What a start to the 2014. A New Year’s day visit to Old Trafford where a win would make the perfect start to the new year for Tim Sherwood, the team and the supporters.
Date: Wednesday, 1st January, 2014
Kick-off Time: 5.30pm (UK time)
TV Channel: BT Sport
Last VisitTottenham’s last visit to Manchester is one we all want to forget but we remember with pride last season’s game at Old Trafford. Spurs under Andre Villas-Boas broke a jinx which stretched back to 1989 with Spurs 3 – 2 win. Spurs held a two goal lead at the interval thanks to an own goal and one from Gareth Bale. They had taken United by surprise with their pace and effort but United came back immediately after half-time. Spurs response was instant as Clint Dempsey scored a third. United made it three goals in as many minutes to make it 3 -2 but Spurs defended for their lives to hold on and take a deserved three points.
At the beginning of last month United took a point from White Hart Lane in a 2 – 2 draw. It was a good performance from Spurs after the previous week’s drubbing at City but having twice taken the lead through Kyle Walker and Sandro they allowed United back into the game with two goals from Wayne Rooney.
Tottenham and United are level on 34 points but Spurs have the inferior goal difference. David Moyes is looking for United to push on in the second half of the season as they are only 8 points behind the leaders Arsenal, before today’s matches. The same, of course applies to Spurs and Tim Sherwood is well aware of the significance and importance of this game.
This season Old Trafford has not been the fortress that it has been over the past seasons and it was a shock to United fans when they lost two consecutive home games to Everton and Newcastle United last month immediately after their draw at White Hart Lane. They have recovered their winning ways since then with 5 consecutive victories in League and Cup, although they had to recover from being two down at Hull on Boxing Day.
United have lost at home on three occasions this season with an earlier defeat to West Brom (3 – 2). The season opened at Old Trafford with a dour scoreless draw with Chelsea. They then beat Crystal Palace (2 – 0) before their defeat by Albion at the end of September. Southampton held them to a draw (1 – 1) before a win over Stoke City (3 – 2). In their only home game in November they defeated Arsenal (1 – 0). At home they have scored only 11 goals while conceding 8.
Wayne Rooney is their leading goal scorer in all competitions with 11 goals, one ahead of Robin van Persie with Danny Welbeck who scored the only goal against Norwich at the weekend on 7.
This is a big game for Tim Sherwood. In his three Premier League games since taking charge, Spurs have taken 7 points. This game will be a different matter – will he e able to organise the players in a way to defend securely while still possessing an attacking threat? The loss of Paulinho has added to the growing injury list at White Hart Lane but all eyes will be on Spurs to see how they respond to the challenge at Old Trafford under Sherwood.
Much will be expected of Mousa Dembele in midfield and many will focus on whether Sherwood will be as adventurous in his formation as he has been in the previous three games. As he said, “You don’t want to concede an early goal at Old Trafford and then have to chase the game.”
‘Caution with adventure’ could will be his motto for the game with Aaron Lennon to pose a threat on the right and if Emmanuel Adebayor can be as influential as he has been in recent games, linking well with Roberto Soldado.
Tottenham will have Kyle Walker back following suspension but there are conflicting reports on Danny Rose’s availability. Paulinho, Sandro, Jan Vertonghen, Jermain Defoe and Andros Townsend are out but players who were missing against Stoke, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Lewis Holtby should be in the squad.
Wayne Rooney missed the weekend game but United are anxious to rush him back for this match, not surprising really as he is the fulcrum around which the team revolves and he has made Spurs suffer on many previous occasions. Valencia is available after suspension but it is thought unlikely that van Persie will return.
Tottenham and United need a win, a draw would see both clubs fall further behind the league leaders and make the gap a difficult one to bridge in the final 18 games of the season. There is incentive for both teams to go looking for the three points but in the current circumstances at Tottenham with injuries and under a new manager, a draw could be acceptable and give Tim Sherwood something to build on.