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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United Preview: The seats are getting hot

Two managers enter with support dwindling by the week.


Life is not cheerful for Tottenham Hotspur right now, even after advancing in the League Cup midweek, but the same could be said for Saturday’s opponents. After bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo over the summer, it was presumed that Manchester United would be living amongst the top four, but that has yet to materialize. With just one point over the past four matches, the visitors come into the weekend actually a point behind the hosts in the table.

Accordingly, many are wondering if this is finally the end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in Manchester. A 0-5 embarrassment at Old Trafford against Liverpool last weekend may have set the wheels in motion, and a third consecutive loss — especially to this less-than-intimidating Spurs side — might seal the deal, as rumors swirl regarding Antonio Conte.

Of course, supporters are not exactly thrilled with Nuno Espirito Santo in North London either. The manager has recorded nearly as many losses as wins during his short tenure at the helm, and there is little reason to believe that there are significantly greater things to come. He probably has a little more leash left, but the groans will only get louder should the losses continue to amount.

Tottenham Hotspur (t-5th, 15 pts) vs. Manchester United (t-7th, 14 pts)

Date: Saturday, October 20
Time: 12:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: NBC (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)

The narrative is pretty stale at this point, but Spurs just have to find a way to score more goals. Nine total tallies in nine league matches is obviously not going to cut it, and something has to give as Nuno is finally getting his best attackers on the pitch. Maybe Giovanni Lo Celso is the key, maybe a switch in the midfield alignment is needed, or maybe the players just need to step up, but clearly this squad is missing something right now.

For United, scoring has not been the issue, rather it is the defense that is suspect. 15 goals allowed falls towards the bottom of the table, and the xGA numbers support the struggles. The last two matches have been terrible, with both Leicester City and Liverpool tearing through the defense. Tottenham is unlikely to take advantage, but if there ever was a time for a breakout it would be here.

Three themes

  1. The attack may be struggling, but the Eric Dier-Cristian Romero pairing is starting to look like a winning combination. Both have been strong clearing the ball as well as passing and keeping things moving forward, and it feels like a massive improvement to not have to consistently worry about the backline making a devastating mistake.
  2. One of last season’s highlights was the 1-6 massacre in Manchester, back when everything seemed hopeful. The 1-3 loss at home was much more representative of reality, however, with three second half goals completely erasing the lead provided by Heung-Min Son in mid-April.
  3. Spurs host Vitesse on Thursday needing to get back on track in the Conference League before traveling to Everton ahead of the next international break. Maybe they all do at this point, but this feels like another important stretch where Nuno cannot afford to see his team fall flat, starting with Saturday.