Manchester United vs Tottenham | Saturday 12th March 2022, 17:30 | Sky Sports
The race for the top four continues as Spurs travel north to take on Man Utd at Old Trafford in front of the Sky cameras.
Antonio Conte’s charges will have fond memories of their last trip to Manchester after leaving the Etihad with three points in a 3-2 win. And they must fancy their chances against this United outfit.
The Lilywhites have won three of their last four, keeping two clean sheets in their back-to-back wins, albeit against sides struggling to keep their heads above water in Leeds and Everton.
Three points here would see them leapfrog Man Utd in the table into fifth, on the tails of their north London rivals Arsenal.
Man Utd are looking to bounce back immediately after their dismal derby showing, losing 4-1 to their noisy neighbours. It was their first defeat in nine, but I’m yet to be convinced by Ralf Rangnick and his set-up.
At Old Trafford, they’ve generally been solid if not spectacular. Since the start of December, they’ve only lost one league game at the Theatre of Dreams (W5, D2). But they rode their luck in the 1-1 draw against Southampton, while the goalless draw against Watford last month was hardly inspiring.
The accusation labelled at them continues to be one about a team of individuals rather than all pulling together for the good of the collective. And when you look at the egos on show, then it’s probably a fair assessment.
Honestly, where do you start when you can’t trust either side 100%? Even the referee appointment of Jon Moss lacks inspiration with 18 of his 24 games in all competitions seeing under 3.5 cards. That outcome again is EVS with Bet365.
It’s landed in three of his four games overseeing Man Utd this season. But his four Spurs games have seen cards, with both against Palace seeing a red card. So that put me off match cards slightly.
However, I have added a couple of card legs into a 6/5 Bet Builder with Bet365. It’s under 5 goals, under 3 Man Utd cards & under 3 Spurs cards.
The Red Devils' home league games of late have been tame encounters. After the 3-2 win over Arsenal in December, just 12 goals have been scored at either end in the seven that have followed. The most goals in one of those seven was four in the 3-1 victory against Burnley.
Spurs’ Jekyll and Hyde performances haven’t helped to try to find angles. But 10 of their 13 away games have seen four or fewer goals.
Although their away record reads W6 D2 L5, I was tempted to take them Draw No Bet after their recent performances have hinted at a positive turn. But I can’t bring myself to do that just yet.
Going back to the Bet Builder, the cards angle is mainly a case of a referee who hasn’t been dishing them out this season, and even last weekend’s Manchester derby only saw one card. There’s also a case of how they could set up with deep-sitting defences, which could see fewer tactical fouls.
I was trying to dig out an angle that highlighted the impact of Dejan Kulusevski. The 21-year-old has recorded five goal involvements in six league appearances since his arrival from Juventus. Three of those have been assists, so that was a potential play.
Even thinking back to last weekend’s Manchester derby, where City ganged up on Aaron Wan-Bissaka, could see Spurs try and expose that fragility down United’s right side. Ryan Sessegnon forced the opening goal with his cross in Spurs’ win on Monday.
Then his half-time replacement Sergio Reguilón found the net around 50 seconds after coming on. Depending on who starts at left wing-back, there are angles around a shot, assist or even goal that could be worth a little go.
As was an outlandish shout on Spurs to score in both halves (13/5 Unibet). That’s copped in five of their last eight, including in visits to Leicester and Man City. Plus, with the way they could aim to hit United on the break with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Kulusevski, then that could have legs.
But my second and final angle is Pierre-Emile Højbjerg to make 3+ tackles, which looks too good given the recent performances from the combative Dane.
His last six league games have seen hit 3, 0, 3, 5, 3 & 3. So, a winner in five of those (83%). I know it’s a small sample, but it’s a sign that Conte is starting to shape this Spurs side. And throughout the season, he’s hit this line in 10 games.
If you take that one step further, the Dane has hit three or more in seven away games. Some of them have seen big numbers, including a five at Burnley and a massive nine at Newcastle.
Overall, he ranks in joint-18th in the league for tackles completed (56) – the most of any Spurs players, so I’m expecting the Dane to roll his sleeves up and set the tone for the visitors.
In the last month, plenty of central midfielders have landed 3+ tackles against United. Here are just some of them: Moussa Sissoko (4), Geoffrey Kondogbia (4), Adam Forshaw (5), Mateusz Klich (3), Yves Bissouma (4) and Oriel Romeu (4).
That strengthens the case behind Højbjerg, so at 6/4, I’ll have that as my final play, in a tricky encounter to call.