Spurs have been our whipping boys for years so it was a shock when they managed to beat us 3-2 at Old Trafford earlier this season. Conceding three times wasn’t much of a surprise, given how regularly we concede goals these days, but when we battered them in the second half but didn’t even manage to draw level, I could hardly believe it. Not just because we were creating enough chances to win a game, but because Spurs have a history of going ahead against us, only to crumble when we apply pressure. We completed 627 passes against them, to their 188, and had 76% possession, yet Spurs wouldn’t be ground down and wouldn’t concede their lead. Maybe that was good luck, something Spurs fans will bore you to tears saying they deserve against us, or maybe this Spurs team has more about them than their teams of years gone by.
Only United, City and West Brom have a better home record than Spurs this season, with them winning 6 of the 11 games they’ve played at White Hart Lane. Thankfully, we have the best away record in the league, having already beaten City, Chelsea and Liverpool away from home. That’s not to say we will make light work of Spurs, but we also have little reason to be fearful. A key injury for them is that of Sandro, a player who wouldn’t look out of place at United, which should give us a helping hand in the midfield battle.
Hopefully Carrick and Cleverley will start in the centre of the midfield but we’re hardly spoilt for choice when it comes to the wings. Nani had a great opportunity to stake a claim for a starting position in the cup midweek but had a typically poor performance. It was his first game back since injury but he looked as though he picked up where he left off, sadly, with poor decision making and wayward shooting. Shinji Kagawa had a good game on the left against Liverpool so it would make sense for him to play there again whilst Valencia, who has struggled for form this season, will likely play on the right, largely thanks to having no competition, since Ashley Young’s injury. He has been declared fit to play but with all his recent injuries, the boss might not want to take any risks.
More positive injury news is that Nemanja Vidic, who went off limping on Wednesday, will be available for today’s game. With Jonny Evans still missing, this is a huge boost for us at the back. Wayne Rooney is back in the team now, which should be a bonus, although I can’t claim I hope he’s on penalty taking duty today. He’s missed ten for us now, which is poor, having missed five of his last nine. Robin van Persie isn’t flawless from the penalty spot but you’d fancy him to score more than you would Wazza. Van Persie has scored in all of our big games so far this season and will be up for scoring in a game when his every touch will be booed by the home fans, who aren’t the biggest fans of the former Arsenal man. Ahead of the West Ham game I was watching him warm up and he somehow managed to make simple passing between his team mates look impressive. Lovely first touches, clever flicks, pinpoint accuracy, Van Persie is just a cut above.
With City winning yesterday, the gap has been cut to four points. Ideally, we obviously want to return to the seven point margin, but a draw would be a good enough result here, with Spurs likely to be buoyed by their victory at Old Trafford. Even a defeat wouldn’t be a disaster but it might bring about a bit of a swing in momentum between us and our title rivals.
Come on United!
bwin bets – £20 would win you…
Van Persie to score first: £100
Carrick to score any time: £160
United to win 2-1: £180
Spurs winning at half-time, United winning at full-time: £520
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.