It’s fifth vs. sixth. Zlatan Ibrahimović vs. Harry Kane. Jose Mourinho vs. Mauricio Pochettino. It’s Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur.
It’s a fixture in the Premier League that always seems to guarantee goals and never disappoints, and these days it is even more so important to the each side. So I ask the question – Have Spurs overtaken Manchester United as one of the top teams in the Premier League? Recent results and end of the season tables in the past few years will tell you that they have.
There was a time from 2001 to 2012 when Spurs didn’t win a single game against The Red Devils in all 26 meetings. Now, since their first victory at Old Trafford in 23 years in 2012, they have lost just two of the last eight.
Manchester United had to settle for Europa League this season by finishing 5th, while Spurs eased their way into the Champions League by finishing in 3rd. However, Spurs’ shambolic performance in Europe’s elite competition this season has seen them join Manchester United and drop into the Europa League after a claiming the 3rd spot in their group.
Spurs started the season where they left off last time out. After claiming 17 points from a possible 21 in their first seven games, it looked like the North London side could challenge for the Premier League title again. However, an injury to last season’s top scorer Kane, and just 10 points from their next seven games, which included their first loss of the season to Chelsea, has now seen them drop down to fifth. But Pochettino’s men got back to winning ways last weekend with a 5-0 demolition to struggling side Swansea.
On the other hand. Manchester United, after so many years of dominating the Premier League, are still struggling to find their feet since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. And this season seems to be no different for the 20 times champions, as Manchester United are sitting in sixth, six points adrift of their fifth place opponents this weekend. And the signs don’t look too promising for Mourinho’s men, as they haven’t won at Old Trafford since their impressive 4-1 display against champions Leicester in September, and Spurs have lost just one away trip in the league this season. But United are unbeaten since their 4-0 humiliation away to Chelsea. But it’s not all doom and gloom for United, as they sealed a place in the EFL semifinals, and this week’s advancement into the knockout stages of the Europa League, are both encouraging signs.
Harry Kane vs. Zlatan Ibrahimović
One thing is for certain, and that is Manchester United can still attract the top players in world football. The signing of Swedish superstar and the return of youth product Paul Pogba are evident that despite Manchester United’s slip down the table in recent years they can and will still attract the biggest names.
Spurs will argue that they don’t need the biggest names like Ibrahimović when Kane has got seven league goals in the nine he has played this season. One player at the start of his career and another reaching the end, it’s 12 years and 49 Premier League goals that separate the two strikers. The Spurs striker is statistically the most clinical finisher in the Premier League this season, while the Man United man has gone one better than him so far with eight goals.
It is a huge game for both sides. Manchester United are already nine points off their desired 4th spot, which is covered by their noisy neighbours. And Spurs can leapfrog City with a win at Old Trafford and if City loses away to the champions on Saturday.
There are no fresh injury concerns for either side, as summer signing Eric Bailly returned in mid-week for United and Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw are still out. Tottenham will have to do without their summer signing Vincent Janssen, while Erik Lamela is also still out. Both sides used a full strength team in mid-week.
Spurs have finished above the 20 times champions twice in the last three seasons since Manchester United’s title victory in 2012/13, the first time in the Premier League era. For years Spurs were that team that tried to get into the Champions League but had to settle for the UEFA Cup, while Man United breezed into the Champions League each year. In recent years this hasn’t been the case.
Have the two switched places? Find out who comes out on top this Sunday.
Venue: Old Trafford