Tottenham Hotspur’s trip to Old Trafford on Sunday is undoubtedly the game of the weekend. It pits two top four challengers against each other, and throws up a myriad of intrigue in the process.
Questions abound as both clubs seek a win to set them up for the Christmas rush of fixtures.
Here are five points that will likely determine where the points go on Sunday.
1. Can Christian Eriksen Continue His Resurgence?
The Danish midfielder has looked oddly distracted for much of this season. Such a central cog in this Spurs team in the past, it’s little wonder Spurs have looked so much less cohesive without Eriksen at his best. That is beginning to change however.
Since their trip to Stamford bridge a fortnight ago, he has looked a man re-born. His genial inventiveness and clinical finishing have added a dynamic dimension to Spurs in recent weeks, like playing at Red Flush Casino.
While his sublime strike against Chelsea wasn’t enough to avoid defeat at Stamford bridge, his brace against Swansea and midweek trickery against CSKA Moscow were more than enough to overwhelm the opposition.
In tandem with the fit again Harry Kane, it would be of little surprise should his recent run of rampant roguishness continue.
2. Will The Record Books Continue To Hamper Spurs?
While it’s true that Eriksen was in fine fettle at Stamford Bridge, the same cannot be said of his teammates. Some would have been better at Red Flush Online Casino. Having conceded just before half-time, their body language was remarkable in its lethargy. It was of little surprise that Victor Moses scored so quickly into the second half, and truth be told Spurs showed little belief that they could resurrect a result.
One couldn’t help but think back to the Battle at the Bridge last season where they blew a two-goal lead at the same venue in spectacular fashion to end their challenge for the title. This is all underpinned by the fact that they have, incredibly, never won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.
29 – Spurs have won none of their last 29 visits to Stamford Bridge in all comps (D11 L18), since a 2-1 win in February 1990. Underdog.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 26, 2016
In the wake of such a stat, recent calamities seem more cogent, and they boast a similar trait at Old Trafford. They have lost there 19 times in the Premier League era, more than at any other ground. This team appear to have quaked under the weight of history books at Stamford Bridge, making light of them at Old Trafford will be imperative should three points be on the cards for them.
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic Vs Toby Alderweireld
Ibrahimovic’s season so far has been something of an enigma for the Old Trafford faithful. A relatively barren two-month spell has been book-ended by a pair of prolific periods, the second of which he currently finds himself in.
Five goals in his last four games suggest a striker in top form, but Alderweireld will offer stiffer resistance than recent fare. The Belgian international returned from injury in midweek and much of Tottenham’s defensive solidity will depend on his ability to find form quickly.
Should he not manage it, the Sweden international’s guile and physicality will likely make it a long afternoon for Spurs. Should he hit his potential however, Ibrahimovic may struggle in the face of such resistance. Three of those five goals have been against a hapless West Ham, as the 35-year-old capitalised on time and space that may not be as forthcoming on Sunday.
4. Can Manchester United Score Goals?
Even with Ibrahimovic in such a rich vein of form however, United simply don’t score enough goals. Jose Mourinho has made much of this in recent weeks as he repeatedly lays scorn on their profligacy in front of goal. Incredibly, they haven’t had a league win at Old Trafford since September.
Mourinho, unusually, does have a point here. Regardless of the scorelines, United have looked increasingly fluid in recent weeks and created an embarrassment of chances in the process. If Ibrahimovic’s supporting cast can rise to the challenge, as much he has in recent times, then Christmas could be a bountiful time for the Red Devils.
However, perhaps whether they do so or not is down to the gaffer. Entrusting players of the guile of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford with the freedom the express themselves, rather than insisting they follow his orders, is surely a more positive approach to their current predicament.
Should he do so, then he may find his charges collect three points from where they would have collected just one in the past.
5. Midweek Mayhem
While Tottenham reclined in London following their 3-1 home win over CSKA Moscow, Manchester United were somewhat less relaxed. The Ukranian winter saw them play in conditions so wretched many thought the game would be cancelled.
Add to this the fact that they needed a result and fielded a relatively strong side, and it’s easy to see how they could be somewhat jaded upon coming home. A Sunday kick-off will certainly help, but it’s inarguable that Spurs have had the preferable lead up to this one.
How well Manchester United cope with such travel demands will likely be a huge factor come Sunday at 2:15pm.
Colm Egan, Pundit Arena