By John Toner
After a day of social unrest disrupted Tottenham’s opening day game at home to Everton, they face the rather more difficult task of going away to champions Manchester United.
Only time will tell if the late start to Tottenham’s season will have a positive or negative effect. On one hand the extra few days of rest might be beneficial to the players’ fitness; but then on the other, playing catch up from the off is never ideal and could have an impact on morale if things don’t go quite to plan early on.
United started their season as scheduled and as expected by seeing off West Brom 2-1 at the Hawthorns. Strengthened by the acquisitions of Ashley Young and Phil Jones, they look to be starting much as they left off at the end of last season; although there are questions being asked about the ability of new goalkeeper David De Gea.
The champions do however have a number of injuries to key players which will be of some concern to Sir Alex Ferguson. Nemanja Vidic had to be withdrawn from the victory over West Brom with a calf injury and could be out for another three to four weeks. Also substituted due to injury in that match was Rio Ferdinand who suffered a hamstring problem, he should return by the end of August but Monday night’s game comes too quickly for him to feature. United are also without Rafael Pareira Da Silva (shoulder), Darren Fletcher (illness), Javier Hernandez (concussion) and Luis Antonio Valencia (ankle) with Michael Owen also a doubt.
Spurs have a similar amount of injuries with midfielder Sandro sidelined after a knee operation and Steven Pienaar unavailable for at least a month after having groin surgery following an injury in pre-season. Also doubtful for the game are William Gallas (calf), Jermaine Jenas (achilles), Ledley King (knee) Luka Modric (groin) and Wilson Palacios (knee).
Tottenham have a miserable record against United in recent years, their last victory over Ferguson’s side was way back in 2001 and the last time they won at Old Trafford was 22 years ago. As opening games to a Premier League season go, Spurs especially, could not have ended up with a harder one. Although they will be buoyed by putting five past Hearts in midweek at Tynecastle this is an altogether more challenging prospect.
After a good start United will want to push on and get their title defence well and truly underway. Considering Tottenham’s dismal record against them, especially at Old Trafford, they will very much fancy their chances of getting the three points.
However, Ferguson will be very wary of Spurs’ Attacking threat especially having been deprived of both first choice centre halves. Redknapp will need to capitalise on that weakened defence if his side are going to come away from greater Manchester with anything.
United and Spurs usually provide an entertaining show, recently with added controversy; that combined with both sides being somewhat weakened and the unpredictability of early season fixtures, we should be in for a cracking game.
Toner’s Prediction: Manchester United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2
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