Tottenham Hotspur’s torrid schedule continues Saturday with a trip to Old Trafford. While Spurs are no doubt disappointed in bowing out of the League Cup, Toby Alderweireld said that it was a wake up call that the club can build upon going into the second part of this brutal stretch of matches. A delicious matchup with joint-second place Manchester United means a sit down with our friends over at The Busby Babe.
CFC: United got off to a pretty hot start to the season but have tapered off just a tad lately. Has it been injuries to players like Paul Pogba causing the problem or is it more tactical?
BB: A combination of both, but the former has partly necessitated the latter. Pogba is irreplaceable - even last season while he was still finding his feet, when he was out injured, he left a black hole of creativity behind. The midfield is better equipped to handle his absence this year (thanks again for Matic, Roman!), but he's still a huge loss. Fellaini was also playing the best football of his United career when he went out injured as well. Ander Herrera is a useful player, but his form has fallen off a cliff this year. In any case, missing key players in midfield and defense (Bailly, and lately, Jones) has led Mourinho to perhaps compensate by setting the team up more conservatively. On top of that, Henrikh Mkhitaryan - arguably our most creative attacker - has been dog shit since the international break. When it rains, etc.
Speaking of Pogba, just how bad is that injury?
That's what we'd all like to know. I tried ringing his doctor out of pure desperation after Huddersfield last weekend, but no luck. The club never provided a clear update, and Mourinho has never been one to go into detail about injuries. At one point, it looked like he might be back in October, then November, and now the latest reports say December. At least he's back at Carrington now, so that's a good sign.
Did you ever think you would be lamenting an extended absence of Fellaini?
Life is weird, eh? I once wrote an article entitled "Five inanimate objects that are better at football than Marouane Fellaini," and made a fairly strong case for playing a cupboard in midfield. Now, I'm anxiously waiting for Fellaini to recover from injury and displace Herrera, who was the fans' player of the year last season.
What color will the United bus in front of goal be on Saturday? I’m assuming “Jose Mourinho Red.” Or will Jose actually go for it since it’s at home?
I'm already mentally preparing to see five at the back. We don't have the players available to pack the midfield (we only have two fit midfielders), but if one or both of Eric Bailly and Phil Jones aren't ready to start, I wouldn't be surprised to see three central defenders. Quantity over quality, in this case.
Was there any level of frustration having a squad that probably is valued at around £1bn and having to park the bus against Seventhpool?
Most supporters were aggravated. A point at Anfield is a decent result in a vacuum, but Liverpool are a poor team and their manager is a charlatan. I don't care about the value of the squad (the only fans who point that out support second tier clubs who don't have/spend money), because the Glazers used United as a cash cow for years, so they should be investing now. That said, even with injuries being a mitigating factor, there was a good enough team available to have a go at Liverpool. Why are you making me relive the Liverpool match? This Q&A is abusive.
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Who has been the more important signing: Lukaku or Matic?
It's a close one. Goals win you games, and Lukaku's mobility is a different level to what Ibrahimovic's was last year. Matic may be more important though, just because of the massive drop-off in quality to his replacement. Rashford is excellent leading the line, and Ibrahimovic will be back in December. Meanwhile, if Matic is out, we're left with the remains of Michael Carrick and the currently out of form Herrera.
Seeing as Mou tends to get all googly eyed over Spurs players he can't buy, maybe we can strike a deal: What hot young prospects are wasting away in your reserves and youth set-up never to see an opportunity in the first team under the current manager that we could steal away on a free, develop for a few years, and sell back to you for £90m?
Word on the street is that Angel Gomes is stalling on a new deal. He's only 17, but really exciting. Scored a belter for the England U-17s a couple weeks ago. Getting him on a free should soften the blow of losing Dele Alli in the summer. :-)
How will Duncan Castles’ spin a Spurs win into something positive for United, what will that headline be, and will he be dressed like a victorian butler while writing it?
Big Dunc. Top Red. "Pochettino exacts revenge after being SNUBBED for United job" sounds about right. Or maybe something about Mourinho being angry with Ed Woodward again.
What’s your expectation for Saturday’s lineup?
De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling (UGH), Darmian (OH GOD), Young; Matic, Herrera; Mkhitaryan, Rashford, Lukaku.
After all my pessimism and complaints? 2-0 United, obviously.