Now and again, a fixture appears in the Premier League that’s seems to be a fairly humdrum affair, but the one in question has a degree of added spice because of the personnel involved. Spurs v Manchester United will not be perceived as the usual pointless game with little at stake because of its added dimensions.
Yes, there’s the usual ‘also-rans’ positions to jostle for and that’s about as interesting as a week-old cheese sandwich. It is, however, made all the more interesting due to the back story, with Mourinho’s predictable sacking from Old Trafford after he managed to alienate himself from the players and the board.
The Spurs v Manchester United game is one where Mourinho will be keen to establish his credentials with a convincing win over his former employers as part of a poke in the eye consolation prize. Solskjaer will be desperate to show that he’s more than an inexperienced caretaker manager immersed in the shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson, by pouring salt on the Special one’s obvious wounds.
Only 4 points separate the two sides and both are conceding goals plenty this term, so at the very least, we could see a few underwhelming celebrations. As part of a complex plot, there is also United’s previous muted interest in Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, who are the North London club’s top players.
United would look to acquire one or both if Spurs are forced to sell because of their financial position or if either made it clear that they wanted to join another club. United would improve overnight by around 50% and Spurs would depreciate by the same margin because both players are undoubtedly game-changers on their day.
Mourinho must be in shock at present because his usual cheque book coaching style has suddenly hit a brick wall. Spurs may have to sell to recruit or face pushing their academy talent forward.
Mourinho is used to spending and spending big, developing players is for lesser coaches! At United, he splashed out £400m plus but at the moment, that type of frivolous spending could be a long way off for the man who rarely goes beyond three seasons at any club.
United are currently on a roll after successive defeats earlier in the year to Liverpool and Burnley, but who knows what momentum has been taken from them during the enforced Covid-19 break.
Yet Spurs are the ones with it all to do with a string of dismal results before isolation including defeats against Chelsea, Wolves, Norwich, RB Leipzig. All the indicators suggest that Mourinho, now past his best, is struggling to mould a team from a group of players who contested the Champions League final not so long ago.
Bruno Fernandes is United’s Best Buy for years and his performances have suddenly resulted in a wake-up call for the eccentrically misguided Paul Pogba, who has been on cruise control for two seasons.
There is a rumour that Solskjaer will play both in the middles in the Spurs v Manchester United fixture, perhaps in a 4-4-2 formation. On paper at least, the formation with Fernandes and Pogba in the middle look like a guaranteed three points, if Pogba finds his ‘A’ game, and Fernandes continues where he left off.
Spurs are not going to make it easy of course and Mourinho will probably rely on counters that come from a congested defence. Not that Spurs fans will care if they can snatch a 1-0 win. Mourinho has to balance the side by protecting returning players such as Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko, Heung-min Son, and Steven Bergwijn with fixtures coming thick and fast.
Much will depend on Kane and Son in this encounter. If they are match-ready, United’s defence will have to be on their toes, but I think Solskjaer’s side have enough going on creatively to negate any threat. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford would be my front pairing, with the young Englishman recently returning from a back injury.
The most likely result is a draw with Mourinho looking for at least a credible point, but the form suggests that even after the break, United have enough to get the win. That win would put them on terms with Chelsea and 5 points behind an inconsistent Leicester City.
Who wears the biggest smile on the night? Both sets of fans. This may not be a do or die fixture with much relevance to the title race, but it has the potential to be a tonic for the public who have been deprived of their club and sport for what feels like years. It could also re-establish the Premier League’s credentials after the Covid-19 lockdown as the best and most competitive league in the world.