Manchester United will be looking to put the Premier League top-four finish beyond Tottenham Hotspur’s reach when the two sides lock horns in London on Thursday.
Less than a month since parting company with Antonio Conte, Spurs are onto their third manager of the season after sacking interim boss Christian Stellini at the weekend.
An embarrassing 6-1 defeat at fellow top-four bidders Newcastle United on Sunday prompted the Italian’s dismissal as Ryan Mason returned to the club as a temporary solution until the end of the season.
While vying for the signature of Julian Nagelsmann, who seems to be having second thoughts about taking charge of this dysfunctional club, Tottenham will need a miracle to reignite their dwindling top-four hopes.
Left six points behind fourth-placed Man Utd, who also boast two games in hand, the London outfit could wave goodbye to their Champions League aspirations if they fail to take three points on Thursday.
The Red Devils took a brief rest from Premier League duties over the weekend as they fought Brighton & Hove Albion for a place in the FA Cup final.
Erik ten Hag’s side left the Seagulls in their wake by the skin of their teeth, squeaking past them on penalties after a largely uneventful 0-0 draw in regulation time.
Back to their Premier League commitments for the first time since a 2-0 victory at Nottingham Forest a fortnight ago, United will be gunning for an all-important fourth league win in succession.
With their top-four hopes in tatters, Tottenham head into this game off the back of an abysmal five-game form in the Premier League (W1, D2, L2), bookended by back-to-back defeats to Newcastle and Bournemouth.
Defensive resilience that once highlighted Conte’s ill-fated reign seems long gone, with Spurs conceding a staggering nine goals in their last two outings, amplifying the home side’s fears of losing three straight league matches for the first time in over a year.
Spurs rolled over in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford back in October 2022, going down 2-0 to make it four consecutive league defeats at the hands of Man United for the first time since a run of seven between 2004 and 2007.
While their first Premier League encounter against United at the brand-new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium ended 1-1, Spurs have lost both subsequent home league head-to-heads by an aggregate score of 6-1.
Given the team’s current mindset, it’s hard to expect Tottenham to find their first top-flight win over the Red Devils at their expensive new stadium, though they cannot gun for anything less.
Player to Watch: Harry Kane
Kane has netted 99 Premier League home goals for Tottenham and could become the first player to reach a century of goals in both home and away matches.
The 29-year-old striker tallied five league goals against Man United, but his only strike at home came in the final outing at White Hart Lane in May 2017.
Despite a gut-wrenching Europa League exit at the hands of Sevilla and a hard-fought FA Cup semi-final win over Brighton, Man United have been in stellar form in the Premier League.
Ten Hag’s men have won their last three league fixtures by an aggregate score of 4-0 and could make it four in a row without conceding for the first time since their final season under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Reaching such a flattering milestone could prove a powerful incentive for the Dutchman, who has overseen United’s patchy form across their last three competitive travels (W1, L2).
The Red Devils often thrive in midweek assignments, as they’ve only lost one of their last 15 such Premier League contests (W9, D5) and are unbeaten in all seven this season (W5, D2).
Adding to the visitors’ growing confidence, they have only lost three of their last 21 away meetings with Tottenham in the Premier League (W11, D7), with all three defeats coming between April 2016 and January 2018.
Player to Watch: Marcus Rashford
Rashford has been a difference-maker for Man United this season, but his form has dwindled lately, having netted just once in his last five Premier League appearances.
But it’s worth noting the 25-year-old forward has amassed only three of his 15 top-flight goals this season away from home.
Tottenham cannot call upon long-term absentees Yves Bissouma, Rodrigo Bentancur and Ryan Sessegnon, as well as captain Hugo Lloris and first-choice right-back Emerson Royal.
With the French goalkeeper withdrawn at half-time at St James’ Park with a hip injury, back-up stopper Fraser Forster will slot in to fill the vacancy.
As for Man United, a sizeable injury list featuring Alejandro Garnacho, Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane and Donny van de Beek will give Ten Hag a selection headache.
The Dutchman still hopes to have his favourite playmaker Bruno Fernandes back from a minor ankle problem he picked up against Brighton on Sunday.
In addition to the Portuguese ace, Scott McTominay is facing a race against time to overcome a knock that kept him out of the FA Cup semi-final.
Tottenham Hotspur potential starting line-up:
(3-4-3): Fraser Forster; Christian Romero, Eric Dier, Ben Davies; Pedro Porro, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp, Ivan Perisic; Dejan Kulusevski, Harry Kane, Heung-min Son.
Manchester United potential starting line-up:
(4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Christian Eriksen, Casemiro, Marcel Sabitzer; Antony, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford.
We Say: Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Manchester United
None of Tottenham’s last 26 Premier League matches on home turf have ended level (W18, L8), but we believe it’s time to stop that tradition.
While this looks like a prime opportunity for the Red Devils to flash Spurs’ comeback hopes down the sink, a ‘new manager effect’ could still ignite some fighting spirit in the home camp.
Man United may not necessarily settle for a share of the spoils, yet a draw could be beneficial from Ten Hag’s standpoint, given his side’s form wobble away from home.