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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester United Preview: In search of more than just vibes

As expected, Spurs are more fun, but winning matches is fun too.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

As hoped, Ange Postecoglou has brought the fun back to North London. Tottenham Hotspur looked like a completely different team during the opening weekend, taking a deserved point back home from Brentford. With Manchester United now coming to town, supporters are looking for more than just a positive spirit.

Spurs have really struggled in this fixture lately (and historically...), losing four of the past five encounters. However, the most recent contest did end in an exciting 2-2 draw after Tottenham went down 2-0 at halftime — shocking, I know. A rare Pedro Porro goal was followed up by a Heung-Min Son equalizer, in one of the few memorable contests last spring.

United held off Wolves Monday night at Old Trafford in an affair that was level on xG and possession, though VAR seemed to play a role. After a third-place finish last year, landing in the top four is the expectation again with Rasmus Hojlund, Mason Mount, and Andre Onana all coming in during the summer.

Even at home, this is not a match that Tottenham is expected to win. Doing so, though, would really feel like a way to kick start the Postecoglou era, especially with some softer fixtures to follow. Most supporters will be satisfied as long as the performance as good again, but the scenes could be great if this one ends up as three points.

Tottenham Hotspur (t-8th, 1pt) vs. Manchester United (t-1st, 3pts)

Date: Saturday, August 19
Time: 12:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
TV: NBC (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)

Following Monday’s performance, United’s midfield has taken some criticism, particularly the newcomer Mount. It is clear the chemistry is not there yet with Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro, and this is probably Spurs’ best path to success. Though the xG was even, Wolves got off a ton of shots, and this could be a chance for the Tottenham front three to get going.

In matches like this over the past few years, it was a guaranteed certainty that Spurs would avoid possession and play for the counter. Conversely, last Sunday showed that Postecoglou welcomes possession, and Tottenham was very active in the attacking third. With the current state of the United midfield, do not be surprised if the home side is able to take over in the center of the park and really seize control for long periods.

Lilywhite Spotlight: Royal Renaissance

Of all the players presumed to benefit from Postecoglou’s system, Emerson Royal was not likely to be at the top of anyone’s list, but against Brentford he showed some legitimate potential. Even without considering his goal, Royal impressed as an inverted fullback, looking comfortable inland and up the pitch, interweaving across the formation.

While Royal will have to be cautious of United attacks, he has shown himself to be a competent enough defender to make it worth looking to unlock his value in the final third a bit more. Destiny Udogie profiles a bit differently, but both fullbacks have a lot of potential under the new regime. As long as Royal keeps the ball on the floor, anything is possible!