The Premier League returns to London on Friday night as Jose Mourinho faces off with his former side when Tottenham play host to Manchester United.
The Red Devils beat Mourinho’s side in the reverse fixture back in December, with Marcus Rashford scoring twice in a 2-1 win at Old Trafford. With United chasing the Champions League positions Spurs will be hoping they can put together a nice run to end their season well, meanwhile denting their rivals ambitions too.
Both Tottenham and Manchester United have benefited from the enforced pause in the Premier League, welcoming back key players from injuries for a run-in they would otherwise have missed.
For United, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford have now completely recovered from injuries that saw them miss a large chunk of the season so far. Pogba has only made 7 appearances in the league this season, largely owing to an ankle problem while Rashford was expected to miss the remainder of the season after suffering a double stress-fracture of his back against Wolves in the FA Cup in January.
Tottenham can welcome back talisman Harry Kane and winger Steven Bergwijn, who both were expected to miss the remainder of the campaign. Heung-Min Son is also fit again after he broke his arm before the break.
On Friday night, Spurs will be without Dele Alli though. The England international is suspended after being charged for an inappropriate post on social media about the coronavirus. Tanguy Ndombele, Erik Lamela, Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko are all fit and available to play, while Jan Vertonghen has agreed a short-term deal to stay with the club until the end of the campaign but will leave on a free-transfer following that. Midfielder Giovanni Lo Celso is a doubt having not featured in the club’s warm-up game against Norwich last week, while young defender Japhet Tanganga is out with a back injury.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær told the media in his pre-match press conference that United are missing just two players, with defenders Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe both injured. Ole said that both Pogba and Rashford are “fully fit” but have been out for a “long, long while” and their playing time will be managed accordingly.
With The Athletic reporting earlier this week that Paul Pogba is expected to start the game on the bench, United are likely to start with a midfield similar to the one we saw prior to the enforced break. Nemanja Matic, Fred and Bruno Fernandes had done well previously as a unit, while Scott McTominay also returned to fitness and featured. I expect Ole to go with the former however, opting for experience in a fixture that he knows will be tough. In attack, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial will surely start together with Dan James the leading candidate to start on the right. In defence, Victor Lindelof had established himself as Harry Maguire’s partner in the centre while Luke Shaw’s good form had seen him oust Brandon Williams as the first choice left-back. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the undisputed first-choice right-back and will start, fitness permitting. Eric Bailly had performed well since his return to fitness following a serious knee injury, so the option of a back-five is there if Ole wants to use it.
Spurs have adopted a back-five on many occasions under Mourinho but the return to fitness of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Steven Bergwijn means his options in attack are now greatly increased. Serge Aurier is likely to start at right-back with Tanganga out injured, while Davinson Sanchez, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld could all start in the centre of defence. Ben Davies is likely to start at left-back too. In midfield, with Lo Celso a doubt I expect Mourinho to go with a duo of Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko. Ndombele had come under heavy criticism from Mourinho prior to the break so I expect him to start on the bench. Dele Alli’s suspension means all three of the fit again attackers are likely to start together in a 3-4-3/5-2-3 formation.
With the break it’s hard to predict what will happen in this game but United will be confident that with their squad at near full strength they can come away with a result considering their record against big sides under Ole. Jose will be more than aware of their style though and will have had plenty of time to put together a plan. A draw is the likeliest result here in my opinion, with both sides grabbing a goal each.
Both teams to score – 8/11