After 118 years Tottenham Hotspur prepares to say goodbye to White Hart Lane. The century has not aged the old ground well, with Spurs’ facilities outdated and other clubs moving ahead. It is testament to Mauricio Pochettino’s talent as a manager that he has taken the Lillywhites to second on the Premier League’s sixth largest budget. José Mourinho might typically be out to spoil the party, but with the Manchester United manager has long since prioritised winning the Europa League. It might not be a scratch team on Sunday, but it is likely to be far from full strength.
Perhaps, in private, José Mourinho will admit that Manchester United’s performance at Arsenal last Sunday was one of relentless mediocrity. In public, of course, he said something very different, defending his players and bemoaning a heavy schedule. Yet, United remained competitive against Arsenal for no more than 15 minutes at the Emirates. Then the home side took charge, with two quick goals securing the points for a beleaguered Arsene Wenger. It was a performance that should stimulate plenty of scrutiny about the manager’s approach this season – not least in his management of a squad that contains a mix of players too shattered to be effective and those too rusty to impress.
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future,” Niels Bohr, physicist.
“No serious futurist deals in prediction. These are for television oracles and newspaper astrologers,” Alvin Toffler, author.
“I’m going to make a prediction – it could go either way,” Ron Atkinson, soothsayer.
There was little excuse for Manchester United’s performance last Sunday as José Mourinho’s side slipped to yet another home draw, this time against Swansea City. Yet, for an increasingly unpredictable manager, finger-pointing was once again the order of the day as the Reds’ top-four hopes took a potentially terminal blow. There is room for improvement, with Mourinho taking his injury-hit squad to Spain on Thursday to face Celta Vigo in the Europa League semi-final. In a decidedly mixed campaign, the sweetener of more silverware remains.
When Manchester United drew Celta Vigo in the Europa League semi-final it had fans looking at Wikipedia, checking Whoscored for data, and reaching for the long-lost Galician guide books. Celta may not be one of La Liga’s giants, nor doing particularly well this season, but it is a team that has dispatched some decent quality opposition in this year’s competition. Celta is also the club that stands between United and a date in Stockholm at the end of May – and possible Champions League qualification.
Legend goes that a broken fax machine was all that kept David De Gea from his purported dream move to Real Madrid back in 2015. The detailed account is, naturally, slightly more complex with documents being sent right at the very end of the transfer window and in the end not being processed through FIFA channels in time. Both clubs played the blame game before De Gea, surprisingly, signed a four-year deal. Now he may finally be on his way.