Wednesday 1st January 2014 – Kick Off 17:30 – Old Trafford
The first game at Old Trafford of 2014 see’s United host Tottenham, and with the teams on equal 34 points, both will see this as a must win encounter.
United’s last game against spurs at white hart lane ended in a 2-2 stalemate. United were unlucky that day with a world class strike from Sandro and a free kick from Walker the only real chances that spurs created to cancel out a brace from Rooney.
Since then there has been feeling of cautious optimism growing around Old Trafford with six wins from six in all competitions. United are slowly closing in on the top four as teams above continue to drop points and are set to play each other over the coming weeks. United will be hoping to come out on top in a clash which could go some way to deciding who plays champions league football next season. In short this is a must win game for United.
Both teams head into the new year on the back of wins against Stoke and Norwich, and both will be hoping to start 2014 in the same vein. Spurs have recently appointed Tim Sherwood as their head coach after the sacking of Andre Villas Boas. Sherwood will be looking to rejuvenate his side with some vital fixtures coming up. As always with a new manager and especially in a game like this against United at Old Trafford, the spurs players will be looking to impress, as to cement their place in Sherwood’s future plans.
United’s win against Norwich was vital, and three points was good enough, especially in this busy period and with the severely weakened team Moyes was forced to field. After the match Moyes suggested that Rooney will be back fit to face spurs and that Robin Van Persie is nearing full fitness but is unlikely to be back in time for the clash.
Reports suggest Rooney could have played against Nowrich, however Moyes will have understood the importance of this game and did not want to risk further injury to United’s talisman. Rooney therefore looks likely to start with Welbeck up front in place of Hernandez who was very much isolated and ineffective against Norwich.
Uniteds defence held up pretty well at the weekend and De Gea seems in fine form, so the reds should be pretty confident that the defence can with withstand any spurs attacking onslaught. With Rafeal looking likely to miss out with the groin injury he picked up in the win against Hull, Smalling who played well against Norwich may keep his place in the starting line up. Jones who would have started the game looks set to miss the clash due to a knee injury.
Carrick who looked a yard of the pace at the weekend after returning from injury looks set to keep his place in the centre of the park. Possibly along side Cleverley, who had a indifferent game against Norwich after a string of decent performances. Moyes will be tempted to replace Cleverley with the returning Fletcher for some grit and experience in the centre of midfield. However, he may be unwilling to risk a player who hasn’t played 90 minutes of football in over 13 months in such a high profile clash.
Young, Kagawa and Giggs all failed to impress at the weekend which may result in a return to the starting line up for Adnan Januzaj, one of United’s top performers this season. Valencia who has found some form of late, returns after suspension and will hope to drop straight into the starting line up. Valencia would add some much needed strength and defensive know how to help combat some of Spurs attacking play, as well as his pace down the right wing which has been so effective of late. Let’s hope he continues his form into the new year.
With the transfer window opening on the same day players on both sides will be looking to impress their respective managers to prove they are not dispensable to the clubs.
Moyes’s men will want to kick off their year in the right way with a win, and with Newcastle and Liverpool both dropping points last weekend, let’s hope they have what it takes to beat a strong Spurs side who may be hitting some form.
Manchester United Win: 4/6
Tottenham Hotspur Win: 9/2
Prediction: 2-0 Win – Manchester United