OPPONENTS Manchester United at Wembley 
COMPETITION Premier League 
DATE Sunday 13th January 2019
PREVIEW Manchester United have been a team transformed since the black cloud that was Jose Mourinho was removed from the manager's office.  With the hot rumours indicating that Mauricio Pochettino is the man to take over at Old Trafford, they appointed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the man to see them through to the end of the season and now it may beyond that trial period.  Daniel Levy has made it perfectly clear that he does not want Poch to go to United and since Solkskjaer took over the fortunes of the side have dramatically changed for the good.

Five straight wins have brought a more attacking pattern to the side's play and that will continue at Wembley.  The United defence is quite ropey, so perhaps the old saying that attack is the best form of defence might be very true in their case at the moment.  They have good players in midfield and attack, while injuries and poor purchases have left their back line a little lightweight.

David de Gea is a much admired keeper, who probably hasn't had as much work to do in recent seasons as he has this campaign.  In front of him, the likes of Shaw, Smalling, Rojo, Lindelhof, Young, Jones, Bailly and Valencia. are all having seasons of varying poor form.  Some are in and out of the team, while others are finding the going tough at this stage of their career.  It had appeared that Mourinho had even lost the ability to park the bus with his defensive resources, so it will be interesting to see how Solskjaer shapes his back four, with his focus on attacking, he might find that we pose different threats to sides who they have swept aside lately.

The midfield contains the mercurial Pogba, who has been given a lift by Mourinho going.  He has undoubted skill and also reads the game well, getting into dangerous positions when freed to do so, but he lacks the natural defensive mind-set, leaving the space behind him for other teams to move into.  Some of that can be covered by team-mates, in the shape of Herrera. Matic and McTominay, but others, such as Fellaini, Fred, Lingard and Mata are more attack minded.

With Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku, you would think United have sufficient fire-power to see of most sides, but they do miss a lot of chances.  As a striker himself, I imagine Solskjaer will be doing his best to bring the best out of this trio, who, if the right service is provided can make life difficult for opposition defenders.

Spurs are not doing too shabbily themselves either.  Tuesday's win over CHelsea wasn't the most convincing nor the most flowing, but the ability to get hard fought wins in contrast to the old image of Tottenham is one which is keeping them up amongst the top teams, while not having spent out on players to the same extent.  With injured players returning to the side and Son ready to give it his all in his final game before going off to the Asian Cup, Tottenham could be in the right frame of mind to approach this game.  Having won at home last season with a fast start and then used the fast feet of Lucas at Old |Trafford to secure another three points, it would be good to keep the pace at the top of the league with another win, but it may be that United are equally up for it and the game ends in our first draw of the season.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    1        Manchester United   1
Spurs still have a few players out through injury.  Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele, Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen, while Lucas Moura will face a late test on his fitness for the game and Jan Vertonghen may be considered for the bench.
Eric Bailly is suspended after being sent off recently, while Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling are both unavailable and Alexis Sanchez is doubtful with the recurrence of a hamstring problem.  Paul Pogba is expected to eb fit for the game after a recent leg injury. 

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Premier League Kick off 16:30
Tottenham Hotspur  0 (0) Manchester United  1 (1)




Rashford  43m 58s

Dele (foul on Martial)  50


Herrera  (foul on Eriksen)  66  
Pogba  (foul on Dele)  78


Crowd :   80,062 Weather :  Mild, gusty
Referee :  Mike Dean (Wirral) Assistant Referees :  Mr. Darren Cann; Mr. Dan Robathan
Fourth Official :  Andre Marriner  
Spurs kicked off and played towards the East Stand in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 9 minutes.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Manchester United : kit
  1  Hugo LLORIS  (c)

  2  Kieran TRIPPIER
33  Ben DAVIES

  8  Harry WINKS  (18  Fernando LLORENTE  81)
7  Moussa SISSOKO  (11  Erik LAMELA  43)

  7  Heung-Min SON
20  DELE Alli     
Christian ERIKSEN

10  Harry KANE

Unused subs: 
1  Juan FOYTH
  3  Danny ROSE
  6  Davinson SANCHEZ
52  Oliver SKIPP

    1  David de GEA  (c)

18  Ashley YOUNG
  4  Phil JONES
23  Luke SHAW

  Ander HERRERA     
31  Nemanja MATIC
  6  Paul POGBA       (39  Scott McTOMINAY  90+2)
14  Jesse LINGARD  (20  Diogo DALOT  83)
10  Marcus RASHFORD

11  Anthony MARTIAL  (  9  Romelu LUKAKU  73)

Unused subs: 
22  Sergio ROMERO
15  Andreas PEREIRA
17  FRED
  8  Juan MATA


Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino Manager :  Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Sponsor :   AIA Shirt sponsor :  Eon
Kit Supplier :  Nike Kit Supplier :   Nike
Match report


Spurs lost.  A shocking state of affairs we all know, although you can take it when the defeat is deserved.  That's not something that happened at Wembley tonight.

The visit to the national stadium was a massive waste of time.  Not because we went to see Tottenham win and that wasn't the result.  Not that there wasn't a lot of goalmouth action; which is what the Premier League is famous for.  But because we saw a new Manchester United that wasn't the boring, drab Mourinho United, but the sparkling new Solskjaer United.   And that United is one that will put in a performance like those seen here by Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City in an attempt to take points.  I am truly shocked to see the BBC website this morning post an article about Solskjaer's master-plan that beat Spurs, with no mention at all about the dark arts employed to get the three points. 

Whatever I say will be regarded as sour grapes, so I intend to wine on about how "professional" United were.  If this is the stuff of winners, then I'm a Spurs fan through and through.  I don't want to hear my players screaming when they get tackled a la Young and Hazard.  I don't want to see my team throwing the ball around like the Harlem Globetrotters to prevent the other side taking a free-kick.  And I don't want to hear talk about our players going out "to do" an opponent.  But I have to live with it, because referees allow it to happen without punishment and that will only encourage it to continue in the future.  30 minutes before we got a free-kick.  It says it all.

But then this is Manchester United, so they are beyond criticism, although it would have been interesting if a Mourinho side had won in this fashion.  Would there have been claims about his genius ?  In a week where a manager was slammed for sending an official to spy on the other side training ahead of their match with them, the differing viewpoints between clubs and leagues came into sharp focus, as a raised foot dragged down an opponent's thigh is less important than a man with a pair of binoculars standing outside a training ground.  And frankly, United have not even been the best side to play at Wembley against us this season.  Wolves' performance was one of hard work and tactical nous, worth much more than a few players running 30 yards to "tactically" foul someone and getting away with it.

The goal created came from our mistake was was punished ruthlessly.  Trippier's intended pass inside from the right touchline was picked off by Lingard, who played it to Pogba.  His vision to sweep a ball across the pitch to the right, where Rashford motored onto it was excellent.  Up against Jan, who was on the turn, the United forward was away but out on the right.  His shot across Lloris and across the turf found the far corner and maybe Hugo's angles weren't as great as they should have been.  Moving out to him a bit more would have cut down the amount of goal he had to aim at.  Apart from that, they really only had about four other chances.  Lloris stopped a shot at his near post earlier in the match, when Martial turned Toby and fired a shot in low, then, in the second half, Pogba got onto a pull back to strike a slow drive to Lloris'; left and he dive well to save it.  The keeper clutched Pogba's header from a right wing cross in the second half, before being alert to come out to push Pogba's effort over the top when the ball bounced favourably for the French midfielder.

In contrast, Spurs created a shed full of chances, but failed to take any of them and that was the difference in the match.  De Gea played a fine game keeping Tottenham at bay, but our finishing wasn't enough to fully stretch him.  Spurs kicked off and tried the same tactic as last year, but didn't manage to get that 11 seconds goal.  Winksy had two shots in the first ten minutes, with one going wide and the other over the bar.  Kane had a shot from a corner blocked by Jones, before he was denied again, with the loose ball back-heeled in the area by Dele to Son, but he was flagged offside.  Harry Kane did get the ball in the net on the half hour, when Trippier's cross was headed back across goal by Dele at the far post and while H buried the chance, he was adjudged offside.  Winks fancied a goal today, drilling another effort from 20 yards too high, before Moussa Sissoko went for a return pass from Kane down the right wing, but pulled up holding his thigh and carried on for a few minutes, finally accepting Lamela would have to replace him.  Shortly after United scored and that was about all there was time to do, as they took over a minute getting back to their own half for the restart. 

Straight after the break Son put in a weak shot straight at de Gea, with the keeper making the first of a long series of saves with his legs, as Spurs worked the ball well to give Kane a shooting opportunity on the right.  Dele met Trippier's cross with a header and the keeper dived to his left to keep it out, before Kane tussled with Jones going for a cross by Eriksen and won it, but hit the keeper, when anywhere else would have been a goal.  Another Kieran cross was missed by Kane, but Lamela got to it, however, it was only with his shoulder and the ball popped high over the bar.  Eriksen picked out de Gea with a 25-yarder, Dele had only the keeper to beat from the right but de Gea blocked it again, Christian drove a 25 yard free-kick over the wall and agonisingly just wide with the keeper stood stock still for once and then de Gea produced his best save.  A corner on our right was swung in by Eriksen and Toby ghosted across the front of his marker to meet it on the volley.  He turned it on target and de Gea reacted to kick the ball out.  Kane struck a free-kick at goal from a long way out and the keeper took it fairly comfortably, Dele got onto Eriksen's delicate ball through and tried to hit the top corner, but again the keeper made the save. 

Spurs brought on Llorente and he made an immediate impact, holding off his marker who had both arms around him to nod onto Kane, who swivelled, despite the close attention of Jones and his shot unfortunately was once again straight at the keeper.   Llorente then had the same result with a shot from the same distance, about 15 yards out, But Spurs had to be careful not to be hit on the break, which Davies was, bravely blocking substitute Lukaku's shot on the break.  Spurs were pressing until the end for an equaliser.  Llorente took Trippier's ball down and lobbed a cross into the goalmouth from the left and it was only a foot too far ahead of Harry, who was clattered by Jones in the last move of the game, which wasn't worthy of a free-kick according to the man in the middle, but left Kane hobbling off at the end.

It wasn't a terrible performance, with the result not the one we wanted, but it doesn't matter much if Kane is out injured for .any length of time.

Steve Martindale

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What you thought
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Other scores during this week :
Brighton & Hove Albion 0 Liverpool 1 Saturday
Burnley 2 Fulham 1 Saturday
Cardiff City 0 Huddersfield Town 0 Saturday
Chelsea 2 Newcastle United 1 Saturday
Crystal Palace 1 Watford 2 Saturday
Leicester City 1 Southampton 2 Saturday
West Ham United London 1 Arsenal 0 Saturday
Everton 2 Bournemouth 0 Sunday
Manchester City 3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Monday


League Table  2018-19
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Liverpool 22 18 3 1 50 10 57 +40
2 Manchester City 22 20 2 3 59 17 53 +42
3 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 22 16 0 6 46 22 48 +24
4 Chelsea 22 14 5 4 41 22 47 +19
5 Arsenal 22 12 5 4 45 26 41 +19
6 Manchester United 22 12 5 5 44 32 41 +12
7 Watford 22 9 5 8 32 32 32 0
8 Leicester City 22 9 4 9 26 25 31 +1
9 West Ham United London 22 9 4 9 30 32 31 -2
10 Everton 22 8 6 8 33 31 30 +2
11 Wolverhampton Wanderers 22 8 5 9 23 28 29 -5
12 Bournemouth 22 8 3 11 31 42 27 -11
13 Brighton & Hove Albion 22 7 5 10 24 30 26 -6
14 Crystal Palace 22 6 4 12 20 28 22 -8
16 Burnley 22 6 3 13 23 43 21 -20
17 Cardiff City 22 5 4 13 19 41 19 -22
18 Southampton 22 4 7 11 23 39 19 -16
15 Newcastle United 22 4 6 12 16 31 18 -15
19 Fulham 22 3 5 14 20 49 14 -29
20 Huddersfield Town 22 2 5 15 13 37 11 -24


Position before match :  3rd
Position after match :  3rd
Position after the weekend :  3rd


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