Manchester United head into the latest round of Premier League fixtures ninth in the table. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claims it doesn’t matter, and he’d better hope his bosses think likewise. The last thing he needs at this time of year is a visit from the ghost of United past. The ghost of United future may have been recently released by Spurs too.
Jose Mourinho was sacked last December, with a better points per game record for the season than Ole currently has this year, and he could push his successor closer to the job centre with a win here.
It’s been a strange 11 months for both of these teams since last they met.
United have lost more league games than they’ve won since Ole got the gig full time, while Daniel Levy recently hired a manager who spent roughly the same in three years at United as Spurs have splashed out in the 19 years Levy has been in control of the club. It all makes this match very difficult to predict, which the odds reflect.
The Red Devils have drawn their last two league games, and I’m going to sit on the fence and say they’ll make it a hat-trick here. United have also drawn five of their seven league matches against other big clubs at Old Trafford since losing to Spurs at the start of 2018/19.
It’s safe to assume Jose will attempt to strangle the life out of the match too, as it’s a big game and why change the habit of a lifetime? Tottenham haven’t won a big away league match since their last trip to the Theatre Of Noodle Partners, so it’s impossible to say they’ll do so here.
Bet: Draw at 12/5
Paddy’s prices show he thinks this will be a goal-fest. After United recently had a 3-3 thriller at Bramall Lane and a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, while Spurs have conceded twice although winning Mourinho’s first three matches in charge, who can blame him?
And it might be entertainment central on Wednesday night, but it would go against the recent history of this fixture. Of the 15 possible combinations of ‘big six’ league matches, only games between United and Liverpool have seen fewer goals on average than those between United and Spurs since the start of 2016/17.
We also know Mourinho’s M.O. is to keep things tight when away from home in big matches, but does he have the players to do that with Spurs? Serge Aurier says no.
As United have kept just two clean sheets in the league this season, and the only team with fewer is Tottenham, we have to expect a few goals here.
In each of Jose’s three games in charge of Spurs, they have conceded a goal from a set piece. His United team struggled at defending corners too, so is it worth a look at Harry Maguire to score, at 9/1? As Solskjaer’s side have conceded more set piece goals than they’ve scored in the league this season, perhaps not.
Marcus Rashford is the Red Devil in best form, with eight goals in his last 10 appearances for club and country. But do Spurs have a better defence than the likes of Partizan Belgrade, Montenegro and Kosovo, some of the teams Rash has recently netted against? Probably not.
I’ve got a feeling Anthony Martial might net here. He’s scored the winner in this fixture before, and has more ‘big six’ goals than Rashford since the start of last season. He’s also not scored in his last four league games, having taken the joint-most shots on target of any goalless player in the Premier League in that period.
You can take a similar approach with picking a Tottenham goal scorer. Harry Kane has 10 goals in his last 10 games, though many of his have been against terrible minnows like Crvena Zvezda and West Ham.
However, Lucas Moura has scored more frequently than Kane away from home in both the league and Europe this season. All four of his league goals against other top teams since the start of 2018/19 have been on the road, and he was rested for most of Spurs’ last match with Bournemouth so should feature here.