Premier League 2018-19, Manchester United vs Tottenham: 3 key battles to watch out for
The effect of Monday blues may not be so much this week around as a wounded Manchester United taken on a Tottenham side which will be aiming to make it 3 wins on the bounce. Not surprisingly, nearly all the build-up to this game has focused on Jose Mourinho and how his team will react to the defeat last week. History is a great teacher and if it’s taught us one thing, it’s never to write off the Red Devils or Mourinho.
Tottenham got back into their usual groove as they despatched newly-promoted Fulham last week featuring a very first goal in the month of August for Harry Kane. It goes without saying that the World Cup Golden Boot winner would be relishing the opportunity to add to his goal tally against United’s defense which caved in spectacularly against Brighton.
Three key battles which could have an influence on the outcome of the game are:
#1 Harry Kane vs Eric Bailly
Kane has finally got the ‘’He can’t score in August" monkey off his back last week. Bailly on the other hand had one of those games he would want to forget immediately. However, this titanic duel could set the tone for the game. Bailly has always played on the front foot – snuffing out attacks before they become a danger whilst also possessing excellent recovery speed. Injuries have curtailed his progress, but when he features in Mourinho’s backline, he surely looks a cut above the rest.
Tottenham’s hopes rest on Kane and the England international more often than not delivers in the big games. He has constantly improved with each season and the only fear if you are a Spurs fan is if Kane has already outgrown the club. Kane will be looking to add to his goal tally on Monday and Bailly would be key to ensuring he doesn’t.
#2 Paul Pogba vs Eric Dier
Paul Pogba has begun the season well but by his honest admission, he had a shocker last week. When Pogba plays well, United also play well. Mourinho has given him the armband (till Valencia’s return) trying to conjure a little more consistency from his midfield general. With Ander Herrera and new signing Fred alongside him, the Frenchman should be able to venture forward and wreak havoc in the opposition third, knowing he has cover behind him.
Eric Dier, one of Pochettino’s trusted lieutenants would be keen on stopping Pogba in his tracks. The versatile English international is adept at playing either as a center back or in a defensive midfield role. Likely to be deployed in front of a back three, Dier will need to be atop his game to ensure Pogba does not unleash hell on the Spurs backline.
#3 Kieran Trippier vs Alexis Sanchez
Trippier has ensured Spurs have not felt the loss of Kyle Walker via his buccaneering displays on the right side. He is defensively better than Walker and offers genuine threat either while venturing forward or at set pieces.
He would, however, need to be wary as in the previous encounter between the two sides in the FA Cup, both of United’s goals originated from his side. Alexis Sanchez scored the first goal after being teed up by Pogba, while it was the Chilean's pass that created the match-winning goal for Ander Herrera. Both the goals had origins deep in Spurs’ right side and the feeling is that much of the action on Monday could take place in the same territory.
Sanchez looks meaner and sharper on the back of a good pre-season and will be key to exploiting any potential chinks in the Spurs rear-guard. Luke Shaw has started the season well and would be looking to dovetail with Sanchez at every given opportunity to add to United’s attacking threat.
Anything less than victory on Monday for Man Utd could spell further trouble for Mourinho. The media has already been calling for his head and a poor result could provide more ammunition for them to take aim.
Pochettino would very well know that time is running to finally win a trophy at Spurs. All the pressing and easy on the eye football should result in silverware and if at the end of the season should Spurs fail to break their trophy duck, they could face a real fight on their hands to hold onto their prized assets.