Super Sunday Preview: Tottenham Versus Manchester United

Only a single point separates Tottenham and Manchester United heading into their clash at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Both clubs are in the mix of Top Four competitors along with seven other teams. Spurs are currently in ninth place in the league but they are only four points out of second place in what has turned out to be the most wide-open Premier League race in years.

Spurs and United are two clubs moving in different directions. The Red Devils are undefeated in eleven straight matches during all competitions and are coming of the largest away win in the club’s Champions League history. The 5-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen secured United’s place in the knockout stage of the European competition and erased the bad memories of last weekend’s injury-time letdown at Cardiff City.

Tottenham are coming off a 2-0 Europa League win against Tromso and have secured their place in the final 32 of the competition. But they have had difficulty in matches following Europa League fixtures. Tottenham have won three and lost three in Sunday matches following Thursday night European contests. Spurs have also not scored a goal in their last three Premier League contests and were shelled in their last league match; a 6-0 defeat to Manchester City.

The match against City sent supporters and the media into a frenzy. Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has faced loud criticism over the setup of his team, particularly the use of Roberto Soldado as Spurs lone-striker. The Spanish international has not scored a goal from open play in over 900 minutes for Spurs and the club has continually struggled to score goals in the Premier League. Tottenham have only scored nine goals in twelve matches; with Soldado scoring four times, three of his goals have come from penalties.

Many have suggested that Tottenham should use another striker alongside Soldado to give him someone to play off of. Villas-Boas has stated that he will experiment with a 4-4-2 formation, but he won’t do that until after Tottenham play Manchester United.

Some point out that Tottenham’s lack of a true ‘number ten’ is hurting the club’s offensive production. Others feel that the club simply needs to get Soldado better service inside the penalty box since that’s how the player made his name in La Liga. The Spanish forward only has 360 touches this season. As compared to Wayne Rooney (748), Luis Suarez (508; and he missed the first five BPL games of the season), and Sergio Aguero.(473).

British pundits Jamie Carragher, Gary Neville and Alan Shearer also laid into Tottenham’s players for last weekend’s poor showing at the Etihad Stadium. The unanimous feeling was the players simply  were “not ready to play” against Manchester City. Video evidence was dissected and individual Spurs players were called out for their actions.

The pundits also pointed out that Spurs have become slower and more predictable under Villas-Boas. Although they are third in the Premier League in possession (58.6%), there is no pace in their passing which has made it easier for opponents to defend Spurs.The universal feeling was that Villas-Boas has had too many people to blend together over a short period of time. But despite their “transition period”, Tottenham are within four points of second place with more than half of the season remaining and they are cruising though the Europa League competition.

In spite of Tottenham’s league position, Villas-Boas job has really come under question this week. Stories have surfaced that the Tottenham board is upset with the team’s start and that their investment in numerous signings is showing little progress. Speculation reached its peak when former Spurs chairman Lord Sugar aired his concerns about Villas-Boas on national radio. Although the manager claims that he is “indifferent” to the criticism since his time at Chelsea, the backlash against Villas-Boas has placed a tremendous amount of importance on the match against Manchester United this Sunday. A poor showing and/or bad result would send a fresh wave of negativity over the London-based club, which could ultimately lead to another untimely dismissal for Villas-Boas.

David Moyes has had to deal with similar criticism/concern from supporters and the media during his first few months on the job. He was left with the responsibility of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson, the transfer dilemma of Wayne Rooney, then had to cope with Manchester United underperforming during the opening weeks of the Premier League campaign. But despite the poor results and incredible pressure, Moyes has had the full backing of Manchester United’s board. His job has never been in question at the club. Perhaps it’s that security that has allowed Moyes and his new staff to move forward with the task of building a United team in the Scot’s image.

Over the past few weeks, United has shown a blend of characteristics from the Ferguson era, as well as traits which have come to be expected of Moyes previous teams at Everton. The Red Devils’ 3-2 comeback win versus Stoke City at the end of October brought back memories of past United squads who fought until the final whistle. While their 1-0 victory over first place Arsenal showed the club was grasping the determination and tactics which Moyes had imprinted on his Everton sides.

The hiring of Moyes has also played a role in the resurgence of Wayne Rooney. It’s like the hands of time have been turned back and Rooney is once again the fiery 16-year-old forward who played with his emotions on his sleeve.

Last weekend, most United supporters looked on in fear and disbelief as Rooney kicked out at Cardiff City’s Jordan Munch. The forward was fortunate to only receive a yellow card from match referee Neil Swarbrick as he went on to score United’s opening goal and later assisted its second. His post-match comments attacking television pundits Martin Tyler and Graeme Souness have been condemned by some, but others see this as a return of Rooney’s competitive fires. It would be hard to argue against that theory as Rooney then went on to assist in four of United’s five goals against Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday night.

Manchester United are coming into White Hart Lane on a high; undefeated in eleven straight games in all competitions. Tottenham are a club still searching for their identity. Supporters of the London club have steadily voiced their displeasure with the team’s performances. So much so that Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas questioned his home supporters following a 1-0 win over Hull City. “We played in a difficult atmosphere with almost no support. We have a wonderful set of fans but they can do better. We don’t need the negativity of today.” The Portuguese manager told BBC Sport: “Away from home their support has been amazing; we play with no fear and we need that atmosphere at White Hart Lane.”

Come kickoff time on Sunday, the support of Tottenham’s home fans will NOT be an issue. White Hart Lane will be a cauldron of noise even before Manchester United takes the pitch. The memory of last season’s disappointing 1-1 draw will be fresh in the minds of United’s players. While Spurs can take confidence in the fact that they were able to take four out of a possible six points from the champions last season. And although United are in the midst of a lengthy unbeaten run, they have not yet hit high gear and have been dealing with key injuries. 2012-13 PFA Team of the Year member Michael Carrick is still out with an injury, while Robin Van Persie and Nemanja Vidic have been nursing their own knocks.

Tottenham will look to expose United’s left-side, since Spurs’ strength has been the play of their right-hand side players: Townsend, Walker, and Lennon. Patrice Evra has been the focus of transfer speculation over the past few months and the defender has recently shown a tendency to forget his defensive responsibilities. Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, and Rafael (when he’s not injured) have secured the right-side of the Red Devils’ defense; but United have not found a suitable partner for Evra on the left-side. Tottenham will undoubtedly be looking to expose this weakness.

Despite the five goals in Germany, United was rarely tested by the Bundesliga’s second place team. Bayer Leverkusen didn’t pressure the Red Devils’ depleted midfield which allowed Shinji Kagawa and Ryan Giggs to pick apart the German club’s porous back four. It can be guaranteed that Tottenham won’t be as passive (or in awe) against United as the German side were during the Champions League encounter.

Premier League clubs have had success pressuring United into mistakes this season. With a raucous home crowd spurring them on, Tottenham will more than likely be taking it to the champions during the opening minutes. The Red Devils will once again have to prepare themselves for a motivated opponent in an electrified atmosphere.

There’s a lot on the line for both clubs. Tottenham need a win and are looking to break a goal drought in the league while looking to keep pace with the top four. Spurs have two losses (Arsenal and Manchester City) and two draws (Chelsea and Everton) against teams ahead of them; with matches against Liverpool and Southampton still to come. A victory would provide Tottenham with some strength moving forward, give their manager a brief reprieve from the media firestorm, and send the White Hart Lane supporters home happy.

Manchester United are looking to build on their Champions League success and continue their ascent to the Premier League’s top four. More players are expected to return from injury, so United appear to be gaining strength at an important time. Right back Rafael is back in training, while Van Persie and Vidic “have a chance” to return to the lineup against Spurs. The return of these players and/or a victory in London would give United some more momentum heading into their tricky league fixtures against Everton and Newcastle.

There’s a lot riding on this match for both teams. Buckle up for another exciting Super Sunday.

27 thoughts on “Super Sunday Preview: Tottenham Versus Manchester United”

  1. Call me crazy but i wouldn’t be that upset if RVP wasn’t fit to start the game that way Kagawa could get another start directly behind Rooney. He showed on Wednesday night what he’s capable of when playing directly behind the main striker. Unfortunately for him he’s not going to get the chance in that position while both Rooney and RVP are fit and sting well.

  2. Good analysis, Pete. I think Spurs should try and wind up Rooney to get him sent off. I think he’s on the brink of doing something stupid.

    1. I’ve actually been thinking the same thing. Somebody is going to try and wind him up sooner or later. I don’t think Spurs have anyone with that kind of mentality. Maybe Walker? Dembele?

  3. Tottenham aren’t scoring goals. Watch them go for four or five on Sunday. That would just fit in perfect with this Premier League season. Lol.

  4. Peter Quinn, I would like you write recap of this game.I really enjoy all of your articles.

    This site will be even better if we start to see recaps of some games or top four teams, Peter Quinn why not do top 4 recaps.


  5. Pivotal game. Levy will find it hard to resist pushing the eject button on AVB if they go down in this one. Meanwhile, United can’t afford to drop too many more points. It won’t be boring as neither team likes to grind out 0-0’s.

    1. Good point, Smoke. At first I thought that Villas-Boas was going to set up defensive against United when I heard his was “waiting” to try out a two-striker set up until after the United match. But I get the feeling that Spurs midfield is chomping at the bit to go at United’s midfield.

      Hopefully United are as up as they were for the Leverkusen match. But I doubt Spurs are going to play as placid as Leverkusen did.

      The first 15-20 minutes could be huge. If it’s 0-0 after that, Spurs are in trouble. If either team is leading, that will put them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the match.

      Looking forward to it.

  6. The problem with Spurs is that everyone is blaming AVB and not the players so the players have no incentive to play better since it’s AVB’s head which is on the line. And the players don’t seem to be on AVB’s side to let him off the hook.

    If United lose more points on Sunday then they will have almost no chance to win the title and will then be in a battle to finish in the top 4. United’s next match after this is midweek against Everton at Old Trafford and the way Everton are playing under Martinez it will be a close one. Everton always play United tough and this one won’t be any different.

  7. I’m by no means a Clint Dempsey fan but can’t help but wonder if Spurs would benefit from his midfield play and goal scoring threat.
    Spurs remind me of Man City of last year…bagfuls of talent but no cohesiveness or heart for the fight.

  8. They are a better “team” on paper than they were last year. Spurs did a good job of bringing in players with Bale’s money. They just haven’t gelled yet. It really does take time for a team to get to know how to play with each other and learn what is expected from the manager. AVB needs more time with them.

    I am a little concerned that AVB is too safe in how he sets the team up. The players ultimately reflect their manager. I would like to see how they perform with a more attacking philosophy.

  9. The noisy minority and certain media outlets are the one leading the charge v AVB…NOT the majority of fans.

    Not one single pundit or person piling on Spurs has any experience in taking 7 new international players and implementing them in a new system and team… No not even the ridiculously worshipped Neville…

    AVB is going to make mistakes b/c he is human, but to listen to this rubbish from the media about a crisis after 12 games, 4pts off 2nd and more points than last year all while integrating said players and system is laughable.

    This whole ‘entertainment’ angle is complete rubbish and a sad desperate attempt by a few muppets to upset the apple cart.

    I’m convinced if you were to go place the ‘entertain me’, ‘sack AVB’ lot back in time, they would be the ones running around claiming the sky was falling on their heads every time there was a storm….absolute idiots.

    AVB is the right man for the job, he’s building something great….and that really isn’t what non spurs fans or the muppets still in love with arry want…they want the spurs side that was up 3-0 at half time at home to Man Utd that then loses 5-3…I don’t.

    Spurs is under a genuine re-construction, and while it is, if you are a spurs fan…shut up moaning and support the team!


    1. The same noisy minority and media that blabbed on and on about how bad Mancini was at City and how much the players hated him.


    2. I’m with you on AVB, Dust. Spurs HAVE to give him more time. He is still figuring out how to use his players and they are learning how to play for him while adjusting to playing in England.

      This isn’t a Di Canio scenario. AVB has won on a big stage (Europa League). He can manage on this level. Give the guy time.

      1. God forbid calmer heads prevaile and he is given more than 20 games to build a team essentially from scratch.

        4am kick off is brutal…esp 2 weeks in a row…3pts and I’ll be happy.

    3. The biggest concern for Tottenham is the amount of similarities with AVB’s time at Chelsea. Spurs actually looked somewhat threatening at Man City during the early stages when Lennon was whipping up and down the right wing. But suddenly that wasn’t the right way to play and they went back to the narrow midfield muddle. With such an overabundance of midfielders and no real strikers on the pitch Spurs will keep getting stifled at the oppositions penalty area. AVB needs to admit Soldado is a mistake and start using Defoe before he decides to go elsewhere this January. Lack of goals equates to lack of wins.

      He also needs to start letting the players make their own decisions instead of consulting that dreaded tactics book all the time.

      Levy isn’t going to sack him after spending a hundred mill and a dozen games. That would reflect poorly on Levy. But come the end of the season without a top four finish (which looks increasingly unlikely) then watch out. And don’t count out our ‘Arry making a comeback.

      1. I could see that scenario happening. Spurs waiting until the end of the season to sack AVB then opening the door for a Harry reunion; like Chelsea and Mourinho.

        1. Levy will not wait until the end of the season. It will be AuRevoir Boas as soon as Monday morning. No amount of Dust’s clutching at straws can disguise the fact that AVB cannot cut it at the highest level. He has zero man management skills which is what is required with top players.

          Forget Redknapp. The guy for the job is Paul Lambert. A top manager who is building a quality team at Vila that play in the style that would work at Spurs. He’d bring Benteke with him too, probably.

      2. In no way has Soldado proven a mistake, unlike Defoe…

        The strange obsession with Defoe by some needs to be investigated by a government agency it’s just strange….
        Defoe has had plenty of chances and failed to be the answer, he was born offside and is incredibly selfish and offers nothing of anything, of note, intact id start Harry Kane or coulthirst ahead of him….MLS can have him.

        The system AVB is implementing will take time, while inverted wingers are not fully appreciated in England yet… it will be.

        Bayern, BVB, Madrid, Barca all seem to do just fine with it.

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