WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) kicks-off his Sunday previews at Old Trafford. The Red Devils are in desperate need of a win to bridge the gap but Spurs look better both on the the pitch and in the betting.
Manchester United v Tottenham | Sunday 14:15 | Sky Sports 1
These two sides both won in European competition in midweek but Tottenham have had a day’s extra rest and didn’t have to travel to a freezing Ukraine.
United’s opposition, Zorya, were playing in the Chernomorets Stadium in Odessa, 600 miles away from Luhansk and Jose Mourinho was understandably a little peeved at the icy pitch.
The win was meaningless for Manchester United though as Fenerbahce’s away win in Rotterdam meant that they failed to top the group. It’s the latest in a string of disappointments for the Portuguese boss. The Red Devils last eight league outings have returned a paltry W1-D6-L1.
Everton equalised late on last Sunday through a Leighton Baines penalty and Mourinho was riled by it. A ridiculous challenge by the substitute Marouane Fellaini coming on at his old club threw away three points that his team were certainly deserving of.
It means that United are now six points behind their visitors this weekend, Spurs. The North Londoners extended their gap over the chasing pack to six points thanks to a 5-0 thrashing of Swansea last weekend. Against CSKA Moscow at Wembley on Wednesday night they also ran the show.
Toby Alderweireld returns to the Premier League fray this weekend and with Harry Kane also present they have their two catalysts for winning matches. Kane has seven goals in just nine appearances this season and Christian Eriksen has also found his shooting boots, scoring three in his last two league games.
I’m leaning towards Tottenham in this one as you can probably tell.
Mauricio Pochettino’s troops already have the best defensive record in the league, despite a recent run without clean sheets. The absence of Alderweireld was hard-felt but that was largely down to a lack of goals scored too as Spurs drew too many games 1-1, five of their six draws ending with that scoreline.
Their 10 conceded is somehow one better than a rampant Chelsea. With Liverpool and Manchester City both losing last time out they’ve bridged that gap to three points.
A positive result here would do wonders for them as they enter a Christmas period of very winnable fixtures; Hull (H), Burnley (H), Southampton (A) and Watford (A). Come the close of New Year’s Day they could be firmly in contention.
Man United are a little harder to read. There have been all sorts of positives about them in their performances but results are not coming. The return of Eric Bailly to the centre of defence could help that but in truth Phil Jones and Marcus Rojo have done a very decent job of late.
Going forward they’ve been dominant in matches and Zlatan Ibrahimović is in a rich vein of form once again, scoring five in his last four in all competitions. They also have an embarrassment of riches in midfield and the choice between Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, Antony Martial and Paul Pogba looks to be giving Mourinho a headache.
The key cog, as any self-respecting Manchester United fan will tell you, is Michael Carrick. With him on the pitch this season they’ve won 80% of games, without him an abysmal 31%. No other player in the side has such an impact on the statistics.
Counting on him starting isn’t something I’ll do though and my loyalties on the betting lines certainly lie stronger with Spurs. Consequently, my best bet for this tussle is Tottenham +0.50 on the Asian Handicap line at 10/13 with Betvictor.
In the last eight meetings Spurs hold the superior head to head; W3-D3-L2 but both sides have also drawn far too many games for me to pull the trigger on the 13/5 for the away win.
Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur – Tottenham Hotspur +0.50 Asian Handicap (10/13 BetVictor)