The twists and turns of the Premier League continue and thanks to the ‘Ginger Ninja’ Paul Scholes Manchester United are still in the title hunt, but credit must also go to this weeks visitors Tottenham Hotspur, who travel to Old Trafford as conquerors of Chelsea, thus reigniting the title race.
This game is of monumental importance to both clubs, United have to win to keep pace with Chelsea and Spurs need to win to make sure Manchester City don’t overtake them in the race for fourth. It promises to be an effervescent affair.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was full of praise during his Friday press conference, “I think this is the best Tottenham team in my time at United,” Sir Alex said. “When I came here they had Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle and Clive Allen, but this team has a lot of substance to it. He’s done a great job, Harry.“
Going into the match United have no new injury worries, in fact, Rio Ferdinand has recovered from a groin strain and Wes Brown from a foot injury. Ferdinand should partner Nemanja Vidic in the centre of defence, with Patrice Evra on the left. But there is a question mark over who will face off against Gareth Bale?
Will Fergie go with the experience of Gary Neville to combat the searing pace of Bale? Or will he opt for the sturdy John O’Shea? Or will youth get a chance in the shape of Rafael? Not to mention the fit again Wes Brown.
As United need three points, a four-man midfield will more than likely be used. Paul Scholes will have earned his place alongside Darren Fletcher. Antonio Valencia will take up his usual slot on the right and Nani should be brought in on the left side, as Ryan Giggs was poor against City last weekend.
Owen Hargreaves was in line for a spot on the bench, but he has once again been sidelined by injury, thankfully it is only a calf strain and not a recurrence of his knee problems.
One thing that is always certain is, if Wayne Rooney is fit then he will start… sometimes he will start even if he is not. This rule is not true when it comes to Dimitar Berbatov. Linked with a summer move away from Old Trafford, the Bulgarian will have a chance to show his current employers the form he displayed with his former employers when they visit Manchester on Saturday.
One thing though is the worry over Spurs’ current form, Sir Alex is pessimistic though:
“Of course I was delighted with Spurs’ displays against Arsenal and Chelsea. They were absolutely brilliant, and could’ve won by more goals than they did, but their performance level was terrific. Now I’m faced with the same problem, coming up against them.
“The good thing is that all our players have watched these games. They’ve seen the quality they’ve got and that helps – we’re not going into the unknown.”
As Ferguson mentioned, wins over Arsenal and Chelsea will have done wonders for the visitors’ confidence, especially as they should have won both fixtures by a much bigger margin than they eventually did. However, a trip to Old Trafford is something, which Spurs’ don’t do well. They last emerged victorious at Old Trafford 21 years ago, and last season they let slip a 2-0 half-time lead to eventually lose 5-2.
Having said that, Gareth Bale is in magnificent form having been pushed to a more advanced role. Luka Modric is showing touches of brilliance we all expect and Michael Dawson is playing himself into England contention with his imperious displays.
Unluckily for United, Aaron Lennon looks set to make his long awaited comeback from injury and will have a place on the Spurs bench. Jermaine Jenas and Ledley King could also be restored to the line-up, while Wilson Palacios is back from suspension.
Harry Redknapp is in buoyant mood after the recent victories, “They were two great victories. When you play the top three teams in the country within 10 days and to beat all three of them, that would take some beating. You are not going to do that too often in your life.
“I would have snapped your hand off for five points. I would probably have taken four to be honest with you. But we have another tough game tomorrow.
“The sun’s shining, it’s a great stadium, a fantastic place to play football against a great team. We’re looking forward to it.”
Lets hope Tottenham get stage fright in the Theatre of Dreams, the statistics certainly point to a United victory.
Spurs have not won in their last 66 Premier League visits to the ‘Big Four’ clubs and United are unbeaten in their last 17 league matches against Tottenham who have only beaten Manchester United three times in 35 matches in the Premier League.
We should go back to the top of the league on Saturday, if only for 24 hours. Unless of course Stoke aren’t beaten at Stamford Bridge on Sunday… stranger things have happened.
Prediction: 2-1 United
Probable Line Up: van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra;, Valencia, Fletcher, Scholes, Nani; Berbatov, Rooney
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