It has been a troubling week for Manchester United after their loss to Brighton & Hove Albion last Sunday afternoon. With so much commotion surrounding the club, which has partly stemmed from the transfer window and the club’s shambolic pre-season tour to America, the Red Devils are in desperate need of a big win against Tottenham on Monday evening.
Mauricio Pochettino’s players have begun their Premier League campaign with two wins against Newcastle and Fulham - both who they would have expected to have beaten. However, Spurs, even without the full fitness of their international stars, have impressed with their link-up and use of peripheral squad players such as Lucas Moura and Érik Lamela.
This fixture is normally a tense affair at Old Trafford with the three results ending in 1-0 victories to Manchester United. Pochettino knows that if he is to truly challenge for the Premier League title this season, then he needs to start picking up points in difficult away games such as this one.
It is not difficult to see how defeatist Manchester United have been in the past few weeks, and the performance against Chris Hughton’s Brighton team was not entirely surprising. The lack of harmony at the club, from top to bottom, is quite clearly being portrayed on the pitch with certain players shying away from responsibility.
However, José Mourinho has a knack of pulling out rabbits from a hat. Last season, when the odds were firmly stacked against United, the Portuguese boss engineered a 1-0 victory over Tottenham and negated their potent attack, and this season the Red Devils are 8/5 to take the victory and against Spurs with Unibet.
You have to go back to 2014 for the last time the Red Devils lost to Spurs at home in the Premier League. Since then, they have won every single match played at Old Trafford in all competitions, becoming a team that Pochettino’s players struggle up against away from home.
There is plenty of talk about the Argentine being one of the prime candidates to take the job at Man United, should Mourinho be relieved of his services this season. Quite obviously, the Portuguese boss will use this as motivation to send out a message to his critics, as well as the board, and make sure his team turn up and perform to the level that is expected of them.
After the transfer window had closed before the opening match of the Premier League season, it was decided that Toby Alderweireld would stay with the Lilywhites and play for at least one more year. With the Belgian’s inclusion in Pochettino’s squad, the former Southampton manager has reverted back to his 3-1-4-2 formation, with the prolific centre back partnering of Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sánchez.
Further up the field, Dele Alli is reaping the rewards of having three sturdy central defenders behind him, as well as wing-backs who will track back and carry out their defensive duties. Operating through the middle, the Englishman has actually been drifting out towards the left-hand side and causing havoc.
Against Newcastle, the midfielder was deployed on the left in a 4-2-3-1, where he was more restricted, but still managed to get his name on the scoresheet by picking up an advanced position in the box. Although he did not score against Fulham, Alli’s involvement was a lot further up the pitch and managed to get Tottenham on the front foot when transitioning from defence into attack.
Now fit and firing, Alli will be one of Spurs’ pivotal players this season in Pochettino’s 3-1-4-2 formation, picking up positions out-wide but also just in behind the two strikers. In trickier games, Alli might even be used in tandem with Harry Kane, creating a partnership that was seen last season where the former MK Dons player was featuring just off the shoulder of the England captain.
The last time this game produced over 3.5 goals was in 2012 - a 3-2 win for Tottenham away at Old Trafford. Notoriously, this is always a low-scoring affair with tensions high and both teams not wanting to give much away.
With Mourinho’s typical, defensive tactics being deployed against Spurs, Pochettino’s players will find it difficult to play in behind and create big chances to score past David De Gea. Although Brighton scored three last weekend, United’s players will have been drilled incredibly hard this week in order to get those mistakes out of their game and to focus on their shape against Tottenham’s fluid system.
The former Chelsea and Real Madrid coach can pull out a big performance when needed, and given I think Alli will be on the scoresheet, I think this match will end 2-1 to the Red Devils; a scoreline you back with Bet365 at very favourable odds of 10/1. Bet365 also offer under 3.5 goals to be scored at 2/7 for this match.
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