Top-four hopefuls Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur clash in a crunch match at Old Trafford this weekend (2.15pm Sunday, Sky Sports 1).
Jose Mourinho’s men dropped points for the ninth time this season with a 1-1 draw against Everton last time out, when a late penalty from Leighton Baines cancelled out Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s first-half strike. The Red Devils were the better team for long periods at Goodison Park, but a failure to kill the game off came back to haunt them, leaving the 20-time English champions 13 points adrift of top spot and nine short of fourth.
It has been a frustrating first third of the campaign for United, with Champions League qualification already looking like a big ask in Mourinho’s first season in charge. That is something that would have to go down as a significant failure given the talent in the club’s squad and the amount of money that was spent in the summer transfer window.
Tottenham returned to winning ways last weekend, thrashing Swansea City 5-0 after a run of only one victory in their previous six Premier League encounters. It was a terrific display from Mauricio Pochettino’s side, who looked back to their best as they pressed their opponents into submission and created a number of excellent goalscoring opportunities. Despite that, however, it is probably too early to assert that Spurs have turned a corner. This trip to Old Trafford will tell us a great deal about whether they have what it takes to finish ahead of at least one of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester City in the top four.
Man Utd will be unable to call upon the services of Chris Smalling (toe), but fellow defenders Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly are both back in contention following injury lay-offs of their own. Henrikh Mkhitaryan performed well against Everton last weekend and should keep his place in the attacking line of three behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, where Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial will all be competing for the remaining spot alongside the Armenia international and Paul Pogba. At the back, Phil Jones has impressed in recent weeks and will continue in the centre, with Marcos Rojo the player most likely to make way if Bailly is indeed included in Mourinho’s starting XI.
Spurs can’t play Ben Davies, Vincent Janssen (both ankle) and Eric Lamela (hip), but centre-back Toby Alderweireld has returned to training and could be in line for a first Premier League start since the 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion in the middle of October.
Eric Dier could step forward into midfield if the Belgian is passed fit to play from the first whistle, although the excellent form of Victor Wanyama means the former Southampton man could keep his place alongside Mousa Dembele in the engine room. Harry Kane (pictured), who has again underlined his importance to the north London outfit by scoring six goals in the five games he has participated in since his return from injury, will lead the line against the club he has been linked with in recent weeks.
Our Preview’s Man Utd v Spurs Betting Tips
Despite their patchy form this preview believes that Man Utd can beat Tottenham this weekend. The Red Devils have been a little unfortunate in terms of their results not always reflecting the strength of their performances this season. If they turn in a positive display here then they should have a little too much for Spurs. A home victory therefore looks to be the best betting tips’ option for Saturday evening’s encounter. Kane, Tottenham’s first-choice centre-forward who also takes penalties, would represent a sensible choice in the anytime goalscorer market. So here are this preview’s betting tips:
- Manchester United to beat Spurs at best odds of 5/4 with Betfred or William Hill
- Harry Kane to score any time at biggest odds of 39/19 (just over 2/1) with Unibet.
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Greg Lea is a freelance sports writer. Read the articles that he has written at Just Bookies.