- Tottenham failed to win any of their six games before the season’s postponement.
- United won eight and drew three of their 11 games in the run up to the break.
- Spurs scored in 17 of their 21 competitive home games this term.
- Both teams scored in five of Spurs’ last seven home fixtures in all competitions.
Intriguing battle in store
Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League clash with Manchester United on Friday evening is a restart fixture layered thick with sub-plot on top of sub-plot.
With Champions League qualification through a 5th place finish possible this season, the showpiece contest in North London could prove a defining moment in the race to secure elite-level European football next term, while the game also pits Spurs boss Jose Mourinho against his former club United and his replacement in the dugout Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The fixture will also mark the return to fitness of several key personnel on both sides. For Spurs, deadly attacking duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are back in the fold, while United can finally call upon the services of match-changing pair Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba.
22-year-old Rashford bagged both of United’s goals in their 2-1 win over Tottenham in the reverse Premier League meeting between the sides in early December, while French World Cup winner Pogba’s delicious pass put Rashford in for the game’s only goal the last time the clubs faced off in the capital in January last year.
Tottenham hoping for fresh start
7th placed Tottenham’s season had been on the verge of complete collapse in the weeks leading up to club football’s postponement, when poor results in three separate competitions threatened to derail their entire campaign.
Their two defeats in three Premier League outings were compounded by the fact that Spurs were turned over in those losses by direct rivals for continental qualification in Chelsea (1-2) and Wolves (2-3), while embarrassingly abject performances against RB Leipzig and Norwich City saw Tottenham dumped out of the Champions League and FA Cup respectively.
United’s pre-postponement momentum
In stark contrast, 5th placed Manchester United, inspired by the creative brilliance of January signing Bruno Fernandes, were playing their best football of the 2019/20 season in the weeks before the enforced hiatus.
United’s excellent run of eight wins in 11 in all competitions included superb Premier League successes over Chelsea and Manchester City alongside convincing victories in the FA Cup and Europa League.
A sequence of four clean sheets in their last five Premier League assignments also pointed towards a rapidly developing defensive solidity, with summer incomings Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in particular producing the goods.
Goals at both ends likely
Despite United’s improvements in their own third before the break, their record of conceding in three of their most recent four away games and in 12 of their 14 away fixtures overall this season suggests their chances of keeping a clean sheet at Tottenham are slim.
While results in their sparkling new stadium have sometimes been subpar, Spurs have at least been consistent goalscorers, netting in 11 of their 14 Premier League home matches there and in 17 of their 21 competitive fixtures on home turf in total since August.
With arguably their two most influential players, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, back in tow, Spurs will be difficult to keep out for 90 minutes, however, we expect Tottenham to struggle in their attempts to contain United’s rapid frontline at the other end.
Spurs’ only clean sheet in their last 10 games at home was claimed in fortuitous circumstances against Man City on February 2, and with United’s attacking edge re-sharpened thanks to the playmaking acumen of the aforementioned Portuguese maestro Bruno Fernandes, and leading marksman Marcus Rashford joining an increasingly influential Anthony Martial up front, the Red Devils have an abundance of final third threat at their disposal.
With those factors key, backing both teams to score looks a smart way to manoeuvre for Friday’s game, though our correct score prediction tips United to eventually carve out a 2-1 win.
With wins over Man City (three times), Chelsea (twice), Leicester and Tottenham already in the bag this season, United have shown they have a real nose for the big occasion, and having beaten Spurs in each of their last two Premier League encounters, Solskjaer’s charges look well priced to complete their hattrick.
Key Battle – Toby Alderweireld vs Marcus Rashford
With his compatriot Jan Vertonghen’s influence starting to wane, Toby Alderweireld is the now the main man and key performer in Tottenham Hotspur’s defence.
The 31-year-old, who started 27 of Spurs’ 29 Premier League fixtures this season, will need to be right on top of his game to limit the impact of Man Utd starlet Marcus Rashford however.
The 22-year-old, who is returning from a lengthy injury layoff, scored twice against Tottenham earlier this season and is in line to record the most prolific campaign of his career in 2019/20.
Rashford needs just one more goal to push through the 20-goal ceiling in all competitions for the first time.
Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United team news
Harry Kane’s return from a lengthy lay off has spun the most headlines for Tottenham this month, though South Korean star Son Heung-Min’s comeback feels equally significant.
Jose Mourinho’s choices in the final third are boosted further by the return to fitness of new Dutch winger Steven Bergwijn, though Dele Alli’s suspension means he will sit this one out.
Tottenham Hotspur predicted line-up: Lloris, Aurier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Dier, Ndombele, Lo Celso, Son, Lucas, Kane
Paul Pogba is fully fit and back in contention to start against Spurs, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could choose to keep faith with in-form midfield alternatives Fred and Scott McTominay.
Marcus Rashford should come straight back into the starting XI after his back injury however, though further back, United could choose to field the back five often deployed by Solskjaer in tough away fixtures.
Manchester United predicted line-up: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, McTominay, Fernandes, James, Rashford, Martial