Old Trafford sets the stage for Sunday’s mouth-watering Premier League showdown between familiar foes Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
United signed off for 2023 on a sorrowful note, losing further ground on the top four courtesy of a disheartening 2-1 defeat at bottom-half Nottingham Forest.
Kicking 2024 off on the front foot was imperative for Erik ten Hag’s side amid growing pressure on the Dutch manager following the club’s worst calendar year in terms of Premier League defeats.
The Red Devils seized a presentable opportunity to do just that, generating an eye-catching 4.12 xG en route to beating third-tier Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup third round.
Profligacy cast a shadow on Man Utd’s dominant performance at the DW Stadium. They put away only two of their 33 shots on goal, reinforcing fans’ fears over the team’s capacity to improve their poor scoring record.
Only bottom-two sides have performed worse than the 20-time Premier League champions in front of goals this season, with Ten Hag’s men hauling just 22 league goals.
For comparison, visiting Tottenham boast 42 top-flight goals heading into this contest after a 3-1 mauling of Bournemouth at the tail-end of the last calendar year.
Spurs delivered a perfect response to a 4-2 demolition at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion on their last league travel to move within a single-point deficit of fourth-placed Arsenal.
Eighth-placed Man Utd lag seven points behind their visitors. On that basis, this assignment has all the makings of a must-win fixture.
Despite Man Utd’s embarrassing scoring output, Jadon Sancho had no place in Ten Hag’s plans, resulting in his loan switch to Borussia Dortmund in the build-up to this encounter.
With several marquee first-team stars on the verge of rejoining the squad from long-term injuries this month, United’s bid to defy an underwhelming five-game winless league run (W1, D1, L3) braces for a significant boost.
For the moment, Man United must rely on what they have to strengthen their home resurgence after mustering three wins in their last four top-flight outings at Old Trafford (L1).
Any success is unlikely to arrive without a nerve-shredding element, knowing nine of the Red Devils’ ten Premier League victories this season have yielded a single-goal margin.
Following a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture on Ange Postecoglou’s home debut in the Premier League, Tottenham entertain the prospect of pulling off their first league double over Man Utd since 1989/90.
With only Manchester City and Liverpool amassing more points on the road than Spurs’ 18 this season, stars might have aligned for the North London outfit to achieve this flattering feat.
However, travelling fans know better than to place exaggerated expectations ahead of a historically tantalising trip to Old Trafford, where Spurs have lost three of their last four Premier League games (W1).
Adding to this sentiment, Postecoglou’s men have gone winless on three of their last four league travels (D1, L2), ominously conceding multiple goals in all such games.
Despite getting called up for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Andre Onana will be in goal for Man Utd, but Sofyan Amrabat has already linked up with Morocco.
Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro, Mason Mount and Victor Lindelof remain unavailable, but Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Christian Eriksen should be in contention.
Antony and Anthony Martial are the only doubts.
Tottenham will be without standout forward Heung-min Son, who’s away on international duty with South Korea.
Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr are at AFCON, while Cristian Romero, Ivan Perisic, Manor Solomon and James Maddison are in the treatment room.
Spurs unveiled Radu Dragusin as their new centre-back on Thursday, but he may not start Sunday’s clash. The same goes for RB Leipzig loanee Timo Werner.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Andre Onana; Diogo Dalot, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Christian Eriksen, Scott McTominay; Alejandro Garnacho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Rasmus Hojlund.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Guglielmo Vicario; Pedro Porro, Micky van de Ven, Emerson Royal, Destiny Udogie; Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Oliver Skipp; Dejan Kulusevski, Giovani Lo Celso, Brennan Johnson; Richarlison.
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