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Match Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United

by Tom Parker

Manchester United travel to White Hart Lane to play a Tottenham Hotspur side looking to get back to winning ways and put last weekend’s embarrassment at the hands of Manchester City firmly behind them.

Spurs produced a desperate display at the Etihad Stadium and were insipid defensively in a 6-0 defeat, and despite a midweek victory against Tromso in the Europa League, the focus is still on their drubbing. Manager Andre Villas-Boas is under mounting pressure following a tough start to the season with defeats in their last two league games.

United produced their best performance of the season so far in midweek where they comfortably outclassed Bayer Leverkusen as they eased to their biggest ever away victory in European competition. However, United were disappointing last weekend when they struggled at newly-promoted Cardiff and conceded a last-minute equaliser which left them seven points behind leaders Arsenal.

Spurs lie in eighth position in the league while United are sixth. Both sides are in need of a victory in a match which is usually an end-to-end, pulsating contest.

Michael Carrick will miss the trip to his former club with an Achilles injury which is likely to keep him out until after the New Year. Moyes kept his cards close to his chest in his pre-match press conference where he divulged little over the availability of Robin van Persie who has struggled with toe and groin problems. Rafael and Nemanja Vidic could return at right back and centre back respectively.

Tottenham are without attacking duo Christian Eriksen and Emanuel Adebayor while youngster Harry Kane is also sidelined. Kyle Walker and Paulinho were rested in midweek and are expected to be recalled by Villas-Boas while Jermain Defoe, who already has nine goals to his name this season, may start in place of the stuttering Roberto Soldado.

United failed to beat Spurs in two attempts last season despite enjoying a fantastic record against the North London outfit in recent seasons. Spurs won at Old Trafford for the first time in 22 years in September last year with the now departed Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey on the score sheet in a 3-2 victory. The reverse fixture ended 1-1 with a first half Robin van Persie opener cancelled out by Clint Dempsey’s late equaliser.

The Reds have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last nine away games but face a Spurs side who are really struggling to find the net having not scored in open play in over six hours of Premier League football. Roberto Soldado has looked isolated as the lone striker and while AVB’s side have typically enjoyed good possession, the goals haven’t flowed this season.

United may be encouraged by their outstanding record at White Hart Lane in recent seasons where they are unbeaten in their last 12 league visit. A run of 11 games in all competitions without a defeat alludes to a team who are finding their feet under David Moyes after a tough start and the midweek performance was a showing of the free-flowing attacking football which characterised the Alex Ferguson era.

Replacing the inspirational Gareth Bale has proved extremely difficult this season and the £100 million’s worth of summer signings have not yet stepped up to the plate. After their hiding last weekend, this could be the perfect time to play a side caught in something of an identity crisis but United must be wary of a side who are usually well-drilled defensively.

Robin van Persie has a phenomenal six goals and five assists in his last eight games against Tottenham. His timely return could tip the balance in United’s favour but Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa impressed during the Dutchman’s absence through injury, so he may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Manchester United

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