The Big Match Tactical View: Tottenham v Manchester United

Will Jose Mourinho ask Alexis Sanchez to track back?
Will Jose Mourinho ask Alexis Sanchez to track back?
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Alexis Sanchez makes his Premier League debut for Manchester United - but where will he be deployed? Michael Cox looks at the tactics and Alan Thompson focuses on the odds.

"Juan Mata has started United’s last eight league games but seems the most likely player to drop out here to accommodate Alexis Sanchez"

Tottenham v Manchester United
Wednesday 20:00, BT Sport 1.
Match Odds: Tottenham [2.44], Man Utd [3.3], The Draw [3.5].

Tottenham's good run in this fixture to continue?

Tottenham are undefeated in their last five home matches against Manchester United, and will be hoping that excellent run carries over from White Hart Lane to Wembley.

United won the reverse meeting 1-0 with a late Anthony Martial goal, and Spurs' record against the big sides this season has not been particularly impressive. But Jose Mourinho's side are likely to come with a defensive, counter-attacking approach, so Tottenham may see plenty of possession here.

Both managers are capable of playing three-man or four-man defences. Mauricio Pochettino seems more likely to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation, although the presence of Eric Dier as a midfielder in that system means they can switch between systems almost at will.

Spurs' full-back injuries

Pochettino's problem, though, is that Spurs are likely to be without both Danny Rose and Serge Aurier, their more dynamic full-back or wing-back pairing. Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies are steady enough replacements, but in big games this combination has sometimes been found wanting - in the loss away at Arsenal, for example. Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen will play in the middle, with Toby Alderweireld nearing a return but unlikely to be fit enough to start here.

Dier's midfield partner will be Mousa Dembele, and then in the final third there's little doubt that Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min will support Harry Kane. Eriksen might be a particularly key player here, as Tottenham have often looked unable to break down deep defences without the brilliant Dane.

And it's very much likely to be a deep defence that they come up against, although it remains to be seen whether Mourinho uses three or four centre-backs. The latter seems the best bet, with Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia playing the full-back roles, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones charged with stopping Kane.

Even then, there's a question about the shape of the side - 4-3-3 seems the more likely system here, with Mourinho likely to want added midfield protection behind Paul Pogba, against the threat of Alli and Eriksen. That probably means Nemanja Matic in the holding role, Ander Herrera playing close alongside him, and Pogba given more freedom to burst forward into attack.

Where will Sanchez play?

Juan Mata has started United's last eight league games but seems the most likely player to drop out here to accommodate Alexis Sanchez for his Premier League debut. Sanchez and one of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford seem likely to start either side of Romelu Lukaku, and given instructions to track the opposition full-backs before speeding forward on the counter. They should have the beating of Davies and Trippier, particularly in terms of speed.

Perhaps the question mark, though, is Lukaku. He provided a crucial flick-on for the winner in the reverse fixture but has sometimes struggled when battling against high defensive lines in big games this season, in part because he hasn't been afforded much support. That may again be an issue here.

Spurs offer plenty of attacking threat: Son is in tremendous form but might not get many chances to counter here, so the craftier Eriksen between the lines, and the onrushing Alli might cause more problems. Kane is clearly the main goal threat, though, and while United have kept four clean sheets in a row, they've been against sides lacking a quality striker. Jones and Smalling will struggle to keep Kane quiet.

But I also fancy United to cause real problems on the counter-attack, and I can't see Spurs keeping a clean sheet either. Therefore, I'll back both sides to score, at [1.8].



The Betfair Trader - Alan Thompson

Tottenham just avoided FA Cup embarrassment at League Two Newport County at the weekend thanks to Harry Kane’s late equaliser. They now enter a sequence of fixtures that is critical to their season, this fixture is followed by a trip to Anfield, the replay against Newport, a home game against Arsenal and then a Champions League trip to Turin. They are currently two points behind fourth place Liverpool and three points ahead of fifth place Arsenal.

Manchester United had a similar potential FA Cup banana skin to Spurs, but they safely managed to negotiate their way past their League Two opposition to move into the next round. They are in a very good run of form at the minute and sitting second in the league but with Chelsea and Liverpool chasing hard there is no room for error.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side may have only drawn their last two competitive matches, but they are proving difficult to beat having lost only one of their last 13. I think avoiding defeat here will be their primary objective, but if they can get all three points it would be a massive boost going into a tough run of games.

The home side has won the last six meetings between these two and with Spurs trading around [2.4] to achieve the win, I don’t think that is a bad price but I will also be having a cheap saver on the correct score 1-1 at [7.2] to recover my Spurs to win stake.

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