As we approach the end of the Premier League season, the race for the top four grows even more intense. Right now, just three points separate the fourth place team and the sixth place team, and any dropped points could cost a team a spot in the Champions League. This weekend, fifth place Manchester United will travel to White Hart Lane to take on second place Tottenham Hotspur. The Red Devils sit just a point behind Manchester City in fourth, while Tottenham find themselves seven points behind Leicester City for the top spot. Neither team can afford to drop points in this crucial fixture, but who can grind out a result in London?
Starting off with United, my beloved Red Devils are currently enjoying one of their best runs of form of the season. Louis Van Gaal has won four of their last five matches including statement victories against Arsenal, Manchester City and most recently Everton. While these matches haven’t exactly been the best for United, they have shown the ability to grind out results and at this point in the season that’s all that matters. Against Everton, Anthony Martial’s goal was arguably United’s only chance of the match and it proved to be the game-winner. Against Tottenham’s stout defense, there’s a good chance that the Red Devils will once again be limited in the final third. They’ll need the same type of opportunistic finishing they had at Goodison Park if they want to take all three points.
One thing that Louis Van Gaal has done this season that has earned praise from United fans is his introduction of youth into the squad. United’s goal against Everton was orchestrated by three players under 20 (Martial, Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah). Rashford and Martial have emerged as the Red Devils’ most potent attacking options in the absence of Wayne Rooney and have combined for 11 goals this season. In defense, the likes of Fosu-Mensah, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, and Guillermo Varela have all filled in brilliantly when called upon. Fosu-Mensah is the youth player in the spotlight at the moment after a great display against Everton, and he could very well start Sunday at Tottenham. Will youth once again propel United to victory, or will Spurs experience shine through?
Moving on to Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have struggled to win against the top teams in the league. During March, Spurs drew against Arsenal and Liverpool and even lost to West Ham United. Had they managed to get results in those fixtures, Tottenham would be tied with Leicester at the top of the table. Against the current top four teams, Tottenham have won just once (4-1 against Man City back in September). When they travelled to Old Trafford to start off their season, a Kyle Walker own-goal cost Spurs the result after dominating the match. With points becoming more and more valuable, Tottenham can’t afford to drop a single point if they hope to catch Leicester. Can they get over the mental barrier and finish off a fellow top-four contender?
The man to watch for Tottenham this weekend has to be star striker Harry Kane. Kane’s magnificent goal against Liverpool last match day saved a point for Spurs and he’ll be looking to find the back of the net again on Sunday. In his last three league fixtures, the 22-year-old has scored five goals (granted two of them came against Aston Villa). Kane currently leads the league with 22 goals and shows no signs of slowing down. In his four appearances against the Red Devils, Kane has actually never scored. Look for him to test David De Gea throughout the match, and possibly break his scoring drought against United.
I know that I haven’t been the biggest LvG supporter this season, and I’m still very hesitant to get optimistic about United’s current run of form. With that being said, this is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually been excited for a match, and I’m going to risk picking United for the win. Marcus Rashford will one-up Kane and score a brace to secure a 2-1 victory for Untied and solidify himself as England’s best striker since Sir Bobby Charlton.