Make no mistake, Monday night’s encounter between Manchester United and Tottenham is a huge game-for both teams. Coming into the game, United will be keen to bounce back following their defeat against Brighton last week, while Tottenham will look to improve on their poor record at Old Trafford in recent times and aim to record their third successive win of the campaign.
Despite being just two games into the season, there are already several questions facing Jose Mourinho and his team with issues surrounding their style of play, key players, and attitude within the team. This particularly came into question following the defeat in the 3-2 defeat against Brighton at The Amex, where Paul Pogba admitted following the game that they ‘did not show the right attitude’ before going on to claim his own attitude ‘wasn’t right enough’.
The frankness of Pogba’s admission is admirable, but he is a player Jose Mourinho will need to peform if they want to beat Tottenham on Monday and spark their season back into life. In their triumphant World Cup this summer for France, Pogba impressed throughout the tournament in Russia in a midfield three beside N’Golo Kante and Blaise Maitudi, players who really allowed Pogba to have more of an influence offensively. This was exemplified by his goal in the Final against Croatia while also showing great tactical discipline throughout, something that has been questioned of him throughout his second spell at United.
He is a player who is capable of controlling the midfield and if Mourinho can help get the best out of him, he could not only help defeat Tottenham but also make them a far stronger threat of claiming the Premier League title from neighbours Manchester City.
However, Pogba is not the only player who is arguably not playing anywhere near at their best for United, with central defenders Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof producng a terrible defensive display in their defeat against Brighton. Throughout the summer, Mourinho made no secret of his desire to purchase a central defender, being linked the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire, Yerry Mina, while also unsuccessful in their attemps to sign Diego Godin or Jermome Boateng on deadline day. Ultimately they were unable to sign anyone in that position, and Mourinho now faces a key decision ahead of tonight regarding his options at centre back.
Does Mourinho stick with Bailly and Lindelof against one of the most formidable strikers not only n the country, but perhaps Europe in Harry Kane or does he look to call upon Phil Jones or Chris Smalling in such an important encounter, it is a major decision facing Mourinho.
In addition to issues regarding key players, Jose Mourinho is still criticised for his more conservative style of football, with many considering his approach as very negative and suggesting he should look at introduce a more free flowing, attacking style of football that has so often been associated with Manchester United, especially under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Alternatively, Mourinho seems to favour the approach of making sure his team is compact, organised and defensively solid and to capitalise on the mistakes made by the opposition. Many fans are frustrated at Mournho’s reluctance to employ a possession based, high intensity against stronger opponents, especially given the array of talent the Portuguese has at his disposal, especially within his attacking options.
He will continue to entrust Romelu Lukaku as his first choice striker, but has plenty of options to support the Belgian in the shape of Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard. There is the impression that Mourinho still does not know his first choice attack or even formation, but perhaps that unpredictably may work in their favour when coming up against a potential very strong back three in Jan Vertonghen, Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld.
However ahead of the game, history in this fixture certainly favours Mourinho’s side with Tottenham losing at Old Trafford on their last five occasions, scoring just once, and Mauricio Pochettino will be desperate to end this abysmal run and show why Tottenham are capable of challenging for the Title. A Victory would see Tottenham draw level with Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford at the summit of the league table and would increase the pressure on Jose Mourinho, who desperately needs to put points on the board.
This is a difficult game to predict but I think we can assume that it is likely to be a tight encounter, but feel if Jose Mourinho’s key men really perform then this just my be the game which can revitalise their campaign and provide a reminder why they are still one of the best teams within the country.