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Know Your Tottenham Hotspur Opponent: Chicharito, Err, Manchester United

I love this kid.
I love this kid.
Ahh, traffic baiting. This week, we face off against Manchester United, one of English football's big boys and a team that makes a regular habit out of killing Tottenham Hotspur. I had a chat with Charles Coutts of The Busby Babe, SBNation's Man United blog, about the upcoming fixture. You can see my answers to his questions about Spurs on his site. Among the topics discussed: How the fans are taking to Chicharito, a.k.a. Javier Hernandez, what the team will do when their veterans Ryan Giggs, Edwin van der Sar, and Paul Scholes retire, and what Charles thinks of United's current tactics. My questions are in the quote boxes, Charles' answers are the regular text.
If you guys finish undefeated, will you the the weakest invincibles team in the history of...ever?

Not to be the Debbie Downer, but I'm not feeling super confident that we'll finish undefeated.  We still have to play Chelsea twice, Arsenal at the Emirates and Manchester City.  Not to mention our forthcoming trip to White Hart Lane.  Lots of football left to be played, lots can still happen.

How strong of title favorites are you right now?

I'd say very strong.   Even with those games still to be played, we're 2 points clear at the top of the table with at least a game in hand on most of the league.

Who do you fear most? Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, or Chelsea?

For me, it's Chelsea away.  Stamford Bridge has been a really tough place to win at for United over the past decade.  I'll take any of those four at home, any day of the week though.

What has been the most impressive thing about Manchester United so far this season?

I've been impressed with the run of points...we still have a "0" in the L column on the table.  West Ham in the Carling Cup was the only game United have failed to gain any points.  Having said that, we could really be running away with the title if it weren't for late-game letdowns on the road against Everton, Fulham, etc.   United have really seemed to struggle at the end of games on the road this year.

What is the general fan opinion of your recent signing, Javier Hernandez, aka Chicharito?

He's quickly becoming one of the fan favorites.  He's a hard worker, plays the game smart and knows where the back of the net is.  People are comparing him to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer because of his off-the-bench quality.  I don't like comparing legends with a guy in his first season...but I can see why people would draw that conclusion.

Do you think the team plays their best football in a 4-3-3 setup with Rooney up top, the same basic formation with Wayne Rooney wide, or with two strikers?

Personally, I like seeing Berbatov up top with Rooney playing behind him...Rooney has a quality shot from the edge of the box and is able to feed Berbatov well.  But then, that's a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 depending on who's doing the talking.  Fergie likes to line up a "4-3-3" but that's not exactly the shape of the formation either, which is even more difficult to name when the fullbacks come forward so much.  Really, it's more like a 2-2-2-3-1, which made me stop and double-check my math.

Are you concerned about what the team will look like after the departures of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Edwin van der Sar?

No, because we have fantastic players that are either filling in their voids temporarily or are waiting their turn.  The only concern that I have is at goalkeeper, where I don't really trust Tomasz Kuzczak in the big matches and Ben Amos really needs a lot more experience (which he's getting now that he's on loan at Oldham).   Anders Lindegaard is highly regarded by the United staff...but I have yet to see him.

Who are some young players you've heard United linked to in the transfer market as potential replacements?

Nearly anybody who's anybody.  After the Rooney saga in October,  Chief Executive David Gill mentioned that Fergie has about 100m pounds in the bank for transfers.  It's led to some wild speculations and frankly, I've lost touch with where to draw the line.  Realistically, Jordan Henderson from Sunderland and Jack Rodwell from Everton keep popping up, as well as David de Gea from Athletico Madrid.  I think all would be fine additions to the club.

How much do you think Marseille will test you in the UEFA Champions League, and how far can United go in that competition?

In France, it's going to be a really tough game.  At Old Trafford, I expect United to stomp the crap out of them.  Tough to speculate at this point with the trip to Marseille still over a month away though...injuries and rest could factor into the equation, especially since the first game in France is potentially sandwiched between Manchester City and Chelsea.

Project the United lineup for this weekend's game.

Van der Sar; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Giggs; Rooney, Berbatov.   VDS has been under the weather lately, so Kuzczak could play instead with Lindegaard on the bench (which was the case against Liverpool in the FA Cup last Sunday).


And finally, predict the score.

I agree with your prediction...1-1.  Rooney scores in the first 20 minutes and Peter Crouch comes on a sub and equalizes in the last 10 minutes.