Big-spending Manchester United receive an early test of their title credentials when they host Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Saturday in the opening match of the Premier League season (12:45 BST, live on BT Sport).
United finished fourth last season to return to the Champions League following a year’s absence and have spent a further £83 million to bolster their squad for the new campaign ahead of a potential challenge for the Premier League trophy they last won in 2013.
Louis Van Gaal’s (pictured) side enjoyed a promising pre-season, winning three of their four matches in the United States, including a 3-1 win against Barcelona, before losing 2-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in their final match of the tour. Van Gaal was very consistent in his choice of starters, which suggests he has confidence in his preferred first XI.
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If his pre-season selections hold into the season proper then United’s starting line-up on Saturday is likely to feature at least three new arrivals. Matteo Darmien, formerly of Torino, has held down a regular berth at right-back, while Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay, signed from Southampton and PSV Eindhoven respectively, also saw regular minutes on tour.
With Bastian Schweinsteiger also in contention following his move from Bayern Munich, United’s squad looks stronger than last season even in light of the departures of Angel Di Maria, Rafael and Robin Van Persie. David De Gea could still depart (to Real Madrid) before the end of the window but Man Utd otherwise look well placed to compete all on fronts.
Van Gaal will definitely be without the suspended Marouane Fellaini for his side’s league opener, while Marcos Rojo is also likely to miss out due to a lack of match fitness. Anders Lindegaard and Javier Hernandez are both carrying knocks but it is unlikely that either would have been involved even if they had been fully fit.
Tottenham finished a place behind United in fifth last season and will again hope to offer a solid challenge for a top-four finish this time around. Spurs have not been big spenders over the summer but have made some astute purchases while shifting some of their deadwood.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side lost 2-1 to the MLS All Star team during their summer tour of the United States but after a defeat to Real Madrid in Munich, completed their pre-season preparations with a 2-0 win over AC Milan on Wednesday. Although their team performances have varied in quality, there have been some promising displays from individual players.
Despite finishing just outside the top four, Spurs had the joint fifth worst defensive record in the division last season, with 53 goals conceded in 38 matches. The purchase of Toby Alderweireld, after an impressive loan at Southampton, should add more solidity to their back-line, while the signings of Kieran Trippier and Kevin Wimmer provide extra depth.
The departures of Benjamin Stambouli, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Etienne Capoue, Lewis Holtby, Paulinho, Vlad Chiriches and Younes Kaboul have created some space in the Spurs squad that could yet be filled by a couple of additional signings. As it is, Pochettino has a young, talented but relatively thin group at his disposal for what promises to be an interesting campaign.
Pochettino will definitely be without the injured Alex Pritchard (ankle) for the trip to Old Trafford, while Andros Townsend (shoulder) is doubtful. Hugo Lloris missed most of pre-season with a wrist injury but returned for the second half of the win over Milan on Wednesday and can be expected to line up in place of Michel Vorm.
Man Utd vs Spurs Betting Tips Verdict
United were comfortable 3-0 victors in last season’s equivalent fixture but had lost each of their previous two home encounters against Spurs by scores of 1-2 and 2-3. Indeed, that win was United’s only success in the last six league meetings between the sides at all venues. Man Utd have, though, secured four victories to Tottenham’s two over the last 10.
United have invested heavily to strengthen their squad ahead of the new season and will be expected to show well in both domestic and European competition. Van Gaal already seems to have settled on his first-choice XI and will hope that his consistent selections during pre-season can bear fruit in the form of a strong start to the campaign proper.
Pochettino was tactically out-thought during Spurs’ defeat at Old Trafford last season and will have to be much more astute in this approach this time around if his side are to come away from the opening weekend of the season with a point or more on the board. But if they perform to their full capabilities then such a result is certainly not out of the question.
United are still the most likely victors but this will be a much closer encounter than last season’s equivalent fixture.
- Back Tottenham Hotspur +1 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 17/20 with Bet365. The bet pays out if Spurs win or draw, while your stake is returned if they lose by a single goal
- Matches between these two sides have frequently been some of the most entertaining in the Premier League, with six of the last eight encounters at Old Trafford seeing three or more goals. We expect Saturday’s match to be no different. Back over 2.5 goals @ 4/5 with Bet365, SkyBet or Betfred.