United and Spurs EXPECTED TO THROW PUNCHES AT WEMBLEY
Big test for caretaker Solskjaer as Red Devils take on the Lillywhites
Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has emulated the legendary Sir Matt Busby in recording five victories in a row at the start of his career. But today presents his biggest test as the Red Devils take on high-flying Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium.
For Spurs’ boss Mauricio Pochettino the encounter could prove to be an audition for the job at Old Trafford next season, although the Argentine continues to commit his long-term future to the Lillywhites.
In addition, the game could be a significant defining point in United’s race to try to make ground on a top four position, whereas a victory might keep alive Spurs’ hopes of challenging for the Premier League title.
The home team are six points behind leaders Liverpool and United are a halfa-dozen behind Chelsea who occupy the fourth spot.
With that said, the visitors are playing with an incredible swagger and Pogba’s recent form indicates the sullen malaise of the José Mourinho reign is dead and buried.
Pogba has had more goal involvements (seven) in four league matches than he did in 14 under the Portuguese. His four goals eclipse his three with Mourinho.
The France World Cup winner is averaging more shots per 90 minutes (four compared with three), his finishing accuracy is up to 25% from 7.5%, whereas, his involvement in general play is greatly increased to 88 passes from 64.2.
It means the more combative Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko or Eric Dier could be key in closing down Pogba in the middle of the park. Dier has just returned from an appendix surgery in December and Jan Vertonghen also returns from injury.
Nonetheless, Spurs are a fearless attacking side having scored 21 times in their last seven EPL clashes, which includes six victories.
However, Man United are a different animal to the one that defended in numbers and literally parked the bus under the sulky Mourinho.
Solskjaer reportedly spends close to 80% of his training sessions focused on attacking play, with the remainder looking at the opposition.
Although he will be wary of Spurs’ high-pressing game and lightning attacking play from turnovers, as demonstrated in the side’s 3-1 destruction of Chelsea in November, United are likely to throw some punches of their own.
Aside from the rejuvenation of Pogba, Marcus Rashford has been a forward reborn in more of a central attacking role. Three goals in four appearances suggest the 21-year-old is red-hot at the moment.
Meanwhile, Romelu Lukaku’s razorsharp instincts in the penalty area are seemingly back on track as the Belgiam star has hit the back of the net in his last three appearances.
On the flip side, Phil Jones and Victor Lindelöf are likely to be given the task of trying to stop the world-class Harry Kane in attack. Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling are struggling with injury and Eric Bailly is banned.
Kane is in the race for the Golden Boot with 14 strikes, with Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has 13.
In today’s earlier kickoff, struggling Everton take on an equally brittle Bournemouth at Goodison Park. The Toffees have lost four of their last five league matches, meaning more questions are being asked about the true pedigree of the much-heralded Marco Silva.
The Cherries are also enduring a poor patch in the EPL having lost seven of their last 10. The clash certainly seems like a mid-table six-pointer for both outfits. – TEAMtalk Media
ON SONG Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min fights for possession against Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen
FAST AND FURIOUS Man United’s Paul Pogba, battling Newcastle United’s Christian Atsu, is a key player in the clash against Tottenham Hotspur