After a 2-0 victory in Spain against Granada in the Europa League, Manchester United will be turning their focus back to the Premier League as they face Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur and they will be looking for vengeance.
After being embarrassed by Spurs back in October in their own back garden, United will not need to find any motivation to perform on Sunday at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
While they have had back-to-back wins against Brighton & Hove Albion and Granada since the return from the international break, the performances of those games would be described as ‘grinded out’ rather than anything more impressive. This match provides Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side an opportunity to inflict revenge against Spurs, but there will be an expectation that performances should begin to improve.
The match will begin at 16:30 (BST) and will be shown live on Sky Sports. It will be United’s second visit to the hosts new stadium, the first encounter ended 1-1 last season. Chris Kavanagh will be refereeing his seventh match involving The Reds and the VAR will be controlled by Craig Pawson.
After extending the points-gap between themselves and third-place, Leicester City, to four points with their win against Brighton, Solskjaer’s United placed one foot into the semi-finals of the Europa League, winning their first-leg tie against Granada 2-0, courtesy of goals from Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes.
The Reds have kept clean-sheets in all three of their away fixtures in the Europa League, previously shutting out AC Milan and Real Sociedad on the road.
It was their 22nd clean-sheet this season, only five less than last seasons total. It seems to be a more impressive feat this time around though, with The Red facing more difficult opposition in Europe and having 12 Premier League shut-outs. They had 13 in the entirety of last campaign.
Harry Maguire has turned his season around since he last faced Spurs, turning into one of the most important players for The Reds – while his partner, Victor Lindelöf, will be full of confidence after his stellar showing mid-week, assisting the opening goal.
On the other hand, Spurs’ season has fell off with their surprise exit from the Europa League after they lost 3-2 on aggregate to Dinamo Zagreb in the round-of-16. They currently sit in sixth place and are three points away from West Ham in fourth after they drew 2-2 against Newcastle United last weekend.Embed from Getty Images
Mourinho’s side are looking forward to a Carabao Cup final at the end of the month, however it is against a very strong Manchester City side that has looked incredible ever since Spurs beat them 2-0 in November (apart from one particular match).
A win against United could make a top four finish less of a dream and more of a reality for a Spurs side that has disappointed in recent months.
The last time these two sides met, United capitulated after opening the scoring within two minutes of the whistle. Anthony Martial was sent off and The Reds conceded six goals as they suffered their worst defeat since Roberto Mancini’s Man City put them to the sword in 2011, inflicting the same scoreline to The Reds.
The manager spoke about the loss:
“Yeah, I think the players will remember that game with a lot of pain and their pride has been hurt. Our professional pride has been hurt, the manner we lost is not worthy of ourselves and our team and we know that.
“We gave ourselves a difficult game by having 10 men. Pre-season was short and we weren’t up to the standard required, but we were so poor and I’m pretty, pretty sure that we’ll see some players wanting to prove that we’re better than that.”
Unbeaten in 22 away Premier League matches, United should feel confident travelling to London, yet they have won just one of their last eight away league fixtures against the hosts.
Mourinho could become the first Spurs manager since Terry Venables, in 1989/90, to record a league double over The Reds. However, the Tottenham boss is not known for his excellence against his former teams with just a 46% win rate against the sides that he used to manage.
On Thursday, both Luke Shaw and Rashford were substituted early but Solskjaer expects that the left-sided duo will be available for selection this weekend. Martial and Eric Bailly, though, are not fit. The former picked up a knee injury on international duty with France which could sideline him for the rest of the season, while the latter has tested positive for Covid-19.
For the hosts, Toby Alderweireld and Serge Aurier are back in contention after missing out on their draw against Newcastle last weekend. However, Ben Davies and Matt Doherty are both still on the treatment table.
Ones to watch
They will more than likely be starting next to each other for Gareth Southgate’s England this summer, but Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford could be the key men for opposing sides on Sunday.
The Spurs captain currently tops the Premier League for both goals and assists (19 & 13), while Rashford has 10 goals and seven assists in the competition.
The United man also boasts eight goals in European competition this season, the joint second-most out of any players in the continent.
Rashford has three goals in his last four matches against Tottenham and scored the winning goal in both of United’s most recent two wins against the London club.Embed from Getty Images
Meanwhile, Kane has scored three goals in his last two Premier League appearances and although he was goalless in his first six appearances against The Reds, he has scored four times in his most recent seven games against the team from Manchester.
A chance for revenge
“A club like Manchester United shouldn’t be losing, but losing in this way, in this sort of manner it really hurts and it is kind of embarrassing because I feel like we have let a lot of people down today who were watching at home.” Luke Shaw proclaimed after the loss in October.
The players will be recalling how they felt last time around and that should give them the drive to inflict revenge on Spurs and Mourinho.
It is not only an opportunity to widen the gap with the rest of the pack if United win, but it’s also a chance to put things right after being embarrassed earlier in the season.