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Know Your Opponent: A Q&A with The Busby Babe

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A lot to talk about with the red side of Manchester.

Manchester United Training Session Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur welcome Manchester United to Wembley Stadium on Wednesday as both clubs jockey for position in the race for the Top Four. Ahead of the match, I spoke with Brent over at The Busby Babe to discuss the transfer of Alexis Sanchez, if Mourinho’s problems closing out matches is just bad luck, and what the outlook is for the rest of the season.

CFC: Let’s start with the obvious: What’s your thoughts on that whole Alexis/Henrik swap? Good deal for a solid attacker or overpaying wages to an older player?

TBB: I think it’s a great deal for United. At the end of the day we’ve moved on a player that never lived up to expectations and replaced him with a (currently) clearly superior one, for no transfer fee. Mkhitaryan is outrageously talented, but he went missing too often and never found consistency (he was an Arsenal player all along!). Alexis is the real deal. As for the wages - the Glazers have been enriching themselves on the club for years, while simultaneously whoring it out to every noodle company and tire manufacturer willing to pay for the pleasure. If the point of all that isn’t to compete with the elite clubs on transfer fees and wages, then why bother?

We’ve seen reports of the wages being anywhere from 290k to 500k a week. If it’s 500k, is Pogba going to kill Alexis before he plays a match?

That may well be overstated, but make no mistake - between the signing on fee and the wages, Alexis and his agent are getting the money that Arsenal would have. I’d expect his basic wage is right around what Pogba’s is, however.

Where does Alexis really fit into the attacking band and how long until Mou turns him into a right wingback?

My guess is that he’ll start in the hole, and interchange with Lingard and Martial on both wings over the course of most games. If he fails to track his runner even once on Wednesday, the next time we’ll see him is away at Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup, when Antonio Valencia is rested.

Mou seems to have a tougher time shutting down matches at United like he has in the past. Is it tactics, personnel, or just bad luck?

A little of each. There have been times when Mourinho would’ve been well-served to be less conservative in big matches (the draw at Anfield still grates). At the same time, both our first-choice full-backs are converted wingers on the wrong side of thirty, and one of our two best centerbacks can’t stay fit (Eric Bailly) and the other is Phil Jones. We have a very good holding midfielder in Matic, but he’s been run into the ground, and the closest thing he has to a back-up is the occasionally animated corpse of Michael Carrick. We’ve had some bad luck with injuries, but the depth of the squad has some glaring weaknesses as well.

Barring a meltdown of epic proportions, City are going to win the league this year after their spending spree. What is the take from United fans seeing their cross-town rival possibly win it again?

At least it’s not Liverpool? It’s annoying to see Guardiola doing so well in his second season, but fair play - they’ve just been better. In most other seasons, United would be right up there challenging, but I expect us to remain a distant second. Guardiola inherited a better squad than Mourinho did, but any season at United where we fail to really compete for the league is a failure. A cup win (or two!) will soften that blow, but it will ultimately be disappointing. Still, there have been enough positives to feel hopeful about winning silverware in the near future. If nothing else, at least we have a manager who knows what he’s doing again, which is nice.

The FA Cup and Champions League are still out there for both United and Spurs. Do you think either team can win one, the other, or both? Or are the trophies destined elsewhere?

I think Spurs need to win a trophy sooner rather than later. “Progress” and nice football only get you so far, especially when you can’t pay top wages. The FA Cup won’t keep Kane and Pochettino out of Madrid’s clutches, but it’d be a start, no? Mourinho will be desperate to win the FA Cup as well, as its the best chance of silverware this season. The Champions League may be a pipe dream for both clubs, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see either in the semi-finals. All we need is a favorable draw, and for a couple of the other big boys to knock each other out.

What lineup are you expecting on Wednesday for United?

De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Young; Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Sanchez, Martial; Lukaku

Prediction?

0-1 United. The Mourinho Special.