Tottenham Hotspur head north this week for a Monday night date with Manchester United at Old Trafford. A London squad has not taken all three points from the Red Devils since 2014 when Spurs did it. You may remember that matchup boasting the managerial powerhouses of David Moyes and Tim Sherwood! With three points meaning a possible spot at the top of the table for Spurs, this match will be a heated affair. Joining us for Know Your Opponent this week is Brent from The Busby Babe. We talked about Mourinho’s chances of surviving the season, the transfer standoff between Daniel Levy and Ed Woodward, and why Martial is still in Manchester after all that happened.
1) This is the dreaded “third year” for Jose Mourinho. We’re already hearing the familiar sounds of complaints regarding attack and Jose being a problem. Does he survive the season or break his own curse?
My official pre-season pick was that he’d have a melt down by September, so we’re right on track! Mourinho is still a good coach, but he’s past his best, and it looks like he’s lost the trust of both his bosses and of key Pogba-shaped figures in the dressing room. Winning changes everything, though, and there is - in theory - a very winnable looking run of matches after the international break. With some momentum, and some early promise in the cups, who knows? But it’s not looking good.
2) That whole transfer saga between Spurs and United with Toby Alderweireld and Anthony Martial was sure fun, wasn’t it? You okay with the ending or upset with missing out on Toby?
Definitely annoyed at missing out on Alderweireld. Anthony Martial is too good to have been used as a make weight in that deal, but according to briefings from Ed Woodward himself, United missed out on Alderweireld because of money. Which is absurd. We’re meant to be the biggest club in the country and we’re trotting out an assortment of circus clowns at center back while refusing to cough up an extra 10 million quid for arguably the best defender in the league. Also, if Mourinho decides that he needs an experienced center back, why is the executive vice-chairman - a jumped up marketing man - second guessing him? Whatever you think of Mourinho, he’s the manager. Either back him or sack him. The whole thing is a bit of a joke.
3) Regarding Martial, how burnt is the bridge with him and Jose and does he continue to want to leave if reports are true?
He won’t leave in this window, because the club aren’t ready to give up on him. Mourinho would happily get rid if he can get a replacement. If Mourinho is still here next season, and possibly even if his position is strengthened in January - then Martial will be off. Mourinho isn’t exactly known for his ability to rebuild bridges, and even though Mourinho talked up Martial’s talent before the Brighton game, it was probably because he had no choice but to start him. All that said, Alexis Sánchez hasn’t exactly been pulling up trees, and we don’t even have a wide right attacker, so there’s a big opportunity there for Martial to play himself into the team.
4) The big transfer in was Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk. What’s the early reviews on him?
Too early to say. I’m not going to pretend I was scouting Fred in the Russian league, so I can’t say that I knew much about him outside of his Champions League appearances. But I like him so far. He’s technically very good, and comfortable receiving the ball in tight spaces. He offers a combination of mobility and technical ability that gives our midfield a different look. Nemanja Matić will walk back into the side when he’s fit, but Pogba-Fred-Pereira may be the most exciting midfield we have.
5) Was Daley Blind leaving always the direction this summer? I still feel like United could have used him in some capacity.
Yep. Blind is handy, and was a great squad player to have around because of his ability to fill in at 3 or 4 different positions. But he couldn’t be further from a Mourinho player. Too weak to play in holding midfield or at center back regularly, and too slow to play left-back. He’s good on the ball, and by all accounts a great pro, but I once saw him described as being “slower than wind erosion.”
6) What does United have to do to be involved in the title picture this season?
If City finally get exposed for blood doping, we’ll be right in it! Barring that, it’s not happening.
7) How do you expect United to line up on Monday?
Assuming everyone is fit and ready by Monday:
De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Young; Matić, Fred, Pogba, Lingard, Lukaku, Sánchez.
1-0 United. Another false dawn, before a string of disastrous results put us out of the title race by the end of next month. Can’t wait.