Tottenham Hostpur: Christian Eriksen & Danny Rose - Out
Manchester United: Michael Carrick & Darren Fletcher - Out; Rafael, Robin Van Persie & Nemanja Vidic - Doubtful
Tottenham Hotspur: None
Manchester United: None
Tottenham Hotspur: WWDLL
Manchester United: DWWWD
Tottenham and Man Utd both come into this fixture facing the exact same predicaments. Both have had shaky starts to the season exacerbated by bad transfer dealings; both are coming off the back of disappointing results: United's 2-2 draw against Cardiff, and Tottenham's 6-0 thrashing by Man City.
Despite their relatively poor starts, United are only 3 points behind Everton in fourth, and Tottenham are a further point adrift. Depending on their mindsets and ambitions, there is no need to panic yet and that will manifest in the way the teams will approach the game.
If both teams feel as though they can win the title, then Arsenal's thumping victory against Cardiff would have sent daggers down their hearts; consequentially, Villas-Boas will bow down to pressure and deploy a 4-4-2 in the mirror of Redknapp's Tottenham era. If Villas-Boas does not feel as though Tottenham can win the league, it will very much be more of the same.
Unfortunately for Moyes, given the size of the club he is managing, he has no choice but to believe he can win the league. As such he has to go for it against Tottenham. There are two problems with this course of action: the first is without Michael Carrick, United look lost in an attacking sense and are also left without a competent player to screen the defence.
Against Cardiff United had Rooney to thank for inspiring their attack, the duo of Fellaini and Cleverley never got to grips on dictating the game due to their lack of passing range. Defensively, the duo allowed Cardiff many opportunities to breakaway, one leading to Ferdinand being isolated for Campbell's equaliser. They also gave away many fouls.
I believe Moyes is acutely aware of this and herein lies the second problem: Moyes has not an offensive bone in his body. In the last big match against Arsenal he deployed Phil Jones, a defender, in the midfield to stifle Arsenal and give the ageing defence the ultimate buffer. I believe Moyes will do so again, ceding possession so that they can protect the defence. Of course this will severely limit Man Utd as an attacking entity, but it draws Tottenham into a sense of false optimism and knowing their poor conversion rate, they will be suckered into a knockout blow by the United forwards. Against Cardiff and Leverkusen Van Persie could have played but was not risked, I believe he was saved for this match in mind. Rooney and Van Persie are extremely accurate strikers and do not need many chances.
For Tottenham to grab a victory and get their season up and running they need to call United's bluff, the only way they can do that is by going 4-4-2. The reason why supremely talented Arsenal lost to United, yet Cardiff beat them was because Arsenal played in front of United, while Cardiff got in behind. Despite their decline, when you play in front of Ferdinand and Vidic, they have still retained the skills that made them once the most feared center back pairing in world football. However, when you play in behind them, then like we saw when Campbell outpaced Ferdinand, or when Ferdinand was out-jumped for the second goal, they can be beat.
If we can assume Tottenham will have majority possession no matter what, then it would be wiser to use that possession in more threatening areas in a 4-4-2, than have it bogged down in a 4-2-3-1. Any thoughts of going 4-2-3-1 to halt Rooney and Van Persie should be perished. If Spurs go 4-2-3-1 I highly doubt they will score and I would not bet against Rooney and or Van Persie grabbing an undeserved goal.
Spurs are not creative so they need to give themselves the opportunity to score more. Considering Villas-Boas brought back Adebayor from the dead suggests he is already thinking of such a move; for the sake of Tottenham fans they better hope so.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Manchester United