Two sides embroiled in the race for a top-four finish meet when Manchester United host Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Sunday (16:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
United come into the match on the back of a disappointing FA Cup exit at home to Arsenal on Monday. They are fourth in the Premier League table, two points clear of Liverpool in fifth, with 53 points from 15 wins, eight draws and five defeats.
In a frantic match at Old Trafford, Louis Van Gaal’s side were beaten by an Arsenal side who defended well and used the ball more intelligently in attack. Wayne Rooney swiftly equalised the away side’s 25th-minute opener, only for ex-United striker Danny Welbeck to profit from a short back-pass from Antonio Valencia to score the second-half winner.
The defeat ensured that United will end their first season under Van Gaal without a trophy, and was made even worse by the second-half dismissal of Angel Di Mari, who received one yellow card for diving and another for grabbing the referee’s shirt. The frustrations of a player who seems to be struggling to settle in England were laid out for all to see.
A top-four finish is the one remaining target for Man Utd. They have been in decent form in recent times, winning five of their last eight league matches, but that may not prove to be enough in light of Liverpool’s recent strong run of form. Tottenham, too, are just three points behind. The next two months will undoubtedly colour how Van Gaal’s first season is viewed.
Van Gaal is unable to play Johnny Evans, the injured Robin Van Persie (ankle) and suspended Di Maria. Ashley Young (knock) and Luke Shaw (hamstring) are injury doubts.
Tottenham travel north on the back of two consecutive league victories in the wake of their Capital One Cup final defeat to Chelsea at the start of the month. They are sixth in the Premier League table, with 50 points from 15 wins, five draws and eight defeats.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side recorded a 2-1 win away to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday thanks to another two goals from Harry Kane (pictured). He headed home Andros Townsend’s free-kick for his first, before latching onto Ryan Mason’s pass, rounding the goalkeeper and finishing calmly for his second. QPR got one back late on but Spurs held on for the three points.
With their Capital One Cup and Europa League campaigns now having come to a close, Spurs can concentrate solely on the race for the top four. They are still a work in progress, but the emergence of Kane, decisive contributions from Christian Eriksen and the fine goalkeeping of Hugo Lloris have given them an outside chance of Champions League qualification.
It is the defence that will be causing Pochettino most concern. His side have kept just three clean sheets in their last 15 league matches and seem predisposed to panic whenever they are defending a lead. While Spurs have started to create more shots on goal since the turn of the year, it is their defending that is likely to prevent them from finishing in the top four.
Pochettino looks to have a fully fit squad at his disposal ahead of Sunday’s match.
Man Utd v Tottenham Betting Tips
These two sides drew 0-0 when they met at White Hart Lane earlier this season, which extended Tottenham’s unbeaten run against Man Utd at all venues to five matches. Spurs have won at Old Trafford on each of their last two visits: 2-1 last season and 3-2 in the 2012-13 season. Before that, United had won the previous nine encounters in Manchester.
United have leaned on their home form much more heavily than the majority of their fellow top-four contenders, taking 64.15% of their points to date at Old Trafford. They have rarely thrilled this season but have been able to accumulate sufficient points to put themselves in a strong position to fight for a top-four finish, albeit with a difficult run-in still to negotiate.
Spurs have the joint fourth-best away record in the league, although they have fared less well against fellow top-seven sides, losing three (conceding three or more goals each time) and drawing one of their four such fixtures. Man Utd are, however, in far from imperious form and Spurs will be confident of securing at least a point on Sunday.
- Bet on Spurs +0.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 68/67 with BetVictor.
- United have regularly got off to a quick start on home soil, and have scored inside the opening 27 minutes of six of their last eight league fixtures at Old Trafford. In addition, six of Tottenham’s last eight league away matches have featured a goal inside the opening 20 minutes. Back the time of first goal to be under 28 minutes @ evens with BoyleSports.