Manchester United head over to White Hart Lane to dampen Tottenham’s title-challenge as they look to have a favourable title run-in of fixtures.
It is another must win game for both teams as they both have different hopes to finish the Barclay’s Premier League season. United have sparked the flame to keep their hopes alive to finish in the top four places to ensure a place in the UEFA Champions League qualification spot. Whereas, Spurs are looking to challenge leaders Leicester City for the title which they need to recoup seven points and hope the leaders tumble to clinch the title.
Van Gaal will be looking to make it three successive wins in the league as he pushes his squad to build consistency until the end of the season regardless of where his future lies after July. It has not been the best of season’s for United fans to endure with performances being so inconsistent and dropping points where they would usually claim all three points. But the wins against Man City and Everton has shown team spirit and solidarity in defence especially with the number of key players out injured. Now that some of the long term absentees are returning to training and stepping up to be involved in the first team, it gives Van Gaal options to select his strongest eleven.
On the other side, Spurs have had an incredible season under Pochettino who seems to be settling into the Premier League very well. His style of play and structure to Spurs had led them to wins and keeping many clean sheets on the way. One thing that can be noticed with his selection and squad is that he has kept home-grown players as the back bone of the team. Even more so, these players are young in the form of Kane, Alli, Dier, Rose and Mason. They have been the core of the team and the emergence of Alli is what football is about, giving young players from lower divisions the chance to top level football.
Captain Rooney will not be ready to face Spurs despite returning to training this week. Januzaj is also on the sidelines. Schweinsteiger, Shaw and Keane are still absent whereas Young and Jones could get a start on the bench. Spurs have Vertonghen back and could feature. Bentaleb is the only confirmed absentee.
Van Gaal has used the formation 4-1-4-1, where he has Carrick sitting and protecting the defence. His role has been vital to make sure the wing backs can attack and he can recover their positions. It has worked so far as Schneiderlin can run forward as well as make those interventions to win the ball back. However, it also requires United’s wingers to support the full back’s which Martial and Lingard have been doing. With a lone striker up front, Rashford has taken his opportunity in the first team since the injuries to other players. He will never give up on chasing the ball and that adds to the threat and allows the team to push further up the field. Having Valencia, Young, Fellaini, Herrera and Memphis available on the bench shows United have players to change the game. It is unfortunate to see Memphis not getting any opportunities and will it be another Di Maria situation in the summer?
Spurs will have this covered as Dier has been superb in midfield with Dembele. Dembele is not the quickest of players but he is technically gifted on the ball. He has control and skill to get out of situations which Dier has been able to use his ability to tackle and win the ball back. You cannot argue the season Alli is having as he has scored some articulate goals with potential of goal of the season. His international team mate Kane has topped the scoring charts for the club with 22 goals in the league and is becoming consistent in the league which many thought he would be a one season wonder. At the moment, United have been lucky and scrapped away with 1-0 victories. Against Spurs, it will take more than 1 goal to win the game. You cannot expect to lead by one and hold out defensively to win the game. There is no comfort of winning the game until you are at least two goals ahead.
As Leicester City play in the earlier kick-off, the Spurs players will have to remain focused to ensure they match or better the result to keep their title ambitions alive. This is something Van Gaal could motivate his players to add more pressure if his side can take the lead and grab a result.
Possible starting XI:
Spurs; Lloris, Walker, Wimmer, Alderweield, Rose, Dier, Dembele, Eriksen, Alli, Lamela, Kane.
Man Utd; De Gea, Darmian, Smalling, Blind, Rojo, Carrick, Schneiderlin, Lingard, Mata, Martial, Rashford.