Manchester United – Tottenham (Premier League)
The first day of 2014 brings us an entertaining clash, filled with interesting details. First, Tim Sherwood visits Old Trafford for the first time as Boss of a Premier League team. Second, it will be 6th against 7th. Third, the two sides are level on points, 34 to be exact. Third, both squads, particularly their managers, have a lot to prove. A victory could put any of them above Liverpool and on the verge of making the top four.
United return home after an away double fixture on the back of 6 straight victorious games in all competitions, 4 of those for the League. Some may argue the schedule was beneficial for them to climb up the table. Surely, the profound changes at Old Trafford this season needed some time for the work to start showing results and facing some easier opposition would give them that space to do it. But David Moyes has had to deal with injuries of some of the key players, such as Carrick, Jones, Van Persie, and no new signings in the summer market. He dealt the hand he was given – roster and calendar alike – and he is slowly returning to Manchester United’s rightful place.
Everyone at Old Trafford is hopping Wayne Rooney will be fit to start on New Year’s Day. The striker picked up a groin injury on Boxing Day and was ruled out of the Norwich tie. Ideally he should have a few more days to recover but this next Spurs match is too big of a deal for the United star to pass out. Robbie van Persie has resumed training and is a strong possibility for Wednesday too. The Red Devils could use his talent on the pitch. Last Saturday, at Carrow Road, David Moyes brought Danny Welbeck in at half time and he not only scored the winners but changed United’s game plan all together. In the end he received praise from his manager who urged him to go the extra mile and become the great finisher he believes he can be, with at least 20 goals this season.
Fellaini, Nani and Phil Jones are long-term casualties for Moyes. Rafael, Rooney and van Persie are still in doubt.
Probable line-up: De Gea – Smalling, Vidic, Evans, Evra – Cleverly, Carrick – Young, Rooney, Kagawa – Welbeck.
Last Sunday was Tim Sherwood’s first time ever as a Premier League Manager. An auspicious one since Tottenham notched a 3-0 win over Stoke City. He insisted with the 4-4-2 formation he had tried against Southampton. That is one of Sherwood’s significant changes to AVB’s management. The other was bringing back Emmanuel Adebayor. Well, he went even further and gave him a spot in the starting XI. At that move paid off right from the beginning. He scored three times, one for each of the ties he started in. He looks motivated and going above and beyond on the field. He has been active inside and outside the box, moving where he’s most needed. The partnership with Roberto Soldado is starting to work too. The Spaniard has had a tough time adapting the Premier League and AVB’s stubbornness. He clearly benefits from having a second striker in the pitch. The routines with the Togolese are building his confidence. Bear in mind this was Stoke, the system is yet to be tested against a stronger, more resourceful squad.
Against Stoke Paulinho picked up a serious ankle ligament injury that will keep him sidelined for a month. That is, he’s ruled out from the games facing United, Arsenal, Palace and Swansea. Maybe he can get back before Manchester City.
Probable line-up: Lloris – Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Rose – Lennon, Capoue, Dembélé, Eriksen – Adebayor, Soldado.
Manchester United came out victorious of 9 of the last 10 visits the Spurs made to Old Trafford, the exception being the last season’s corresponding tie (3-2). It was André Villas-Boas first big win as head of Tottenham, their first victory at United’s home in 23 years. Can Sherwood and his men repeat the surprise?