Match preview: Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United
After last week’s disappointing draw at Loftus Road, Spurs return to White Hart Lane to face league leaders Manchester United.

 

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United

Date: Sunday, 20 December 2013
Kick-off: 16:00 GMT
Stadium: White Hart Lane, London
Referee: Chris Foy

Tottenham Hotspur dropped two valuable points against rock bottom QPR last week. Some lacklustre individual performances and a lack of creative incisiveness meant Spurs were unable to unlock a defensive and resilient QPR side.

The game proved even more damaging after midfield general Sandro was forced to come off with a knee injury. He will be out for the remainder of the season after he underwent knee surgery on Wednesday.

Despite last week’s draw Spurs are currently on a 6-game unbeaten run, winning 4 and drawing twice. At the moment Spurs sit 4th in the league, just 2 points behind Chelsea.

United have conceded surprisingly many goals this season and have also been trailing during many games. From conceding 3 goals in 25 minutes away at Reading, to going behind 3 times against Newcastle at home, United have struggled to put on a solid defensive display. United have conceded the most goals (29) of all teams in the top 6 of the Premier League.

But in recent away games United have been more cautious and felt less inclined to dictate play. Both at Swansea and Wigan they sat back for large spells of the game and waited for the opposition to make defensive errors or leave space to exploit on the counter-attack. Especially against Wigan they simply were very clinical on the counter-attack to cruise to a 4-0 victory.

United are on an amazing run, having won 9 of their last 10 games. The last time they lost in the league dates back to 17 November 2012 when they lost 1-0 to Norwich City at Carrow Road.

Team news

Spurs

William Gallas will miss Sunday’s game with a calf injury.

Long-term absentee Younes Kaboul is still recovering from his knee surgery but is very close to returning to full training.

After losing Sandro for the rest of the season it is likely Scott Parker will make his first Premier League start of the season for Spurs.

Spurs will also be without Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor who has departed for the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.

Manchester United

Steven Fletcher will miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to resolve his chronic bowel disease. The midfielder had to take a break from football in December 2011 after he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Fletcher made his return this season, making 13 appearances for United.

According to Manchster United, the recent surgery was not a result of a setback but was a “planned procedure undertaken at the optimal time [Fletcher] having achieved a period of sustained good general health.”

Ashley Young will miss Sunday’s game after suffering a knock to his knee during United’s home victory over Liverpool.

United will most likely be without Johnny Evans due to a hamstring injury. Nemanja Vidic is expected to return after suffering a concussion

Head-to-head

  • Spurs’ 2-3 away win last September ended a 23-year old hoodoo in which they had not won at Old Trafford.
  • Spurs last beat United at White Hart Lane in May 2001, courtesy of a Willem Korsten brace.
  • Spurs haven’t done the double over Manchester United since the 1989/90 season.

KickOff Stats

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Run-in

  • United are on a 10-game unbeaten run in the league.
  • Spurs are on a 5-game unbeaten run at White Hart Lane .
  • Spurs have won 55% of their last 20 home games.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United run-in

Goals

  •  United have scored 20 goals (36%) from set-pieces this season.
  • In their last 20 home games, 10 of the 20 goals conceded by Spurs have come in open play, whilst 9 have come from set-pieces.
  • The last 20 Man Utd away matches have produced an average of 3.35 goals per game.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United goals

Scoreline

  • Spurs have scored in 90% of their last 20 home games.
  • Spurs have conceded in 70% of their last 20 home games.
  • United have conceded exactly 1 goal in 9 of their last 20 away games, going on to win 4, draw 1 and lose 4 of these matches.
  • Spurs last conceded exactly 2 goals at home 14 games ago.

 

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United probability full-time result

 First goalscorer

  • Spurs have scored first in 11 of their last 20 home games, going on to win 9 times.
  • United have scored first in 11 of their last 20 away games.
  • Jermain Defoe has scored 19% of the Spurs goals in their last 20 home games.
  • Robin van Persie has scored 20% of the Man Utd goals in their last 20 away games.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United first goalscorer

Total Tottenham prediction

Obviously this is going to be a tough game, regardless of how United approach this game. I think both teams will emphasize their need not to lose. A draw against United at home won’t be a bad result for Spurs, neither will an away draw at White Hart Lane be for United.

Contrary to popular belief I don’t expect this to be a ‘real game’ because United want to ‘play football’. Ferguson is no mug and he will be more than happy to see his side counter-attack its way to a valuable away victory. Of course a team of United’s stature will have more quality to successfully hit us on the break than a mid-table team like Swansea or Stoke, therefore looking more ‘up for it’ than a side who is not as prolific going forward.

I expect United to continue with their more cautious approach away from home by sucking up the pressure early on in the game. Spurs have scored the fewest first half goals in the league so a 0-0 scoreline at half-time would definitely be a plus for us.

It will be key for Spurs to dominate central midfield where Parker and Dembélé will most likely be up against Cleverley and Carrick. Especially Carrick is an instrumental player in United’s build-up game.

Nullifying Carrick’s passing game will help disrupt United’s game plan and could see Spurs win possession in United’s half. Spurs’ attacking central midfielder, probably Clint Dempsey, will have to bring his A-game when it comes to pressing both Carrick and one of the central defenders along with Defoe.

Sir Alex Ferguson will probably field Nani and Valencia on the wings. It will be interesting to see what positions they will take when United are not in possession, given they will either have to deal with Bale and Lennon or pin back our full-backs by staying higher up the pitch.

United’s defence can be beaten for pace, especially Vidic and Ferdinand. If Moussa Dembélé can find space to put through-balls in behind United’s centre-backs to an inwards drifting Bale, Dempsey or Defoe, it will cause them trouble.

After United’s last league game against Liverpool I would definitely encourage players like Dempsey and Bale to test David De Gea from range as he often fails to parry shots away from the danger area, giving onrushing strikers such as Defoe a chance to latch on to the rebound.

Final score : 1-1

Spurs to open the score early on in the second half courtesy of a Clint Dempsey long range effort. United to level with about 15-20 minutes to go from a corner-kick. A nervy final 10 minutes will see both sides going for the win but in the end none of them clinch all 3 points.

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Dutch Spurs fan, football connoisseur and ambassador of free-flowing attacking football.

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