Manchester United at Tottenham Hotspur:
Jan 11, 2019
This game sets up as a very interesting game for a number of story lines. First, the bookies have indicated that Mauricio Pochettino is the odds on favorite to take over the vacancy left by Jose’s firing. The second, is that the “second choice” for this position is currently interim-manager Ole Solskjær Gunnar. As a result of these intermingled story lines, this could very well be the final job interview for Ed Woodward and the Manchester United Board. SkySports asked a number of their pundits about whether or not Pochettino should take the job, if you don’t want to read their article I’ll give you the shortened version, yes.
The next story line is that as these two teams meet, they meet as 3rd (Tottenham) and 6th (Manchester United) place teams in the Premier League. A win for United would move them into a tie with Arsenal for a Europa League birth. It would also make the gap only 3 points between the 4th and final Champions League place — it also means that they are 13 points off of runaway Liverpool. For Tottenham, a win here helps them keep pace with the others.
Tottenham continue to play their “home” games at Wembley, which has maintained its status far from a fortress for them. Tottenham have lost 3 of their 9 matches at home (33%) as opposed to 2 of their 12 away games (~17%). We are nearing the halfway point of the season and Spurs still have a grip on one of the coveted top-4 (and automatic UEFA Champions League qualifying spots). The continued delays on new Whitehart Lane mean that they will continue to play games at Wembley until at least March. This is only relevant because, to date, Tottenham have played 3 more away games than home games and they were markedly better in the stadium that they actually owned.
Tottenham fans likely thought this would be an easy win (keeping in mind it’s still Manchester United…) earlier in the season, but since the sacking of their manager in early December, it may yet be a game. Tottenham are averaging 2 goals scored per game at “home” while conceding only 1. Spurs have managed to start quickly, where United have (at least under Mourinho) managed to only be motivated after falling behind. Spurs (at home) have scored 7 of their 18 goals inside the opening 30′ of the game, during the same time frame Manchester United have allowed 9 of their 19 goals to be scored against.
Manchester United have been a completely different side since sacking Mourinho. Many of the United faithful had been firing shots for most of the season about the complete lack of attacking movement. Rather than trying to be an ultra-defensive side missing key components (like… a fit and class defense), Solksjaer has admitted that United’s “strength – [is] going forward, attacking“. Under his tutelage United have managed 5 wins in 5 attempts, although as many have pointed out. it’s not against the most skilled of opponents. However, that changes here, Spurs have been playing well and have a solid grasp of a top-4 finish, a win here would indicate that United (and Solksjaer) could end up being serious competition (at least for a top-4 spot).
Manchester United continue to struggle with the injury bug which will keep out Chris Smalling and Marcus Rojo, though Pogba should return. Manchester United finally have made for a positive differential in road games, they are scoring 2 goals per match and conceding 1.73. The last time we featured this Manchester United side (against Liverpool), they were conceding nearly 0.2 goals more than they were scoring. Since Solksjaer took over leadership at Manchester United, they have scored 14 goals while conceding only 3 goals across his 4 Premier League games. No doubt they didn’t come against the most difficult opponents, but those 14 represent nearly 33% of their goals on the season (the other 16 games they accounted for only 29 goals). This is more evidence of the dramatic shift in philosophy at United, and tomorrow we will see if it will help them climb further up the table!
What to expect from the matchup
The neutrals expect to Tottenham to win this one and they expect at least 3 goals to be scored. Although Tottenham are favored in this matchup, it might not be by as much as the Tottenham faithful would like to see.
Injury News (Manchester United):
Out: Chris Smalling, Marcus Rojo, Eric Bailly (Suspension)
Likely to play: Paul Pogba
Injury News (Tottenham Hotspur): Out: Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele