Saturday’s late game features Tottenham’s visit to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United in arguably the weekend’s most entertaining contest. Manchester United are coming off a decent enough week which saw them finally win away in the Premier League at Stoke City by the score of 2 goals to 1. Their midweek Carling Cup fourth round tie also witnessed a victory, both matches saved by United new boy Javier Hernandez who is sure to get the start this weekend against Spurs.
Spurs are coming off a hard fought draw at home against Everton. The North London side were obviously slightly hungover from their Champions League loss away in Milan as they had some 48 hours to prepare for the Premier League fixture as the weekend’s first match last Saturday. It’ll be interesting to see how both sides attack in such an important fixture, but a fixture where certain key players will be available, rested and ready come Saturday.
United are currently third in the league table, level on points with both Arsenal and Manchester City with goal difference separating the three. Tottenham are in fifth, behind by only 2 points.
The story on paper before kick off surely has to be dominated by Spurs woeful record against Manchester United in the Premier League over the course of the last 20 years. Manchester United have 18 victories in 22 matches against Spurs and have lost none of their league matches against Tottenham since December, 1989. While football continues to be played out on the pitch, here are 3 key match ups to watch this Saturday when Spurs hope to break their terrible slump against Manchester United.
Author’s Note: Recent news suggests that Harry Redknapp may rest Gareth Bale. These match ups are under the impression that Redknapp will stick with his first choice starting XI.
Gareth Bale v United’s Right Back, Likely John O’Shea – Unlike the position of left back, easily dominated by Patrice Evra, United lack an out and out first choice pick at right back since Gary Neville’s better days. John O’Shea will be a good shout because of his age and experience, but Rafael da Silva’s pace and energy could also be utilized by Sir Alex Ferguson to combat the roaming ways of one Gareth Bale, easily one of the best left sided midfielders in the world on current form.
Bale’s ability to run at and take on defenders is currently unmatched in the Premier League. He recently scored a San Siro silencing hat-trick against European Champions Inter Milan in the Champions League, one in which he used and abused Brazilian right back Maicon (also considered to be one of the best in his position in the world) on multiple occasions.
Gareth Bale boasts great on the ball skills, a fantastic shot and cross, and the ability to hit a perfect ball while standing over a set piece. Watch for Bale to advance Spurs forward position if he finds even the slightest bit of space to either shoot, or send crosses into the box for Peter Crouch to win.
Whether or not United employee a right back that can match pace, skill and industry to keep up with Bale is yet to be seen. If O’Shea encounters problems early on, look for Darren Fletcher to lean towards the right side of midfield to assist in defending Spurs attack.
Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez v William Gallas – Should Sir Alex elect to start Hernandez, look for his darting runs, pace and shooting ability to trouble a Spurs second choice central defense. With Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate still out with long term injuries, former Arsenal bad boy William Gallas and Sebastien Bassong or Younes Kaboul should get the start in central defense.
For United, Chicharito is the in form man of the moment. His brace last weekend secured three points for United while his late substitution during United’s midweek Carling Cup tie provided enough time for the Mexican striker to grab the winner. He’s a solid finisher who’s settling into English football quite quicker than anyone predicted. Look for Hernandez to impress at home on Saturday while partnering Dimitar Berbatov up front for United.
William Gallas may be in the twilight of his career, but he’s definitely still a crafty and experienced defender. Look for Chicharito to try and exploit Gallas’ weaknesses with his pace and movement while not under estimating Gallas’ abilities to man mark Chicharito out of the game.
Attack v Attack, Nani v Rafael van der Vaart – Although the two won’t necessarily meet fact to face much during the match, both players are extremely important as it pertains to their sides attacking shape. Nani is enjoying his best form ever as a United player while van der Vaart made the transition from Real Madrid to the Premier League quite seamlessly.
Nani will start on the right side of midfield for United to add width down the flank. He’ll also cut in quite a bit when looking to shoot. The key to Nani’s play being effective will be his wastefulness, or lack thereof in attack. Nani can be extremely productive going forward (and can track back to defend), but he’s frustrated United fans immensely during his time at Old Trafford for being far too wasteful on certain occasions.
Rafael van der Vaart has been in sensational form for Spurs during his first season in English football. He’s scored 4 league goals for Spurs and has been a positive addition to a Spurs side that wasn’t lacking creative or attacking players before his arrival. Van der Vaart will likely line up slightly behind main target man Peter Crouch but will drift in and out of forward positions and midfield throughout. His passing, skills on the ball and link play with those around him has made him a class player in his day.
Enjoy Saturday’s match football fans and feel free to leave any key match ups you think we should watch for in the comments section.