After a much-needed week off, Manchester United take a trip to White Hart Lane to take on Tottenham Hotspur for a mouth-watering Barclays Premier League match.
After their controversial 1-0 win over their most-hated rival Liverpool in the FA Cup last weekend, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were able to take a short breather before enduring a tough stretch of five games in 16 days, which begins against Spurs.
Even though United has enjoyed good luck against Tottenham in recent years, the Reds should expect one of their toughest matches to date this season, and it will also test their 25-game unbeaten streak in the league.
Everyone knows that United has not been very proficient away from Old Trafford this season, so Harry Redknapp knows this could be Tottenham’s best time to win their first game against the Reds in nearly 10 years.
United has personal unbeaten streak against Tottenham that stretches a massive 23 games – including four matches in the FA Cup and Carling Cup – and their last loss against Spurs was a 3-1 defeat at White Hart Lane in May 2001.
In those 19 Premier League games, United has won 15, drew four and outscored Tottenham 41-11, which all started with that famous 5-3 comeback win at WHL in September 2001.
However, but so far this season the Reds have drawn seven of their nine games, and there is no better place to right your poor form – if you can call it that – than against a title rival.
Spurs are currently in fourth place in the Premier Standings just eight points back of first-place United – having played one game more – but Redknapp is looking to close the gap and make a serious title challenge this season.
After finishing in fourth place last season, Spurs secured a place in this year’s UEFA Champions League and they made everyone sit up and take notice with some impressive performances in the Group stage.
Even though Tottenham topped Group A, which contained the reigning champions Inter Milan, FC Twente and Werder Bremen, the Lilywhites were handed a tasty two-legged tie with AC Milan in the Round of 16.
In the Premier League, Spurs have only lost once – an early season 1-0 loss against Wigan Athletic – at White Hart Lane, but they have also suffered four draws in their 11 home matches thus far.
Impressively, 17 of Tottenham’s 31 league goals has come at home, which may come as a concern as United has given up 12 goals (19 total) on their travels this season.
Spurs’ defense is tied for seventh overall in goals against with 25 conceded, which is nine goals more than United has given up this season, but Tottenham have only given up two goals in their last three games – a 2-1 away loss to Everton.
That loss was ended Spurs’ good run of form – a nine-match unbeaten streak – which started after their back-to-back losses against United and Bolton at the end of October and beginning of November, respectively.
United triumphed to a fully-deserved 2-0 win over Spurs at Old Trafford, but the game will be forever-remembered for a refereeing decision.
Nemanja Vidic put United up one-nil just after the half-hour mark, but it was Nani’s bizarre goal six minutes from the end that drove a dagger through the Spurs’ heart.
After being unfairly tugged back by Younes Kaboul after he was clean through behind the Spurs’ defense, Nani instinctively grabbed the ball to force the referee, Mark Clattenburg, to make a decision as to whether to give a penalty or not, but there was no whistle from the referee.
From a young age, you are taught as a player to play to whistle, but the careless Heurelho Gomes assumed that there was one and set the ball down, but with a glance back at Clattenburg for permission, Nani stroked the ball into the Spurs net, which sparked controversy and complete unrest with Tottenham players.
If Spurs fans were honest with themselves they would congratulate United their just reward rather than see it as a goal that should have never stood, because they are quick to forget that they should have had a penalty given against them with Kaboul shown a straight red for his “professional” foul on Nani.
Despite winning their Third Round FA Cup match, United were without some key players with Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar and Vidic all missing for some reason or another.
Rooney, van der Sar and Vidic were more than likely being rest because of the rough set of matches to come, but Scholes has been out for the last couple of months with a groin injury.
A good sight for the United supporters was the brief cameo for Michael Owen against his former club, Liverpool, which shows that Sir Alex has four formidable striking options for the second half of the Premier League season.
Sir Alex Ferguson knows that Manchester United needs to be better than they have been on the road this season if the Reds are to take maximum points from White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur.
Out: A. Valencia (leg), O. Hargreaves (hamstring), J. O’Shea (calf); Questionable: P. Scholes (groin), W. Rooney (ankle)
E. van der Sar; Rafael, R. Ferdinand, N. Vidic, P. Evra; Nani, M. Carrick, Anderson, R. Giggs; J. Hernandez, W. Rooney
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester United 2