MONDAY’S FA Cup defeat to Arsenal leaves Manchester United in a perilous position. Champions League qualification is now the only way for Louis van Gaal to take anything positive out of what has been a difficult opening campaign.
Across the next six league games United face Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Everton. That looks like a minefield, and they could easily be out of the Champions League picture by the end of April.
Spurs are the first of those trying to dent United’s European aspirations, as they look to maintain their own top four push.
Both managers know that success rests solely on final league positions, rather than winning silverware, and Sunday’s clash will show which squad is better prepared.
Despite the Gunners’ win at Old Trafford, United have been solid on home turf. Only Swansea and Southampton have come away with maximum points, and they have conceded just four goals in their past six home league games.
However, one defeat in six away league outings confirms their opponents are in good nick themselves, and ready to continue their recent resurgence against United.
A few seasons ago Spurs would have arrived in Manchester with a dreadful record. But that all changed during the 2012/13 campaign when a 3-2 win at Old Trafford signalled the long overdue end of an unsuccessful streak spanning 26 games. Since then, those records are in danger of flipping, with Sunday’s hosts having not beaten their opponents in five attempts.
Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane are key to Spurs’ chances. The pair would have been licking their lips at the sight of United’s defensive frailties on Monday.
Kane has 16 league goals and, according to data from FootballFanager.com, is the best performing player from either squad, accruing 137 points to date. Tellingly, goalkeeper David de Gea is United’s star man with 113 points, as highlighted by the real-money fantasy football site.
De Gea put in another fine performance against Arsenal and he should keep United in the game on Sunday. Nothing separated the sides in December, when the scores finished level, as they have been in three of the past four meetings.
It may do little for either manager’s ambitions, but my advice is to back another draw, at 5/2 with Betway.
Draw at 5/2 with Betway