What to look for from Tottenham with the ball
We all know going in, Spurs are unlikely to try and dominate possession on the road against United. However, we should expect Tottenham to battle enough to hold the ball and create some chances to steal a big road win. We saw against Everton Spurs were capable of producing many chances; they need to finish those against United.
Key 3: Tottenham needs to move without the ball
If you watch United play for an extended period, you notice two defensive things about the team. First, the players play hard; they throw their bodies all over the pitch and will put 11 players on the goalline if they think it will stop a goal. However, as those players run to throw themselves at the ball, they often lose sight of the man they are guarding.
In other words, United can be caught ball-watching, which Spurs can take advantage of through movement.
When Manchester City put six past United, much of the success came from the off-the-ball movement. As defenders looked at the ball, the City players moved to where the ball was going to be, and it turned into a goal-scoring bonanza.
Tottenham being down attackers will make this a more difficult proposition, but if Spurs can get movement off the ball, they will find players in space.
Key 4: Tottenham needs to connect on their crosses
Off-the-ball movement is a key and works, assuming you finish in the end. Going back to City’s route of United, all six goals came from crosses. The cross was the key, whether a corner kick, just swinging the ball around to the side, or quickly moving the ball outside and back in.
Against Everton, Spurs were pinging crosses into the box, particularly from the left of the attack, but struggled to score. If Tottenham is to put one or more past David de Gea, it will likely come from finishing a cross. However, if Spurs fail to capitalize on the opportunities in the box, they may rue the result.
Key 5: Spurs need to keep their head on a hectic day
In their last road game against a top-half team, Spurs lost their cool as Emerson Royal was sent off against rival Arsenal. Against United, at Old Trafford, Spurs need to expect to be on the short end of the crowd and likely a few calls. Regardless, Tottenham needs to keep focus.
United is a team that will look to hit you when you are sleeping. Ronaldo’s cheeky attempt to steal a free-kick this past weekend at Newcastle is a perfect example of how United will look to hit you when you least expect it.
If Tottenham gets caught up complaining about calls or looking for an opportunity to get some payback, they will not be thinking about their assignment, which is a recipe for trouble.
Championship teams keep composure when the game gets hectic; if Spurs can take a step in this regard on Wednesday, their odds of winning go up. Of course, if someone loses their cool, it could make for another long day.