Manchester United host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday in what is arguably the most exciting Premier League fixture of the weekend.
The Red Devils were fortunate to beat Brighton in their last league match in a win that came courtesy of a dramatic, controversial last-minute penalty. However, they backed that result up with a comfortable 3-0 win over the Seagulls in the EFL Cup in midweek.
Spurs, meanwhile, huffed and puffed but simply couldn’t see off Newcastle United in their last league match, drawing 1-1 with more late penalty drama their undoing. Since then, though, Jose Mourinho‘s men have knocked Chelsea out of the EFL Cup and thrashed Maccabi Haifa 7-2 in their Europa League Playoff first leg.
The mind games have already started (more on that later) but what does all of this mean for the weekend’s game?
Man Utd vs Spurs: Sky Bet offer
All odds stated in this article are accurate at the time of publication (10:00, 03/10/2020); but customers wishing to take advantage of Sky Bet’s various In-play special offers should note that they will certainly vary in price beyond kick-off. You have to be 18+ to gamble. BeGambleAware
1. Man Utd vs Spurs: Predicted XIs
After rotating against Brighton in the EFL Cup, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is almost certain to field his strongest possible side for the tricky visit of Spurs.
This should see the likes of Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba all restored to the line-up, while new signing Donny van de Beek, veteran Juan Mata and back-up striker Odion Ighalo should all drop to the bench.
At the back, Luke Shaw could replace Brandon Williams while Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire will likely continue their partnership at centre-back having started the Red Devils’ previous two Premier League matches together.
Mourinho has a tough job on his hands striking a balance between keeping his squad fresh and staying competitive at Old Trafford, with Spurs already playing twice this week.
After his hat-trick in the Europa League, Harry Kane is almost certain to lead the line and will likely be partnered with Lucas Moura as Son Heung-min has only been given an outside chance of returning to fitness in time. We expect to see Giovani Lo Celso operate in the hole behind them.
Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon could man the flanks with their dynamic, forward-thinking approach giving Spurs an outlet to releave pressure, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Harry Winks will have to keep close tabs on the movements of Pogba and Fernandes.
Hugo Lloris will put on the gloves once again after making way for Joe Hart on Thursday.
2. Rashford to lead the goal glut
After registering a career-high 22 goals in 44 games across all competitions last season, Rashford has started the 2020/21 campaign in good form, scoring twice in his last three games across all competitions, including last time out in the Premier League against Brighton.
The England international has netted three career goals against Spurs to date and clearly knows how to overcome the likes of Hugo Lloris, Davinson Sanchez et al. What’s more, Mourinho’s men have kept just two clean sheets in their last 27 away Premier League games, so keeping things tight on the road isn’t exactly their speciality.
Relevant Sky Bet odds:
- Marcus Rashford to score at any time @ 15/8
- Over 3.5 goals YES @ 2/1
All odds stated in this article are accurate at the time of publication but customers wishing to take advantage of Sky Bet’s various In-play special offers should note that they will certainly vary in price beyond kick-off. You have to be 18+ to gamble. BeGambleAware
3. More penalty drama
To say that refereeing decisions and VAR madness played their part in both teams’ results last time out in the Premier League would be selling it short.
Spurs were denied a 1-0 win when VAR advised that Eric Dier had committed a handball despite being just inches away from Newcastle striker Andy Carroll, who headed the ball into the England international. It took four minutes for the decision to be made with VAR also checking for an offside during the build-up and even Magpies boss Steve Bruce condemned the incident.
“If you’re going to tell me that is handball then we all may as well pack it in,” he said after the match. “It’s a nonsense, a nonsense of a rule. It’s gone for us today – however, it’s ludicrous.”
United, meanwhile, were the benefactors of a contentious injury-time VAR call. Proceedings were called back for a penalty when Brighton forward Neal Maupay appeared to block Harry Maguire’s late effort with his arm, even though the final whistle had already been blown. Bruno Fernandes stepped up to seal an unlikely victory in the 100th minute.
40': Bruno Fernandes concedes a penalty, Neal Maupay scores
90+10': Neal Maupay concedes a penalty, Bruno Fernandes scores
Man Utd win. 😱 pic.twitter.com/pbdeyWieFx
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) September 26, 2020
Meanwhile, Solskjaer and Mourinho have been exchanging digs over the past week. Solskjaer poked fun at the former United boss for complaining about the height of the goalposts ahead of a recent Europa League meeting with Shkendija. The Spurs boss responded by suggesting the Red Devils would prefer to play with a 22-yard penalty area to help earn them more spot-kicks.
“Ole yesterday was so happy and surprised with what happened to his team that he had a joke,” Mourinho said.
“But I understand that for him, the dimensions of the goal-posts are not important for him, what is important is the dimensions of the 18-yard box. He would never accept to play with a 17-yard box.
“I think he would prefer a 22-yard box. For him, it would be better.”
This is far from the most brutal war of words Mourinho has involved himself with, and Solskjaer has since passed off the back and forth as a bit of fun in front of the media spotlight. But it is true that United have won more Premier League penalties (22) than any other side during the Norwegian’s tenure in charge while Spurs have been awarded just five in that time.
And since Mourinho took to the Spurs dugout, Tottenham have been awarded the fourth-lowest number of penalties (3) while having conceded the highest amount (8). Can’t you just see where this one is going?
Relevant Sky Bet odds:
- Manchester United to take a penalty @ 3/1
- A referee’s decision to be overturned using VAR @ 11/8
4. Man Utd to compound Mourinho’s homecoming misery
Over the years, Man Utd vs Tottenham has served up some of the most entertaining games the Premier League has witnessed, with goals, thrills and Roy Carroll-shaped spills.
Things have been quite even across the board in recent years between these two Premier League ever-presents but when it comes to clashes at Old Trafford, the Red Devils definitely hold the advantage with six wins in their last seven home meetings with Spurs across all competitions.
This makes for even less favourable reading for Lilywhites supporters when coupled with the fact that Mourinho has failed to win in any of his last six away league games against teams he used to manage, losing four and drawing twice.
Tottenham had to play twice during midweek, knocking Chelsea out of the EFL Cup on penalties on Tuesday before beating Maccabi Haifa 5-2 in the Europa League on Thursday. The likes of Harry Kane, Steven Bergwijn and Lo Celso clocked up a large number of minutes across those fixtures and faced with the pace of United’s forward line, fatigue might well play its part.
Relevant Sky Bet odds:
- Man Utd to beat Tottenham @ 10/11