Race for the Top 4: Man United-Tottenham Preview

Di Maria for United

Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images

With both of these teams embroiled in one of the closest top four races in recent memory, tensions will be very high Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford. Manchester United, fourth in the table, come into the match off of a devastating loss to Arsenal that knocked them out of the FA Cup and took away what little momentum Louis Van Gaal’s side had. Tottenham, who currently sit sixth in the table and three points behind United, have won two straight games and show no signs of settling for a point against the Red Devils.

The small glimmer of hope that United fans had of winning a trophy for the first time in two seasons were quelled last weekend as they saw their side limp out of the FA Cup. There was no attacking prowess from the once feared Red Devils as the team resorted to its strategy of “kick it long to the big Belgian Fellaini”, with the one great attack coming courtesy of an excellent Ángel Di María (who we’ll talk about again soon) cross setting up an even better Wayne Rooney header to equalize.

The defensive effort was porous at best as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sliced, diced and powered his way through the United backline to find an onrushing Nacho Monreal for the first goal. Former Red Danny Welbeck was able to split the defense and beat David De Gea one-on-one to finish off his old squad. If it weren’t for De Gea’s majestic effort in net, the Gunners would’ve massacred the hopeless Red Devils by more than just one goal.

To top things off, Di María got himself sent off after tugging on the referee’s shirt moments after receiving his first yellow card. The Argentine has never looked comfortable during his short time in England and has left fans questioning the record fee that the club signed him for in the summer. Due to the red card, the midfielder will sit out Sunday’s match joining the injured Robin Van Persie in the stands.

If Van Gaal has any hope of winning and maintaining their position in the table, there will have to be major improvements on both sides of the ball. Players other than Wayne Rooney will have to provide an attacking presence *cough* Radamel Falcao *cough*. The center back tandem, likely Rojo and Smalling, will have to improve on their subpar play and help out their Spanish goalkeeper who has been United’s player of the season by far.

On the other end, Spurs come into this game with mountains of momentum. Paced by the play of star man Harry Kane, the London side has pushed themselves into the heart of the race for a Champions League place. The previously unknown Kane has attracted the attention of soccer fans across the globe. He currently leads the team in goals with 16 league tallies and a total of 25 in all competitions this season. In perhaps the most important game for Tottenham fans, the North London Derby against Arsenal, the 21-year-old striker managed to score both of Spurs’ goals including the 86th minute game winner to lock up his place in Tottenham’s history books.

However, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have failed to keep a clean sheet in eight matches. Away from White Hart Lane, Spurs have let up 20 goals in just 13 matches. Even with United’s offensive struggles this season, the Red Devils have managed to score 30 goals in the 14 matches played at Old Trafford. Tottenham will have to cope with the aerial attacks of Fellaini and the crosses from Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, and if they are able to neutralize these plays they should win the match.

Being the pessimistic United fan that I am, I cannot see my beloved side win this match. The two attitudes of the sides seems to be on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, with Tottenham full of optimism and energy while United seem to drudge through every 90 minutes they play. You have to go with momentum and I believe that Tottenham will leave Old Trafford with a well-deserved 2-1 victory followed by me refusing to look at Twitter until the storm of United abuse has passed.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.


 

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