The Premier League is entering the business end and every match is now vital to both Manchester clubs as both recognise that a loss hands inititive to the other.
It’s, as a great man once said, squeeky bum time. That’s why this weekend that throws up a tricky away fixture at White Hart Lane against a Tottenham team with their own faint hopes of title glory and a, on paper at least, easy home game against relegation threatened Bolton for both teams has potential to be very significant. Very significant indeed.
Recent history suggets that United should be relatively confident in their trip south. The astonishing truth is that Spurs haven’t beaten United in their last twenty five meetings having lost nineteen of them. The last time that Spurs beat United was way back at the turn of the century in 2001 – a game that saw Scholes and Giggs start. To see these two still playing eleven years on is stuff of legend and will surely place the pair alongside club giants Best, Law and Charlton.
The bookmakers are finding it a tough game to forecast as Spurs are around 9/5 with United as slight favourites at 8/5. A punt on a 21/10 shot at a draw would double your money and, if you’re to believe Ferguson, earn a result that would see United travel back to Old Trafford contented with a result that keeps them in the title race. United never play for a draw but an away point here would keep them in touch at the top and having played the vast majority of our tough away games.
Selection for United is becoming easier to predict these days as injuries take their toll and players play their way into form. It’s also the time of year that Ferguson tinkers less and less as he begins settling with the players he trusts – Ferdinand, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney.
De Gea will start in goal tomorrow and continue his brilliant run of form. A run of form that has finally shut up a lot of negative comments from the media, both social and Fleet Street. Ferguson has recently conceded that he’d like to see him bulk out to better equip himself for the rigours of Premiership football but let’s not forget that the boy is still in his very early twenties and has a lot of natural growing up to do.
A flat back four of Evra, Ferdinand, Evans and one of Jones or a da Silva at right back should prove steady and offer the young Spaniard much protection. With Bale’s chances of playing apparently increasing with each passing moment it may be a game for the hard nosed Phil Jones. Smalling is unlikely to feature after picking up a gashed head in the midweek international against Holland.
In midfield we should expect to see Nani and Young out wide as Valencia, one of our best performers for the past few months, is still out injured. Cleverley’s debut season of promise has again been hampered by injury and that will probably result in a start for Carrick and Scholes in midfield although a certain Ryan Giggs may have something to say about that. However, the combination of two players who like to play keep ball in the middle could prove invaluable at the Lane.
Rooney is, by all accounts, fit to start after recovering from his throat infection and this will prove a timely boost for United. His partner, last season so often Hernandez, I fancy to be Welbeck. As much as I love Hernandez and as threatening as he is in front of goal he lacks a certain composure and physicality that Welbeck offers. Welbeck has that air of a young boy playing for the club he’s supported since a boy desperate to help the to win the league. He’s a throw back to the days of Beckham and Butt. He’s what United is about and I hope he starts and makes his and our dreams come true tomorrow.
Spurs, for their part, are hoping to have back Ledley King, van der Vaart and Kyle Walker back and will offer United a huge test. After their humiliation at the Emirates last week United are sure to face a Spurs team desperate to bounce back and reinforce their newly found position as top club in London whilst the players will also be looking to remind Redknapp why he’s better off at White Hart Lane than he would be at the FA. The suspension of Scott Parker is a big blow for the Londoners though as he’s been one of their players of the season- hence his recent ascendency to the England captaincy. Will all the speculation around his future have an impact on the Spurs’ dressing room? Tomorrow might give us a hint…