Sixth plays fifth this afternoon as Manchester United play host to Tottenham and for Jose Mourinho this is almost a must win game. Defeat for United would see Mauricio Pochettino’s side open up a 9 point gap between the two sides and go some way to locking out the top 5 places in the league table come the end of the season.
Not only that but defeat for Jose Mourinho’s men could very well be the final nail in the coffin in terms of any flickering Champions League hopes they may have for next season. If that is the case then they like Tottenham will probably have to look at outright Europa League victory come May if they are to return to Europe’s top club competition.
United come back to Manchester after a trip to Russia on Thursday, it may have be a positive result with a 2-0 win over Zorha Luyansk but it won’t have been ideal preparation with a Premier League game to follow on Sunday but that is something Tottenham know all too well about from years gone by.
And it’s something that they will have to get used to again as they drop down into the Europa League in the new year after only managing third place in the Champions League group. That third place was secured when they recorded their first victory at the new Wembley with a 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.
It may not perhaps be the competition that Mauricio Pochettino wants to play in come February but after a playing a full strength lineup in midweek it showed how seriously he intends to take the fact that Tottenham will have to compete on another front.
And they will still want to compete on the major front which is the Premier League. They kept themselves on the fringes of the top four with a 5-0 demolition job of Swansea last Saturday. That win was a second in their last three after four successive draws. The unbeaten run may be gone but they were firing on all cylinders last weekend.
The same couldn’t be said about Manchester United who were held to another draw last Sunday. A third successive draw means that they have only won once in their last 8 league matches. Not only that but the last three matches have all ended in a 1-1 scoreline.
Last Sunday saw them held by Everton at Goodison Park where ultimately there were masters of their own demise as Marouane Fellaini’s cameo was not a memorable one. He came off the bench on 86 minutes and by 88 minutes he had managed to give away a penalty. Another frustrating afternoon for all connected with United.
I have a feeling it’s going to be more of the same at Old Trafford today. Tottenham will come into the game fresher and full of confidence after back to back wins across all competitions not only but they will have the bedrock of their defence Toby Alderweireld available after such a long absence through injury.
United have been playing well at home but have failed to put teams to the sword and more importantly have not been able to close games out. The last 10 minutes continue to be nervy watching for United fans with all manner of goals being conceded with have ultimately gone on to see them drop ever more points to their biggest rivals.
If I was a betting man (albeit not a very good one) I have a feeling this could be another 1-1 draw. Not great news for United but I think although Tottenham will be up for this one there’s no doubting the attacking talent that United have at their disposal therefore I think this one will be honours even which in fairness is probably a result that does neither side any real favours.