Preview: Man United vs Tottenham


The last time Spurs won as visitors, it was in December 1989 with Gary Lineker as the scorer.  Tottenham have lost 22 of the next 26 games since then at Old Trafford, including the last 9 in a row. The statistics look bleak but they also hide some of the electrifying results of these fixtures over the years. We don’t have to go back too far to recall a couple of them.   Few will forget the 2009 match, where Tottenham carved out two goals by the 31st minute on the back of some shoddy defending by United.  United had to wait until the 56th minute to score off a penalty and then put another four goals into Spurs net by the 79th minute in a memorable 5-3 comeback that rivalled a similar feat by the 2001 United squad that scored 5 second half goals at White Hart Lane after going down 3-0 at Halftime.

Track back a few more years to 1999.  United played host to Spurs on the last day of the seaon and needed to win to ensure they won the league as Arsenal were hoping to pip them for the title with a win of their own.  Spurs took the lead in the first half with a Les Ferdinand goal and keeper Ian Walker did well to block the ensuing United attacks before David Beckham equalised before halftime.  Andy Cole scored a second half goal to secure the Premiership crown for United, and the F.A. Cup and Champions League followed to mark a historic Treble for United.

For new Spur manager Andres Villas-Boas, his last trip to Old Trafford was not as eventful as the above results.  However, his side did lose 3-1 and was fairly dominated.  He was relatively new into his role as Manager of Chelsea and visited United early in the season.  Some, including Sir Alex Ferguson, feel that the Portuguese manager didn’t have enough time to instill his desired style of football into the Chelsea squad to get the necessary result against United at the time (to read more on this, see ESPNFC’s AVB to attack at Old Trafford).

After having a slow start to the season with Spurs, AVB will look at trying to get a result against United with the help of in-from striker Jermain Defoe.  With four goals so far, Defoe will give United’s depleted defense some concern.  With Nemanja Vidic out for two months after knee surgery, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans will have to marshal the defense alongside Evra and possibly Rafael da Silva.   ESPNFC’s Jon Carter previews the game and mentions the following important match-up:

Key battle: Rafael v Gareth Bale. With the defensive crisis at Old Trafford, Ferguson must be pleased that his Brazilian right-back is starting to show real signs of improvement. Always good in the attacking side of his game (he even got on the scoresheet against Liverpool at the weekend), Rafael has tightened up somewhat in his defensive efforts and will be put to the test against the flying Welshman. While he has not quite reached his peak of last season, Bale is still a danger to any opponent and his speed and dribbling skills down the left hand side will be one of the main outlets for Spurs. The United defence as a whole will need to watch when he drifts inside.

Read more on key players to watch in his preview Spurs out to end United hoodoo.’s Ryan Benson gives a brief, yet comprehensive wrap-up of the rest of the line-ups for both teams in his preview, Manchester United – Tottenham Preview: Spurs aiming to pick up first Old Trafford win since 1989:

In midfield the only two players who are definitively ruled out are Ashley Young (knee) and Antonio Valencia (ankle), meaning Nani could well retain his place in the starting line-up despite being withdrawn at half-time against Liverpool.

Wayne Rooney seems likely to return after several weeks out with a gash above his knee following his start against Newcastle United in the League Cup.

Andre Villas-Boas has his own fitness worries to mull over in the build-up to the match, with the brunt of his problems also in defence.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Younes Kaboul (both knee) and Scott Parker (Achilles) are still out, and although Kyle Naughton (ankle) could be available, he may not be gambled upon with Jan Vertonghen tipped to move out to the left.

Like Naughon, Emmanuel Adebayor (hamstring) should be available, but a start seems unlikely given Jermain Defoe’s impressive start to the season, while Clint Dempsey could get the nod over Gylfi Sigurdsson in attacking midfield, with the Iceland international yet to really impress for Spurs.

For further reading, we also recommend BBC’s Guy Mowbray preview.

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