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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United: 3 key match-ups that could decide the game | Premier League 2019-20

  • Tottenham face off with Manchester United this weekend in a big clash, and these 3 match-ups could decide who wins the game.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 12 Mar 2020, 18:03 IST

Can Tottenham keep the dangerous Bruno Fernandes quiet?
Can Tottenham keep the dangerous Bruno Fernandes quiet?

This Sunday sees a huge showdown in the Premier League, as Tottenham Hotspur play host to Manchester United at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in North London. Not only is this a pivotal fixture due to its Champions League ramifications, but it’s also huge because it’s only the second time that Jose Mourinho has faced his old side since departing from Old Trafford in December 2018.

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United can win this one, then they’d almost certainly condemn Spurs to life outside the Champions League for next season at least, but if Mourinho’s men come out on top, a spot in the top 4 should be within their grasp again.

With all of that in mind, here are 3 key match-ups to keep an eye on during the game.


#1 Bruno Fernandes vs. Eric Dier

Eric Dier is likely to be tasked with keeping Bruno Fernandes under lock and key
Eric Dier is likely to be tasked with keeping Bruno Fernandes under lock and key

Portuguese international Bruno Fernandes – who was once linked with a move to Tottenham – has quickly become United’s key player since his arrival in January. He’s already got 3 goals and 3 assists in just 8 appearances for the Red Devils, and is clearly their main creative threat. He’s also given United a new attacking dimension – meaning they’re now more capable of breaking down a deeper-lying defence than before.

For Spurs to win this game then, they cannot allow Fernandes to control things from the tip of midfield; a player who averages 2.2 key passes per game is clearly dangerous, particularly with attackers like Anthony Martial and Daniel James ahead of him.

The most likely player to be given the role of keeping the Portuguese quiet is Eric Dier; the England international has been used primarily in a defensive role as of late, but he’s also a proven holding midfielder and has superior defensive statistics to fellow deep-lying midfielder Harry Winks.

Dier’s form has come under criticism at times this season but he finally seems to be getting back to his best now and was one of Spurs’ better players in their recent games against Norwich and Burnley. If he can keep Fernandes in check then Mourinho’s side have a chance; if the Portuguese can pull the strings of the game then United’s chances of winning rise dramatically.


#2 Lucas Moura vs. Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Can Aaron Wan-Bissaka keep Tottenham
Can Aaron Wan-Bissaka keep Tottenham's attackers - like Lucas Moura - shackled as he did to Raheem Sterling?
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Much has been made of Tottenham’s blunted attack in recent games; shorn of the services of Harry Kane, Son Heung Min and now Steven Bergwijn, Jose Mourinho’s options up front are looking slim right now. Lucas Moura has tended to be deployed from the right this season, but it’s unlikely that Mourinho will risk using Ryan Sessegnon as his left sided forward in this game, and so instead, the Brazilian will probably be used there.

That means he’s up against one of the best right-backs in the entire Premier League at the moment in the form of Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The £50m signing from Crystal Palace has been in imperious form as of late, shoring up United’s defence tremendously, and in recent games we’ve seen him keep the shackles on the likes of Raheem Sterling and Raul Jimenez.

Also read: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United - Last 3 meetings between the sides

Lucas, however, is another matter. He’s nowhere near as consistent as someone like Sterling but on his day he’s capable of absolute brilliance, and his pace and power tore United to shreds in Spurs’ 0-3 victory over them in 2018. At his best he’s capable of beating any defender, so Wan-Bissaka – who averages a remarkable 3.8 successful tackles per game – will need to keep his head on to stop him.

If the Brazilian can get the better of Wan-Bissaka, he’ll probably find himself with at least a handful of chances on goal. But if the England U-21 international can keep him shackled, then Tottenham’s already blunt attack will become even blunter, narrowing their chance of victory.


#3 Anthony Martial vs. Toby Alderweireld

Anthony Martial will look to take advantage of Toby Alderweireld
Anthony Martial will look to take advantage of Toby Alderweireld's lack of pace in this match

Toby Alderweireld has been given a number of different partners at the centre of Tottenham’s defence this season, from Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen to Davinson Sanchez and Japhet Tanganga, but the Belgian veteran has been the only constant, appearing in 27 of Spurs’ 29 Premier League games. At his best, Alderweireld’s positioning, strength and aerial prowess make him one of the league’s best defenders.

However, as of late, the Belgian has lost some of his pace – hardly surprising given his history of hamstring injuries and the fact that he’s now 31 years old. Against slower, more physical attackers that doesn’t matter too much, but against United – who can call upon the fleet-footed Anthony Martial – it could cause some major problems.

France’s Martial doesn’t offer the pacy threat of the absent Marcus Rashford, but he’s still very quick and can use his speed to get into positions that other forwards may not be able to – meaning Alderweireld will have to keep a very close eye on him. But the 24-year old has been in fantastic form for the Red Devils recently, scoring 4 goals in his last 5 starts.

Bruno Fernandes might be loading the bullets for United these days, but it’s Martial who is primarily firing them right now, meaning Alderweireld will have to be at his best to ensure that Hugo Lloris – whose form has been questionable in recent matches - doesn’t have to face too many of his shots. Given the equally shaky form of his defensive partners, it won’t be easy.

Also read: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United prediction, preview, team news and more

Published 12 Mar 2020, 18:03 IST
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