in certain games and coming on from the bench they put United in a great position to provide goals and something different when needed. Mason Greenwood has managed 5 Premier league goals this season in 22 appearances but 18 of them are cameos from the bench. He has scored in the EFL Cup, FA Cup and Europa League this season also and like Ighalo, will chip in with goals between now and the end of the season for Man Utd.
We are still at least two to three top players away from having a starting XI capable of challenging for the title or matching the best teams in the world but our young squad is getting better and nobody can say the signings that Solskjaer has made have not been shrude and positive signings.
All the pieces seem to be coming together. If you look at the form and current situations of the teams I cannot look beyond a tight game that United manage to win on the counter with our key men likely being Bruno Fernandes, Rashford & Martial.
Let’s hope for a positive start to the resumed season!
Come on United!!!
Aston Villa v Sheffield United (18:00 BST)
Manchester City v Arsenal (20:15 BST)
FRIDAY 19 JUNE
Norwich City v Southampton (18:00 BST)
Tottenham Hotspur v MANCHESTER UNITED (20:15 BST)
SATURDAY 20 JUNE
Watford v Leicester City (12:30 BST)
Brighton & Hove Albion v Arsenal (15:00 BST)
West Ham United v Wolverhampton Wanderers (17:30 BST)
AFC Bournemouth v Crystal Palace (19:45 BST)
SUNDAY 21 JUNE
Newcastle United v Sheffield United (14:00 BST)
Aston Villa v Chelsea (16:15 BST)
Everton v Liverpool (19:00 BST)
MONDAY 22 JUNE
Manchester City v Burnley (20:15 BST)
Do you think Manchester United will get the job done against Tottenham on Friday?
Which formation would you like to see in the game against Spurs?