This Saturday sees the return of Premier League football for the first time at White Hart Lane (you’ll never stop me calling it that) this season. The season got off to an encouraging start last week with a 2-2 draw at the G-Tech against Brentford.
From that performance, it was very clear how Ange Posteoglou wants to play this year and also that it will take a while for the new ideas to bed in with the squad.
Another thing of note was how vociferous the away support was throughout the match and after the final whistle – if that energy could be transferred to The Lane then we will in for a positive and electric atmosphere.
I am pretty sure that Ange will not make any changes to last week’s starting XI. The only possible change would be if Romero is not fully recovered and, in that case, Davinson Sanchez, who performed well last week, will be asked to deputise.
Vicario will start in goal, and continue his integration into the new team and the new style of play. Across the backline, it should read: Udogie, Van de Ven, Romero/ Sanchez, Royal.
In midfield last week, Bissouma was imperious in the lynchpin 6 role and all play went through him. I find it bizarre that some people are calling for him to play as an eight, when the six position is so crucial to the way the team plays and he is almost Dembele-esque in his skillset. In the two ‘8’ positions Maddison and Skipp will continue.
Key Player (home) Oliver Skipp
The ‘eye test’ probably had Oliver Skipp down as one of those whose performance was not quite at his best against Brentford. He scored 6.5/10 on Sofascore (Sofascore) and seemed like he was finding his feet in the new number eight position.
Arguably, the Wissa goal and the big Mbeumo chance originated from Skipp’s area of the pitch – with the through ball being allowed to be played and exposing Emerson Royal.
No one is expecting Skipp to play the 8 role like Maddison, but he will need to press more intelligently and not allow that direct ball from midfield – you don’t want to be giving the likes of Fernandes and Eriksen multiple opportunities to make direct passes like that.
Similarly, no one expects Skipp to produce the same attacking output as our new number 10, but he does need to offer more in terms of getting onto the ball and getting closer to the box when the team is in position.
When Pape Mate Sarr entered the game, he immediately looked more threatening in an attacking sense and I wonder how close Ange is to starting the Senegalese man.
Anyone who watched United burgle a victory against Wolves in their previous game would not have been impressed – with the BBC labelling it, quite generously ‘a fortunate win’ (BBC Sport).
On another day (and with a clinical striker) Wolves could have won 4-1 and it would not have flattered them. United looked sluggish and out of sorts – a bit odd for a squad that had such a thorough preseason.
Yet I would not read too much into this result. United have sometimes struggled against Wolves because they are both counter-attacking teams and thus cancel each other out.
With Spurs’ high line and domination of possession, they will find it easier to sit in, before waiting for the opportunity to break forward at speed – utilising the pace of players such as Rashford and Sancho. It is definitely going to be a culture clash between the two teams.
Key Player (away) Marcus Rashford
All Spurs fans will be hoping that Erik Ten Hag will play Rashford through the middle, as he did at Wolves (Sofascore).
This tactical decision was much to the chagrin of United supporters, who much prefer to see him operate from the left-hand side. Only when he started looking for the channels, did he begin to look like a danger to the Wolves defence.
If he plays through the middle, the combination Van de Ven’s recovery pace and the attacking nature of Romero (if fit) – should serve to keep him under wraps.
However, if he plays from the left, he will be looking to exploit those spaces in which Rico Henry and Yo Wissa were so profitable last week, bursting through the lines before cutting onto his right foot.
As mentioned earlier it will be imperative that the press does not allow the likes of Fernandes time on the ball to play those raking deliveries.
I expect the supporters to park their dissatisfaction with the board and fully get behind the team and the manager.
Like last week, I definitely see goals in this fixture. Although Tottenham will attack for long periods of the game, United will be dangerous on the counterattack.
Once more I expect Bissouma to boss the midfield and if Kulu and Son are able to hold their width a bit more they will look more threatening in an attacking sense.
Final Score: Tottenham 3 – 2 Manchester United
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