The Sunday Post (Newcastle)
Maguire’s keen to get into action with Kane
Harry Maguire is “ready for battle” with England team-mate Harry Kane as Manchester United look to exact revenge on Tottenham.
While Manchester City’s eye-watering lead means the Premier League title already looks beyond them, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side start the weekend in second spot and well placed to secure Champions League qualification.
United have 60 points to their name and today head to sixth-placed Spurs, who only have 49 points after a stuttering second half of the campaign under Jose Mourinho.
It is quite the turnaround in fortunes from October, when the former United boss led Tottenham to a remarkable 6-1 win against the 10-man hosts at Old Trafford.
“It’s a great game to be involved in,” United captain Maguire said ahead of the clash in north London.
“Really pleased that we’re going into it on the back of three points against Brighton.
“It’s always a tough game after the international break and I always feel like the points are the big thing – you don’t really look at the performance.
“Spurs is going to be a big one. It’s one that we’re looking forward to. We had a bad result against them at Old Trafford this season, so we’ll be looking to get one back.”
Maguire believes United “have more than enough to go there and get the three points”, although he knows better than most the threat posed by Kane.
The 27-year-old is top of the Premier League’s scoring charts with 19 goals and has provided a league-high 13 assists, including scoring two and providing another in October’s 6-1 mauling.
“I want to play in the biggest games possible against the best players – that’s why I joined this club,” Maguire said.
“Harry is one of those players. I know him from England really well. He’s a top striker, one of the best in the world and he does it season after season, scores goals after goals. He’ll be ready for battle and I’ll be ready for battle. May the best man win.
“It’s not just individuals, it’s a team effort. As a defensive unit we’ve got to be strong, go there and get a clean sheet and give the team the best opportunity to win the game.”
United head into the match off the back of Thursday’s 2-0 win at Granada, which put them in the driving seat of their Europa League quarter-final ahead of this week’s return fixture.
Maguire is suspended for the second leg at Old Trafford, but that is unlikely to hamper progress to the semi-finals of a competition that offers them the chance to finish off a promising season with silverware. He added: “I think the improvement will be shown from this year to last year. That was the main aim: to improve on last year. We need to beat the points tally and if we finish above third then obviously that’s even better.
“At this club, we want to be winning the Premier League, but we also know that we’ve got a lot of improvement to be made to enable that.”
Mourinho is hopeful his side can benefit from a free midweek.
Spurs have not had the luxury of a full week on the training ground ahead of a Premier League game this season because of their Europa League and Carabao Cup commitments.
But their embarrassing demise to Dinamo Zagreb in the last 16 does now mean the majority of their remaining games this season come on the back of a free week.
“We are working well during this week,” he said. “For the wrong reasons we were able to have a week to work, we didn’t have many, for the good reasons, we didn’t have many during the season.
“And now we had it. And that makes me positive. I enjoy the work this week. And I’m positive.
“I don’t look too much for the records. Because sometimes things go against the stats, or the tendencies, or what the records are saying.
“I go with confidence because I believe in us, I believe in the work we are doing to try to prepare the match the best we can. I believe, I don’t want to go to the match with other things in mind. Then, we are ready.”
Only Leicester have been awarded more penalties than United this season in the Premier League, while the Old Trafford club have been given four in their last three games against Spurs, though one was rescinded by VAR.
Mourinho has often made barbs about the number of spot-kicks his former club get awarded, but says he cannot be worried about it before the game.
“I cannot go to a match concerned,” he said. “I can’t. I don’t think it’s the right frame of mind to go to a football match concerned.
“So I’m not going concerned. And I don’t want my players to be concerned. They have to go with positive feelings.”