This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Tottenham Hotspur have a prime opportunity to make a statement on Wednesday.
Jose Mourinho takes his Spurs team, fresh from three wins on the bounce in all competitions, to Old Trafford and will surely be out for revenge.
While he has charmed his way into the affections of Spurs fans – not least for the little moment of affection shown towards Spurs’ teenage ball boy against Olympiacos – Mourinho is not one to let sleeping dogs lie; think of his feuds with Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez.
So he will be out for blood and the scent will be pungent in the water around Old Trafford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are in diabolical form. They drew 2-2 with Aston Villa at the weekend, their second draw with a newly-promoted team in a week. The Sunday prior, they played out a bonkers 3-3 draw with Sheffield United and were beaten by Astana in the Europa League in midweek as the Norwegian fielded a team of kids.
To solely focus on the league form is to see United ninth in the Premier League, two points behind a Spurs team who saw fit to sack Mauricio Pochettino for a poor start to the season and one behind an Arsenal team who saw fit to sack Unai Emery following a poor start to the season. They are 22 points off Liverpool at the top of the league and only 10 clear of rock-bottom Watford.
In their last 10 games domestically, United have won three – including an impressive 1-0 victory over Leicester City that looks all the better with hindsight – but they have also lost to West Ham United, Newcastle United and AFC Bournemouth. Their draws came against Arsenal, Liverpool, Villa, and the Blades.
This is bang-average form. In fact, it looks more like the form of a team that are hoping to scrape into the Europa League by nicking a point here and there off a bigger team while aiming to beat those below them.
And Mourinho is perfectly placed to exploit that.
There are niggles in this Spurs side and they have conceded twice in every game Mourinho has managed thus far but they have also scored 10 in three and have a number of genuinely in-form players.
Dele Alli is back amongst the goals and looks a player reborn under the Portuguese – he scored a brace against Bournemouth, the Bournemouth that beat United, in the 3-2 win at the weekend – while Spurs are simply playing as a more cohesive unit.
On paper, the strongest Spurs XI that Mourinho can pick is better than the strongest United XI Solskjaer can pick but, more than that, this Spurs team finally look to be moving forward.
United, on the other hand, look exactly the opposite; their former manager will be out to condemn them to another defeat in midweek.
Meanwhile, there is one reason why Mauricio Pochettino is unlikely to be back in the Premier League this season.