What: English Premier League
Who: Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur
When: Saturday 29th September, 2012 at 17:30 UK Time
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Hallmark of Champions
Manchester United have not hit top gear yet this season, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are still grinding out results. This, so the saying goes, is the hallmark of champions, though Ferguson will surely want to see his side improve their form well in advance of the tough Christmas period of fixtures which can make or break a title challenge. Beating Tottenham comfortably at Old Trafford would be the perfect way to start.
The Red Devils will be boosted by the return of Wayne Rooney, who was afforded 75 minutes against Newcastle United in the club’s 2-1 win over the Magpies in League Cup action in midweek. Strangely though, Manchester United are not crying out for Rooney, as Robin van Persie is shining up front. But pairing the two together here would leave Tottenham’s defenders having to deal with not just one, but two world-class striking options.
Ferguson will be well aware that his side have utterly dominated fixtures against Tottenham at Old Trafford in recent years; Spurs need to go back to 2005 for the last time they even managed a draw from a trip up north in the Premier League. And with Manchester United having won their last six consecutive games, without really playing scintillating football, the omens for Spurs do not look good.
Portuguese Revolution Getting Started?
Andre Villas-Boas had to wait a while for his first Premier League win as Spurs boss, but it duly arrived on 16th September, with a 3-1 win at Reading. The former Chelsea manager could not have afforded to wait much longer, as doubts began to be expressed about his succeeding Harry Redknapp. In truth, the jury is still very much out on the 34-year-old as a Premier League manager – and he cannot afford to fail at White Hart Lane, otherwise his reputation would take serious damage.
Spurs followed that up with a 0-0 home draw against Lazio in the Europa League, then got back to winning ways last weekend when beating QPR 2-1 in the Premier League. Villas-Boas may have watched his side ease to a 3-0 win away at League One Carlisle in the League Cup in midweek, but there still seems a fragility about the club’s upturn in form.
Given his efforts to push Spurs forward, Villas-Boas could do without the question of who is the club’s number 1 goalkeeper being endlessly discussed. In France, there is bafflement at how Tottenham could pay millions for international shot-stopper Hugo Lloris and then play 41-year-old Brad Friedel instead. Villas-Boas will want to forget the constant chatter and, he explains, he is targeting visiting Old Trafford and winning.
"It would make us very proud to go there and get a win that would shorten the distance to the top", said the former FC Porto boss.
Manchester United 1-0 Galatasaray (19/09; Champions League)
Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United (23/09; Premier League)
Manchester United 2-1 Newcastle United (26/09; League Cup)
Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Lazio (20/09; Europa League)
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 QPR (23/09; Premier League)
Carlisle United 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur (26/09; League Cup)
Manchester United: Nemanja Vidic; Antonio Valencia; Phil Jones; Ashley Young; Chris Smalling; Rafael da Silva
Tottenham Hotspur: Emmanuel Adebayor (doubt); Benoit Assou-Ekotto; Younes Kaboul; Scott Parker
Players to watch
Manchester United – Wayne Rooney: The return of Rooney will be a big boost for Manchester United and the thought of pairing the England star up with Robin van Persie has excited Ferguson from the moment he bought the Dutchman. Van Persie’s presence can allow Rooney vital space and, while not perhaps at 100%, he can still be a decisive factor in this match.
Tottenham Hotspur – Brad Friedel: The American goalkeeper was angered recently when former Manchester United star Fabian Barthez claimed Hugo Lloris should be Spurs number 1. Friedel knows that Lloris is breathing down his neck, but he will not give up without a fight – and he could have ample chance to impress at Old Trafford.
Manchester United have not yet looked at their best this season, only just beating Galatasaray, with the Turkish champions playing well, while Liverpool were also the better side, even at times when ten men, last weekend. However, Ferguson’s side keep winning and, with world class players who can change a game in an instant, perhaps that is to be expected. Spurs too do not yet seem up to speed and Villas-Boas may need time to really shape his side. This trip could have come too soon for Tottenham. Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur.
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