Premier League | Old Trafford | Sat 8 Aug | 12:45pm
The match that determines Harry Kane’s future. Score and he’ll be the subject of a £50 million bid from Manchester United at 10:50pm on deadline day; fail to find the net and he’ll be Chingford’s answer to Amr Zaki.
MAN UTD FORM
- Man Utd 0-2 PSG (F)
- Man Utd 3-1 Barcelona (F)
- Man Utd 3-1 San Jose (F)
- Man Utd 1-0 Club America (F)
- Milan 0-2 Spurs (F)
- Real Madrid 2-0 Spurs (F)
- MLS All Stars 2-1 Spurs (F)
- Spurs 2-1 Brentford (F)
- Spurs 1-0 Reading (F)
It has been a strange summer for Manchester United. The early capture of Memphis Depay fuelled the optimism around Old Trafford, with the completion of deals for Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Matteo Darmian within the space of a few days prompting many United fans to proclaim themselves as title challengers.
There is still a worrying lack of balance to the side, though: the Red Devils have flirted with Nicolas Otamendi and Sergio Ramos for weeks on end, but the much-needed new centre-back has yet to arrive, while the will-he-won’t-he saga that is David de Gea to Real Madrid continues to rumble on, providing an unwelcome distraction at the beginning of the campaign.
Tottenham have added a trio of new signings, Toby Alderweireld, Kieran Trippier and Kevin Wimmer joining as Mauricio Pochettino looks to bolster a backline that shipped 53 goals last term.
Perhaps more importantly, the likes of Christian Eriksen, Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Kane haven't been prised away from White Hart Lane – at least not yet, anyway.
A place in the top four will be the target for Spurs, although a fifth- or sixth-place finish, potential cup run and another year of growth for this young team would probably represent a successful season.
Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini and Javier Hernandez all look set to sit this one out, with Angel Di Maria finally sealing his switch to Paris Saint-Germain. The departure of Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie means Wayne Rooney is free to reassume the centre-forward mantle, with 19-year-old academy product James Wilson currently the only other fit striker in the squad.
Andros Townsend and Roberto Soldado are both injured for the visitors, although it's extremely doubtful that either would have been picked in Pochettino’s XI anyway. Alderweireld and Trippier are likely to make their competitive debuts in defence, while Eric Dier has been trialled in a holding midfield role in pre-season and could be pushed forward after playing at right-back and centre-half last term.
Key battle: Morgan Schneiderlin vs Nabil Bentaleb
It will be interesting to see how Louis van Gaal configures his midfield this season following the arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger, and the good form in the second half of 2014/15 of Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Juan Mata. Despite the numerous options at his disposal, Schneiderlin will surely start on Saturday. The France international, who worked under Pochettino at Southampton and wanted to join Tottenham last summer, will add bite and energy to the Red Devils’ engine room, not to mention the ability to drive his team forward and help turn defence into attack quickly.
Kane’s breakthrough stole the majority of the headlines last time out, but Bentaleb was arguably equally as impressive in his first full campaign. Sitting in front of the defence and breaking up opposition attacks, the Algerian proved indispensable throughout and will look to build on his accomplishments this season. Bentaleb provides a solid platform on which Tottenham can build, allowing the likes of Eriksen and Nacer Chadli to concentrate on doing damage in the final third. The midfield battle between the two could go some way to deciding which side takes home the points this weekend.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- United 3-0 Spurs (PL, Mar 15)
- Spurs 0-0 United (PL, Dec 14)
- United 1-2 Spurs (PL, Jan 14)
- Spurs 2-2 United (PL, Dec 13)
- Spurs 1-1 United (PL, Jan 13)
After a debut year in which he regularly fielded wingers at full-back, strikers in midfield and Fellaini as a deep-lying targetman-cum-battering ram, it will be interesting to see what novel ideas Van Gaal has come up with during the summer break. The Dutchman has already revealed that his compatriot Daley Blind – that’s Daley Blind, the central midfielder and left-back – will start in the heart of defence, with rumours of Phil Jones playing as an inverted left winger so far unfounded.
Pochettino, meanwhile, has added a bit more steel to the notoriously flaky Lilywhites: last season, the Argentine’s side won 17 points from losing positions and avoided defeat in 13 of their 19 Premier League away games. Spurs are disappointingly less Spursy than they used to be.
Facts and figures
- Harry Kane won his team 24 points with his goals last season, more than any other player.
- Wayne Rooney has scored more goals on the opening weekend of the season than any other current Premier League player (6).
- Memphis Depay scored 7 direct free-kick goals last season; more than any other player in the top five European leagues or the Eredivisie.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
While this will probably be tighter than United’s comfortable 3-0 victory over Spurs in March, the hosts should still have enough to claim an opening-day win. 2-1.