The FourFourTwo Preview: Man United vs Tottenham

Premier League | Old Trafford | Sun 15 Mar | 4pm

Billed as

Another fine opportunity to make Louis go loopy.

MAN UNITED FORM

  • Man Utd 1-2 Arsenal (FAC)
  • Newcastle 0-1 Man Utd (Prem)
  • Man Utd 2-0 S’land (Prem)
  • Swansea 2-1 Man Utd (Prem)
  • Preston 1-3 Man Utd (FAC)

TOTTENHAM FORM

  • QPR 1-2 Spurs (Prem)
  • Spurs 3-2 Swansea (Prem)
  • Chelsea 2-0 Spurs (LC)
  • Fiorentina 2-0 Spurs (EL)
  • Spurs 2-2 West Ham (Prem)

The lowdown

Oh just look at that mess you’ve made, Manchester United. Didn’t Papa Fergie ever tell you off for this nonsense?

Perhaps not. Instead there’s a confused step-father in his place whose dreaded ‘philosophy’ is still to be understood by more than one player (Ashley Young, it seems) and is just about keeping the Red Devils in the top four. Yes, the dreaded P-word. And no, even King Louis himself isn’t sure what it is yet. But keep guessing.

If hanging onto a Champions League slot with those pesky Liverbirds from down the road snapping at their heels wasn’t already difficult enough, there’s been plenty more this week to keep Red heads perspiring.

Like the painful death of trophy hopes this season. Or the record signing who’s roughing up referees. That, and the chap up front on £265,000 a week who’s playing with the kids.

Then there’s the diving. And the equine-like afrohead whose every other touch seems to send an opponent hurtling towards the floor. Don’t forget the spitting too. And the diving, while you’re with us.

But apart from all those things, existence is rosy at Old Trafford. Except the reported rift between Van Gaal and Ryan Giggs that may or may not be complete nonsense (it’s probably nonsense). But apart from all those things...

Perhaps it’s not the best time to host the Harry Kane-shaped juggernaut that is Tottenham, then. Because Spurs’ baby-faced hitman is probably the best striker in the Premier League right now, and the joke’s always going to be on you because he might never stop scoring. Ever.

The England hopeful is only one goal shy of joining Diego Costa and Sergio Aguero at the top of the charts after netting his 25th and 26th goals of the season against QPR last weekend.

Spurs fans are gazing wistfully at a top-four finish like a deluded spouse who's adamant that their cheating partner will change their ways, though there is actually plenty of promise this time (yes, you said that before) as they sit just a point behind Liverpool and three behind Sunday’s opponents.

Last season they raided Old Trafford for three points, under the expertly-haphazard tutelage of Tim Sherwood, for the second time in as many seasons. A third would really make things interesting.

Team news

Robin van Persie is still crocked with an ankle injury, so Wayne Rooney will likely continue bettering the Dutchman up front. Jonny Evans serves game No.2 of a six-match ban, with Angel Di Maria joining him on the FA naughty step for one after his midweek #headsgone moment. Wing-back Young hobbled off against Arsenal and is touch and go. Mauricio Pochettino has no such problems at Tottenham, with a clean bill of health and none of his players having aggravated any officials. How lovely for him.

Player to watch: Marouane Fellaini (Man United)

Sightings of the ex-Everton man trying to pass a football have caused many a nightmare for United fans, and on Monday he did little to disprove the consensus that he isn’t good enough to play for this team. His contributions amounted to 8 fouls and little else in an erratic performance, in which he was probably fortunate not to have been sent off. Those numbers are high, but the manner of them isn’t abnormal.

We know what Fellaini is about: at times a useful driving force from deep positions, and a brilliant competitor in the air whose ability should almost certainly provide more goals and assists. Somewhere in that head is a brain, however – and one he must start using properly.

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

  • 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)
  • United 2-3 Spurs (PL, Sep 12)

The managers

If he can make it out of the mound of column inches written about him this week, there’s nothing else Van Gaal can do but roll up his sleeves and kick some unperforming booties into shape.

"We don't lose from the opponent, we lost from ourselves," he grumbled after Monday’s 2-1 defeat to Arsenal which cost his side a place in the FA Cup semi-finals.

United didn’t so much shoot themselves in the foot but blow off the limb with a shotgun, and the Dutchman’s first task is reinstating some discipline all over the pitch.

That starts with cutting out the daft mistakes, but continues with getting onside with the referee too – four of the Reds’ five midfielders, plus Marcos Rojo, were booked (or worse).

Things are more straightforward for Pochettino, who saw his side overcome a tough week in Europe and at Wembley with back-to-back wins over Swansea and QPR, the latter their game in hand.

"We are still young and the team need to improve. I'm very pleased because after two defeats the response was fantastic," chimed the chirpy Argentine.

Facts and figures

  • Wayne Rooney has scored 7 goals in his last 8 Premier League starts against Spurs.
  • Harry Kane has scored in his last 6 Premier League away games; only one player in the competition’s history (Robin van Persie, 9 in a row) has scored in 7 consecutive away games.
  • Spurs are only the third team in the Premier League era to go 5 league games unbeaten against the Red Devils, after Liverpool (2000-2002) and Blackburn (2004-2006).
    More FFT Stats Zone facts

FourFourTwo prediction

2-2. Maybe.

Man United vs Tottenham LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone