Preview: United v Tottenham Hotspur

December 31, 2013 Tags: , Matches 14 comments
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It is just a month since United last faced Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, but the contrast in fortunes could hardly be more stark. Following a 2-2 draw between the sides at White Hart Lane, David Moyes’ Reds lost successive matches against Everton and Newcastle United, prompting an over-zealous charge of crisis at Old Trafford. The crisis, if there ever was one, quickly dissipated as United won six matches on the spin in all competitions.

Meanwhile, the north London club sacked manager Andres Villas-Boas following a 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool. Spurs had won the three preceding games, to leave an open question of perspective, with the sides locked on 34 Premier League points a month hence.

New Spurs manager Tim Sherwood has since led the Londoners to league victories over Stoke City and Southampton as the competition for Champions League places intensifies. In a more open season than many anticipated neither United nor Spurs are guaranteed a place in Europe next season.

Tottenham remain inconsistent under Sherwood, where league victories have been permeated with defeat at West Ham United in the Capital One Cup, and a disappointing home draw with West Bromwich Albion. Yet, the new man has sought to stamp his authority on the team since signing an 18 month contract at White Hart Lane, taking the oft-repeated criticism faced by Villas-Boas – of tactical over-complexity – and introducing a simplified approach in a familiar 4-4-2 formation.

Indeed, Spurs represent United’s toughest opponent of the festive period, with Sherwood likely to deploy two forwards at Old Trafford. The former England midfielder is keen to take the game to the hosts despite preaching a measure of caution in recent days.

Still, it is United that remains the form side coming into the New Year’s Day clash at Old Trafford, with Moyes’ outfit having secured victories over Aston Villa, West Ham United, Hull City and Norwich City over the festive period. Victories that have taken a vulnerable side from mid-table to contenders for European qualification, if not quite favourites to retain the Premier League.

“I like to play with risk,” said Sherwood after Spurs’ 3-0 victory over Stoke City on Saturday.

“There is going to be tougher tests ahead and we know that. We have to try to find the right formula to perform against some of the bigger teams. We have to assess what Man United are coming with. We know they’re going to be very, very good.

“They always are and have been ever since I was in football. We know we have to give them respect but we can’t be lambs to the slaughter. We need to make sure we go out there and impose ourselves on them as much as we can.”

Spurs will do so without key midfielder Paulinho, who will miss the next month with an ankle injury sustained against Stoke, while Jermain Defoe is out with a hamstring problem. Kyle Walker returns following suspension, but Younes Kaboul, Sandro, Andros Townsend and Jan Vertonghen remain sidelined.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Old Trafford, 1 January 2014, 5.30pmMoyes has injury problems of his own to overcome, with strikers Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie likely to miss the clash, although Antonio Valencia returns from a one game suspension. Rooney has a groin problem, while the Dutchman is not likely to return until United’s Premier League clash with Swansea City in January.

Yet, in the absence of senior pros it is perhaps Danny Welbeck that has shone brightest over the past month. The Longsight-born forward has scored four goals in the past five matches, including United’s winner at Norwich. However, Welbeck hit the net just once between September and mid-December highlighting both the 23-year-old’s inconsistency in front of goal and the limited number of chances proffered in the player’s favoured central striking role.

“I think he’s stepped up again and has a big season ahead,” said United manager Moyes on Monday.

“Danny’s an important player and one of the boys to come through the Academy system. He’s a versatile player as well as a very good player. We can use Danny in several positions. He can play in the middle or on the left.

“With the second half of the season to go he should certainly be looking to score 20 goals – and we need him to do that. When you don’t have Wayne and you don’t have Robin you need people to step up to the mark and in quite a few games recently he’s done that for us.

“Danny’s hoping to go to the World Cup with England and play a part and I think Roy Hodgson sees him as an important part of his team. We see him as an important part here too and if he keeps producing goals it will be great.”

Elsewhere, Moyes must assess the fitness of a squad facing its third match in six days. Michael Carrick will start in central midfield having completed the match against Norwich, while Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher all remain in contention. In Rooney’s absence Shinji Kagawa could start, in what has been a largely frustrating season for the Japanese playmaker.

Victory could take United into the top four for the first time this season – reward for a fine set of recent results. In fact, six wins on the bounce represents United’s best winning streak since a period in August and September 2012 that ended with a 3-2 loss at home to Tottenham.

Should the pattern be repeated and Spurs win at Old Trafford the old charge of ‘crisis’ is unlikely to be heard, but the risk to United’s ambitions this season will certainly be felt.


Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League, Old Trafford, 5.30pm, 1 January 2014

United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Evra; Carrick, Cleverley; Valencia, Kagawa, Januzaj; Welbeck, Rooney. Subs from: Lindegaard, Fabio, Ferdinand, Vidić, Buttner, Zaha, Anderson, Giggs, Fletcher, Young, Hernández

Spurs (4-4-2): Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Rose; Lennon, Dembélé, Capoue, Eriksen; Soldado, Adebayor. Subs from: Friedel, Chadli, Naughton, Fryers, Bentaleb, Fredericks, Veljkovic, Holtby, Lamela

United 76 Draw 41 United 36

Officials (all Serbian)
Referee: Howard Webb
Assistants: M Mullarkey, D Can
Fourth Official: N Swarbrick


Matchday Forum discussion


Howard Webb - December 31, 2013 Reply

I hope Welbeck repeats his dive at WHL so I can give a penalty

Wojtek - January 1, 2014 Reply

My God, how many timee do we have to lose at home to an average team for everyone to see that this is just not working?!
Are we really becoming this team? Is Moyes turning into Wenger character always excusiing the team for not winning and or drawing games?
What is the excuse this time? A blatant penalty not given- so what????
A striker earning 250k a week not scorimg goals, a wste-of-skin forward Young earning God knows how much dokng nothing, another poor excuse of a footballer Nani gettin shitload of cash just to sit on the bench and do nothing? Wtf!!! We became Real Madrid from their worst period – overpaid losers blaming everyone but themselves.
Kagawa is obviously leaving the team – either on the thranafer market or in the body-bag!!! How the hell do you eat so much that you cant catch a breath??! Its bulimia guys – stress and lack of confidence plus no support from mediocre manager!
How can you waste such a footballer in a natyer of couple months!
Does the board realise that this is going nowhere – I would rather United get RELEGATED without a manager than stay like this for the remainder of Moyes’ 6year tenure!!!
Look at Newcastle – got relegated, got rid of dead wood an two seasons later are ABOVE US in the league.
If we lose 4 at home halfway into the season there is nothing to cling onto then.
Manchester United is staring into the abyss – will the abyss stare into us come the end of season when we are 6th placed team and playing for pennoes in Europa League? Has the time come to finally draw the curtain im the Theatre of Dreams??
Such a big team is torn to shreds – not by the outsiders bit from within.
Some of the players seem to just TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN.

Bernie Phillips - January 2, 2014 Reply

we are awful

Bernie Phillips - January 2, 2014 Reply

if you want to beet Madrid or barcer,,,,,,,,,gigs, rio,evera vidic to old. nani,young, cleverly,anderson,zarha,evans,jones,smalling,powle,hernandez,wellbeck,fabio,buttner not good enough

mongoletsi - January 4, 2014 Reply


Nani is world class… only… every 4th game he plays.

To write off Zaha is the sign of an imbecile. Similarly, how can you write off Powell yet?

Evans is a top class defender.

Hernandez poaching quality is undeniable.

Welbeck finally appears to be doing it for club and country.

It wasn’t a great game against Spurs, but it was as much Webb’s fault as our own.

Denton Davey - January 2, 2014 Reply

Interesting times.

Right now, it looks like all the elements of a cluster-fuck that were predicted by the NatteringNabobsOfNegativity are coming true.

Regularly playing AV25 and YoungTom indicates the dearth of quality in this squad.

Valencia is not a winger since he simply can’t locate a team-mate with his crosses and never/ever uses his “other” foot and so is utterly predictable; he’s most definitely not a right back since he was again ball-watching when he should have stopped Eriksen’s run for the second goal – same thing happened against Newcastle (or Everton).

Similarly, playing YoungTom just doesn’t work – he’s “neat” and “tidy” but he’s just not good enough.

Playing BigManSmalling at right back weakens the attack and doesn’t seem to add much (anything ?) to the defence. He was clueless – with both feet planted on the ground – for Adebayor’s header. Could Fabio be worse ?

Bringing on AshleyBloodyYoung to be a game-changer is an indication of either madness and/or desperation. Who is willing to diss Nani now ?

Seeing cornerstone-players – e.g., NinjaEvra, Rio and now, sadly, MC16 and CaptainVidic – decline precipitously doesn’t help.

Not playing KagawaBunga and Chicharito in a first-team devoid of skill is just plain silly.

DannyTheLad scored a lovely goal – but he could have had a couple more. AdnanJ flattered to deceive today. TheWayneBoy was energetic but not particularly effective.

If the team is not yet in full crisis mode – it looks like first place is beyond a miracle but 4th place isn’t impossible – but this business is based on winning, winning, winning and right now it’s hard to say that the on-field product is even “competing”.

What will to sponsors say about plunking down hundred of millions of dollars to sponsor a sixth/seventh place team ?

What will the owners do:

1) give AgentMoyes an open cheque-book ?

2) duck-and-cover ? or,

3) pray ?

Surely, they won’t bring back SAF so there must be some very, very uncomfortable decisions to be made, sharpish.

mongoletsi - January 4, 2014 Reply


Twitter banter says people avoid reading your posts because of the stupid names you give to grown men.

That said, I soldiered through your cringeworthy post, and partly-agree.

We have better players than Young (who IS playing better though) and Cleverly. But Moyes plays them.

When fit, our forwards of RVP and Rooney, with Welbeck and Hernandez as backup, present a threat to every defence.

Kagawa & Januzaj are the key, I feel. Moyes must recognise that the genuine world class talent is in attack. He must start playing RVP, Rooney, and one of these two (Kagawa in my opinion), and have a midfield 3. Valencia misses out here – he’s playing well again for the main. Nani is too hit-and-miss to rely on.

3 up top, solid 3 (Carrick, Feliani, Cleverly – plus Fletcher if/when fit). Encourage Evra and Rafael up the sides…

But, again, and as ever, your pathetic nicknames make you look like some kind of retarded schoolgirl.

therealdeal - January 2, 2014 Reply

The team and manager are total bullshit.
This team will finish no higher than 10th or mid-table. Its worse than a shame.

Joe Brindley - January 2, 2014 Reply

United only have Rooney, Januzaj, and the cripple RVP.

JA - January 3, 2014 Reply

The board should admit they (Ferguson) made a mistake with Moyes. The past 6 months have shown he is out of his depth, a ditherer, overcautious, poor man management skills, surrounded by his own yes men and totally wrong for United..
Better to sack him now, United are going nowhere and will struggle to make the top 4. If they get to league cup final with City, they will be thrashed.
Give Giggs the job to the end of the season, he can bring back Phelan, keep P Neville and Scholes as back up.

Denton Davey - January 4, 2014 Reply

Mongoletsi @ 8:02: ” I soldiered through your cringeworthy post, and partly-agree.”

Really ? In my version of footie-reality there’s absolutely no place for Valencia or Cleverley or AshleyBloodyYoung yet you seem to give them some credit where it’s most-definitely NOT due.

For me, it’s absolutely necessary to play MrJones and TheWayneBoy ahead of MC16 in a three-man midfield.

Up front, it’s an open question – and not one to which we are privy to the answer – if/whether/when RVP returns. Until there’s evidence to the contrary, that’s the case so it seems to me that the best use of the current resources is to give Chicharito an extended run as the lead-striker while playing two of DannyTheLad, Nani, AdnanJ and KagawaBunga as inside-forwards.

This non-sense about deploying wingers has to stop – isn’t the definition of insanity repeating past mistakes over-and-over-again in the hope that the failed tactics will somehow become successful. There is no evidence whatsoever that AshleyBloodyYoung or AV25 are capable of “somehow becoming successful”.

With regard to central defence, it’s imperative to have LittleRedRafa fit as the two other options – AV25 and BigManSmalling – have been awful in the right back role. On the left, if it’s determined that NinjaEvra can’t do the job any more and that Fabio isn’t up to it, then I’d play Jonny Evans there and rotate Smalling, Vidic and Rio in the centre.

But, even if you don’t agree with my “cringeworthy” presentation, I’d like to think that you and your fellow-twitterers can look beyond that and try to come to grips with the dire lack of quality in this squad and maybe even present some alternative thoughts – as opposed to knee-jerk jerkiness.

mongoletsi - January 5, 2014 Reply

Valencia has shown signs of regaining form this season. But I agree that Young is barely fit to be in the squad, let alone be a starter (let alone make £120k pw). Cleverly can’t be deemed a lost cause yet; we do see glimpses of quality. Something needs to go click in his head.

To suggest that Rooney be deployed in midfield is madness. It’s not his best position, and he’s said he doesn’t want to play there.

Carrick is still potent when fit. Jones is best at CB and prefers but he’s also a fine DM, so he’ll be played there a lot. I hope Fletcher somehow overcomes all the odds but the clock is ticking. I always liked Anderson but it’s time he moved on.

Nobody is disagreeing that there’s a dire lack of quality in the squad, btw.

Denton Davey - January 5, 2014 Reply

Mongoletsi @ 12:00 “Valencia has shown signs of regaining form this season.”

You’re joking, right ? How many goals/assists so far this season ? AND, it’s not like he’s now getting the ball in very, very dangerous situations – it’s just that he does the square-root-of-sweet-fuck-all when he gets the ball

“To suggest that Rooney be deployed in midfield is madness. It’s not his best position, and he’s said he doesn’t want to play there.”

So what if he “doesn’t want to play there” ? The last time I looked, it’s a T-E-A-M game and no player is bigger than the team. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that playing him (and/or MrJones) in “midfield” is ideal; what I am saying is that – given the current options – playing those two with MC16 is the best way to optimize the T-E-A-M’s chances of winning.

Both Rooney and Jones are “ballers” – they’re ultra-competitive and energetic athletes whose “compete-level” is very, very high. Playing them both in “midfield” gives the T-E-A-M a far more dynamic and thrusting combination than any of the alternatives.

On the corollary point – “no value in the market”, etc. The failure to land Daniele De Rossi when he was available – on the cheap, too – was a total disaster. If there is any one player whose inclusion would immediately upgrade UTD’s “midfield” he was the guy who was “gettable” this summer. BUT, that’s spilt-milk; our next target should be Ilkay Gundogan.

My other response to your recent post would be that I’d be very, very leery of putting all-our-egg’s in TheWayneBoy’s basket. As long as he’s under contract, he’ll play hard and compete but his off-field issues (weight, smoking, hookers, etc) are unlikely to go away and, indeed, might only be more of a problem as he turns 30.

Again playing “fantasy footie”, I’d look into swapping him to C$KALondon for Romelu Lukaku. IF AgentMoyes has been give the brief to make serious changes to the playing squad then it seems to me that Rooney – like MC16 and Giggs as well as Rio/Vidic/Evra/RVP – are part of the past, not the future. Possibly the worst scenario would be to think that some kind of tinkering is going to work; there’s a solid group of younger, already-experienced professionals (Rafa, DDG, Jonny Evans, BigManSmalling, MrJones, Chicharito, KagawaBunga, and DannyTheLad) who can form the core of TheNextUnited. The transition won’t be pretty but persisting with that older group and never-will-be-good-enough guys like Valencia/Young/Cleverley is no recipe for success.

Joe Brindley - January 6, 2014 Reply

We should not dream of playing and beating Madrid or Barca…let’s just dream of beating Sunderland and West Brom.

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