Will Wayne Rooney stay at Manchester United?

Wayne Rooney supposedly asked Sir Alex Ferguson about transferring away from Manchester United. When Sir Alex retired to be replaced by David Moyes, Rooney’s future away from United seemed to be gathering momentum. Last season, Robin van Persie stole Rooney’s thunder as the lead striker for United and the England man ended up bouncing around between midfield and supporting van Persie upfront. His desire to move was driven by a desire to play first team football in a new environment. However, given what happened in 2010, when Rooney requested to leave, citing the club’s lack of ambition, which of course resulted in him becoming the highest paid player in the Premier League, the suspicion of something similar is always there. Now, reports are emerging that regaining that status from Yaya Toure could be enough to keep him at Old Trafford.

He has two years left on his contract now so United need to make a decision. To avoid the kind of forced sale that saw Arsenal lose van Persie and that is causing problems for Borussia Dortmund with Robert Lewandowski next summer, they either need to extend his contract or sell him. The latter option is what he originally wanted, but the lack of realistic suitors may be driving this apparent change of heart. Before they Barcelona signed Neymar and Real Madrid identified Edinson Cavani as their main target, the Clasico sides were the main options. He was interested in moving to Bayern Munich when they won the Champions League but they are chasing Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez ahead of Rooney. This seems to leave PSG, Chelsea and Arsenal. However, with Arsenal on the verge of signing Gonzalo Higuain they would seem to be out of the running. And this is if United would even consider selling in England. Chelsea seem to be interested but selling him to Mourinho is a big risk. PSG haven’t made a strong push and it seems unlikely that he and his family would want to move overseas.

Wayne Rooney

So if he’s not being heavily pursued, he might have no choice but to stay. Or, he might have been flirting with other teams in an action replay of his last face off with the club, which netted him his new £250,000 a week contract. As long as Van Persie is there, Rooney won’t get back his number one striker status. But, his role with England is unquestioned, so unlike players like Mario Gomez or David Villa who want moves to assure their position in very competitive squads for Brazil next summer, Rooney doesn’t have that threat. It possibly means his need to move doesn’t have that same urgency.

It’s almost impossible to know what is going on with the Rooney situation but as more and more big clubs that could afford him are looking at other options, his chances to leave look increasingly unlikely. But, this is if he even wants to leave in the first place. We’ve seen this kind of brinkmanship from Rooney before and it got him a new contract. At 27, a three or four year extension would see him in to his 30s, so this could be his last big contract.

It’s hard to tell who really has the power here. If Rooney did indeed ask to leave, he went out on a limb assuming that Bayern/Real/Barcelona would come calling. He’s watched them all choose other players ahead of him. So theoretically United can say that’s he’s tried to attract attention but hasn’t. Chelsea ought to be their main title challengers next season so it seems inconceivable that they’d sell to them. He’s not the main man at United anymore and that seems to bother him. The best thing for all concerned would be for him to work hard to become that again and the problem will go away.

Man United handed tough opening to title defence

New Manchester United manager David Moyes will have mixed feelings as he reads through today’s newly released Premier League fixture list for 2013/14. On the one hand, he will be excited to get started but on the other, he will see that he faces Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City in his first five games. Although he’s not really under pressure, because United have committed so fully to him, it’s a tough start and questions will be asked if after those five games they already have a couple of losses.

Things don’t start easily, with a trip to Swansea on opening day, which will surely be selected for television. Although United would expect to win, Swansea have shown they are hard to beat at home. It’s the rest of August that could be tough for Moyes though.

David Moyes

His first game at Old Trafford sees him host Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Chelsea are looking like being United’s main title challengers this season, barring some dramatic moves from Man City, and playing them early is not ideal. Moyes will still be getting his message across, still teaching his game plans in a new dressing room for the first time in 11 years. Mourinho on the other hand, has changed dressing rooms four times during that period. He may be able to get his message across quicker. Last season Chelsea showed that they could be a match for United. The FA Cup game at Old Trafford saw them run roughshod through United in the second half as a tease of what could be possible. Of all the teams in the country to play in his first home game, Moyes would probably have picked Chelsea last.

However, he will have overwhelming crowd support and if he wins it will be a fabulous start. From Chelsea he then takes his team to Anfield for the always vociferous game with Liverpool. For Moyes, this is a double-edged rivalry. As an ex-Everton manager currently at Man United, he couldn’t get a hotter reception than he will at Anfield. Liverpool have done well at home to United over recent years and the team will be flowing with adrenaline cheered on by a boisterous crowd. Again, the result of this could go either way for Moyes. If he was to lose this on the back of a loss to Chelsea the alarm bells will be ringing. However, should he beat Jose Mourinho and then go to Anfield and win his legitimacy will be sealed. He will have shown he deserves the job.

A routine home win over Crystal Palace should follow before what has become the hardest game in the league over the last couple of years; Manchester City at the Etihad. City will also have a new manager who will be under pressure to win. Unless Moyes loses to both Chelsea and Liverpool in all likelihood Pellegrini will be under more of a spotlight. It’s a big early momentum decider for both men. A win would give them both breathing room and an advantage in the title race.

If David Moyes can get out of these five games unbeaten then he will have firmly established himself as the boss. If they lose a couple, or even all three of these tough games, the spectre of Sir Alex Ferguson will loom large. However, after this tough start the fixtures ease significantly for a considerable period.

Elsewhere on opening day the newly promoted teams have very tough starts. Hull face a trip to Chelsea for Jose Mourinho’s first game, Crystal Palace host Spurs and Cardiff travel to West Ham. Arsenal and Man City host Villa and Newcastle respectively and will be expecting to win.

Nani’s time at Manchester United up?

Nani is a player of immense talent but with the unstoppable highs in form have increasingly come the completely ineffective, often negative lows in form. With only one year left on his contract at Old Trafford, and with United seemingly having given up on him becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo, as seemed possible a couple of years ago, he is up for sale.

Galatasaray chairman Unal Aysal told Sky Sports News that; ‘We offered £6m for him. But they didn’t accept. We can’t give more than this…They want £8.5million’. Now, at first glance £8.5m for a player with the potential to be devastatingly good when in form seems like a bargain, and the low price is a clear sign that United are willing to move him on. It is quite a dramatic fall from grace for Nani, who as recently as the 2011 was one of United’s key players.

Nani’s first few years at United had been a promising but frustrating cocktail of sheer pace, direct dribbling and an ability to get involved around the penalty box, but it wasn’t until the 2010/11 season that he emerged as truly world class. Coming off the frustration of missing the World Cup due to injury he seemed like a man possessed. He ended the season with nine goals and 19 assists in the Premier League as United raced to the title. Having sold Ronaldo in 2009 United had needed to replace his output and Nani was doing his best to do so. It seemed like, by the end of 2010/11, that he was reaching that level.


However, the season proved to be more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come. The reason for this is Nani’s playing style. Because he plays at such breakneck speed and takes risks that other players wouldn’t, he is a player that relies on getting in to a groove and hitting form. However, in 2011/12 he took a step back. Despite a solid enough output of 8 goals and 12 assists he seemed to go missing in tight games. This was compounded by United’s purchase of Ashley Young for £18m, which gave Ferguson another option and a reason to drop Nani if his production slowed down.

Much of his output came when United were handing out thrashings. In only three games in the league was he involved in the crucial goal in the game for United. His stats looked solid but they were padded with contributions in games United won at a canter, often against the smaller clubs. Big hauls against Wolves and Fulham weren’t exactly what Sir Alex Ferguson wanted. As he strived for form he got worse as he was trying to do too much, over complicating things. In early 2012 he had a run of playing in only two of ten games as Ferguson lost trust in him.

Nani went into 2012/13 with much to prove, but failed to do so regularly. He only scored one and set up just three in the league. A slow start to the season was compounded by a hamstring injury, which meant he missed 12 games. When he got back he showed the occasional flash of form but his United career was ended in two games. As harsh as the red card against Real Madrid was, he was still the scapegoat. But his showing against Chelsea in the FA Cup just weeks later was totally ineffective in attack and negligent in defence. Most United fans had had enough of his up and down form, which had mostly been the latter and he seems unlikely to fit in to David Moyes’ United.

Despite the drop off in form, he still has the potential to be a very good player, but only if he can go somewhere he will be played every week. His best form came when he was the guaranteed starter week in and week out. He’s going to have games where he does nothing but if you ride through those you can get a stretch of games where he contributes each time. He’s not going to get that at United but for £8.5m he is worth taking a wager on.

Would Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye be a hit at Manchester United?

Newcastle playmaker Yohan Cabaye was linked heavily to Manchester United at the end of the 2011/12 season after he was instrumental in Newcastle’s fifth-placed finish. He was thought to be an upgrade on Michael Carrick, who had plateaued and had been a key player for France and Lille in the role. 12 months on and this time Cabaye is having to link himself. His own form this season wasn’t bad but was by no means as good as the previous campaign and as the key playmaker and midfield fulcrum, Newcastle’s poor season reflects badly on him. Still, in an interview with Canal+ he was asked whether a move to Man United would interest him and he said ‘Yes of course, I like this club for a long time…They are always well placed amongst the big clubs, yes for sure it could be an interesting challenge but like I said for the moment, there is nothing concrete and I am still at Newcastle.’ So he is clearly interested, but are Man United, and should they be?

Cabaye’s debut season at Newcastle saw him score four and assist eight from his deep playmaking position. His metronomic passing, excellent set piece delivery and hard running, pressurising defensive game marked him out as one of the elite midfielders of his type in the Premier League. He had shown the same qualities at Lille where he led the team to the French title before Newcastle caught everyone napping to sign him. This meant that last summer, as rumours of a Man United midfield search abounded, he was right up at the top of the list. People with bored with Michael Carrick, they didn’t know what to expect of Tom Cleverley or Anderson, and weren’t sure if Phil Jones could play the role. Cabaye made great sense. But, as we know, Sir Alex Ferguson trusted his midfield and Michael Carrick ended up having the season of his career. Cabaye on the other hand, fared less well.

Yohan Cabaye

The main reason for the drop in Cabaye’s performances were his own injury issues and misdeployment by Alan Pardew. Cabaye struggled for full fitness through a lot of the season, which meant that he was a step slower, marginally less accurate than before, and couldn’t impose himself on a Newcastle team that struggled before being flooded with his countrymen in January. In this essentially new team he struggled to exert himself in an alien position. This is because Pardew played him in a far more advanced role for much of the season to little gain. Cabaye can get goals and see a pass from deep but he doesn’t have the fleet feet and inventiveness needed further forward. It’s not that he is suddenly a bad player though, considering the constant turnover of players at Newcastle his drop in form is understandable. It’s not really this that means he is perhaps ill suited to United though.

If United played a 4-2-3-1 system, Cabaye would be a good partner for Michael Carrick. They would be able to move the ball and maintain possession smoothly whilst also offering a strong defensive shield. However, if David Moyes uses his preferred 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 system, a midfield of Carrick and Cabaye would lack for something. Neither of them would be the ideal deep driving engine midfielder. United have also been linked to Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Marouane Fellaini, who would all make better compliments to Carrick in that system. Cabaye is solid when getting forward but if that is how he is used he wouldn’t be being bought for the right reasons. However, if Moyes does want two deep possession midfielders then Cabaye would be ideal. United could get him at a reasonable price compared to the others on this list too.

Cabaye can be a success at Old Trafford is used properly and bought for a specific purpose. If David Moyes used the correct tactical set up he could be excellent. However, if the new United manager keeps his usual preferred method then Cabaye should not be first choice ahead of the more thrusting options United could look at.

Manchester United, City and Chelsea’s hopes of landing Robert Lewandowski increased

Borussia Dortmund have this morning announced that contrary to assumption, Robert Lewandowski will not be sold to Bayern Munich this summer. Sporting Director Michael Zorc is quoted by German tabloid Kicker as saying ‘We have communicated to the player and his advisers that we will not agree to a transfer to FC Bayern this summer.’

Undoubtedly this stance was always what Dortmund wanted but will have been heightened after Bayern stole Mario Götze by activating the release clause in his contract. Lewandowski has intimated that he wants a new challenge and as he only has one year left on his contract he has forced Dortmund in to a position where they would have to sell him or face losing a £30m asset for free next summer. They would therefore surely be willing to agree to sell him to the Premier League rather than their main domestic rivals. Man United have long been linked with him, Chelsea desperately need a striker and Man City may feel it too good an opportunity to miss. So could he end up in England, and if so, where?

Robert Lewandowski

Chelsea would seem to be the most obvious landing spot for Lewandowski. Although they are thought to be deep in negotiations with Edinson Cavani of Napoli, Lewandowski is a player whose destructive capability Jose Mourinho has witnessed first hand. It was the Pole’s four goals against his Real Madrid side that elevated him in to the real upper echelon on a world stage. Cavani and Lewandowski are similar players. Both of them have wonderful technique, good pace and strength and are deadly and consistent finishers. The advantages of going for Lewandowski are the price, thought to be at most £30m rather than £52m, and the fact that he speaks fluent English and has played in a similarly physically demanding league with great success. He is used to the system and showed at Dortmund how good he can be with three attacking midfielders behind him which is exactly what Chelsea have. Chelsea also have the added bait of Romelu Lukaku who Dortmund are known to admire.

Man United is on the surface a less obvious fit but it makes a whole heap of sense. David Moyes has historically preferred a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 system and if United do allow Wayne Rooney to leave they would need a world-class option to pair with Robin van Persie. Both he and Lewandowski would be comfortable roaming around out of the box if required and having to account for both of them would give most defences fits. Lewandowski is a very hard worker, which is a quality David Moyes admires and prises, and the lure of moving to the English champions should be strong for Lewandwoski.

Man City are the outsiders but shouldn’t be counted out. New manager Manuel Pellegrini is being given the playing staff to operate his preferred 4-2-3-1 but there is still room for another attacker. If they decide not to move for Isco they may well go for Lewandowski. That would allow Sergio Aguero to drop in to the number 10 role where he played at times last year and where he could be very dangerous running from deep. Lewandowski has the technical skill to work with the three men behind and the finishing ability to make the most of the chances they would create for him.

All three of the teams could afford the price and all three could very much use Lewandowksi in their sides. He would offer qualities that none of them have and allow others to be better maximised. Dortmund will not sell Lewandowski to Bayern and rather than losing him to them next summer for free they would be better trying to sell him now. The big three Premier League clubs should have the advantage over Monaco or PSG and with Real Madrid focusing their attention on Luis Suarez, we could be set for a top three battle to sign Robert Lewandowski.

Tottenham: Review of the last five Premier League games

Tottenham will have been praying for the end of March after a difficult run of fixtures saw them collect only two points from their last five Premier League fixtures. Spurs were comfortably in third place at the start of the month and touted as potential title contenders, but find themselves in fourth place and in a battle for Champions League qualification at the end of it; here’s a recap of the last five games.

Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2

The lowest point of a season full of highs, Tottenham’s capitulation against Arsenal in the North London derby was a throwback to the mediocre Spurs days of the recent past. A two-goal lead against a team that was low in confidence was spurned, due to defending too deep and resting on their laurels. The team and supporters will want to forget this fixture and hope it doesn’t impact the standings come the end of the season.

Tottenham 1 Manchester United 3

A positive first-half display against the English champions would have been rounded off by a goal, but with a lack of clinical finishing, Harry Redknapp’s men were put to the sword by the experience of United. Jermain Defoe came on to score a consolation, but the positives from this game lie with an aggresive start. Redknapp started to adopt three central midfielders instead of two after the Arsenal debacle the week before, which proved successful later in the month.

Everton 1 Tottenham 0

A game of two contrasting halves; Spurs were poor in the first 45 minutes before dominating the second half. Tottenham were lucky to only be one goal down at the interval, but looked much more assured in the second period. Could—and should—have scored to get something from the game; Goodison Park is starting to become a bit of a hoodoo for the north London club.

Tottenham 1 Stoke City 1

A game that the White Hart Lane faithful wanted to win but that Tottenham were very lucky not to lose. Stoke continue to prove themselves as a difficult opponent, at the Britannia or away from home, and Spurs struggled to deal with their physicality and direct approach. A last minute Rafael van der Vaart equaliser salvaged what could be a very important point.

Chelsea 0 Tottenham 0

By far the most positive performance and result of late. Tottenham have not won at Stamford Bridge in 22 years, and after a run of poor results and Chelsea’s rejuvenation under Roberto Di Matteo, entered the fixture as firm underdogs. However, an assured display saw the points shared and the five-point gap between the clubs maintained. Sandro and Scott Parker battled well, whilst William Gallas showcased his experience at the back. With good chances for Emmanuel Adebayor, Van der Vaart and Kyle Walker, Spurs were disappointed not to win the game, but would have taken a draw before-hand.

With a tough run of games concluded in March, Tottenham have played all of the Premier League’s top seven twice, and now have an easier run of games on paper. With Chelsea’s priorities split due to their likely progression to the Champions League semi-finals, and Arsenal still with a couple of tricky games, Redknapp’s men will look to push towards a third-placed finish with a strong run of form in April.

Published – Bleacher Report

Five strikers the Premier League’s best should be targeting

With the end of the season approaching, the summer transfer market will be back in full swing from June, and the Premier League’s leading sides will look to bolster their squads to challenge again in 2012-13. There is a case for all top six English clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool – to add a new striker to their ranks, with the following five hitmen in-form and within the English sides’ reach.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Club – Schalke
Valuation – 15 million +
Would suit – Tottenham

Huntelaar is a product of the famed Ajax youth academy, but after ill-fated stints at AC Milan and Real Madrid, has come into his own at Schalke. The 28-year-old has scored 22 goals in the Bundesliga this term, challenging for the German top flight and Europa League Golden Boots, and is clearly confident and clinical.

On the international stage, KJH topped the Euro 2012 qualification goalscoring charts with 12 strikes, and is sure to participate for the Netherlands this summer if he stays fit. With the marksman’s contract in Gelsenkirchen expiring in the summer of 2013, the Veltins-Arena outfit may be tempted to cash-in on their star attacker.

Olivier Giroud

Club – Montpellier
Valuation – 15 million +
Would suit – Manchester United

The 25-year-old French forward has come into his own after taking a while to establish himself in his homeland, and has become a difficult opponent for opponents across Ligue 1. Giroud is good with the ball at his feet, powerful in the air and has an eye for goal.

Giroud’s continued goalscoring has powered Montpellier from a mid-table side to title challengers in a year, and seen him break into the senior France squad. Likely to be given his opportunity to really shine at Euro 2012, the suitors may well be queuing up for his services come June.

Roberto Soldado

Club – Valencia
Valuation – 20 million +
Would suit – Chelsea

Since leaving Real Madrid in 2008, Roberto Soldado has been one of the most consistent and clinical strikers in Spain, and this term has been no exception. The intelligent forward has led Los Che’s attack after the summer sale of Juan Mata, and with 16 La Liga goals to his name is in great form.

Soldado’s club efforts have been recognised on the international stage, and despite competition from Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente and the returning David Villa, should lead the line for the World Cup holders in Poland and Ukraine.

Leandro Damiao

Club – Internacional
Valuation – 15 million +
Would Suit – Arsenal

Along with Santos’ Neymar, Leandro Damiao of Internacional is in high-demand in Europe after excellent and exciting performances in Brazil. The sprightly 22-year-old has scored almost a goal per game for the Port Alegre outfit over two years, and has been the subject of transfer speculation over the last 12 months.

Damiao’s constant threat at club level has been rewarded with international recognition, with five caps to his name for the Selecao currently. With the player recently announcing that he is ready to go to Europe, there is sure to be a scramble for his signature this summer.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel

Club – Sporting Lisbon
Valuation – 12 million +
Would suit – Liverpool

Another Dutch striker trying to live up to so many legends from the nation before him, Van Wolfswinkel has slowly but surely become a well-known and highly-rated forward across Europe. The 23-year-old has continued where he left of at Utrecht with new club Sporting Lisbon after moving to Portugal last summer, and has seen his stock rise.

A goal against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium for Sa Pinto’s men will have done nothing to harm his already burdening reputation, whilst the versatile attacker has also broke into the Netherlands senior squad. With United’s links to Sporting Sir Alex Ferguson will be keeping a close eye on Van Wolfswinkel, but others will be sure to rival the Red Devils for the star-in-the-making’s signature.

Published – Bleacher Report

After European disappointment, United need to bounce back against West Brom

Sir Alex Ferguson remained upbeat after Manchester United were beaten 3-2 at home by Athletic Bilbao on Thursday night, but the side need to return to form and victory when they face West Brom on Sunday. With Manchester City two points ahead of the Red Devils, a win against the Baggies at Old Trafford is a necessity.

United were second best against Bilbao in the Europa League, with Ferguson admitting that the showing, especially at the back, was not good enough. The club’s European campaign hangs in the balance, and a top performance at San Mames next week will be necessary to salvage the tie against the Spaniards.

However, more importantly, the Premier League campaign is entering a pivotal stage and after wins over Norwich and Tottenham, United need to keep their domestic ball rolling. With eleven games left in the league, the race to be champions is set to go down to the wire. City currently hold the advantage, but this weekend may well shift the balance of power.

City may well have won their last four games in the league, but they face a tough test this weekend. After an unexpected 1-0 defeat at the hands of Sporting Lisbon on Thursday and travel across to Portugal, Roberto Mancini’s men have to face a Swansea side that have exceeded expectations this term. The Welsh team have been especially dangerous at the Liberty Stadium this season, having beat Arsenal and drawn with Chelsea and Tottenham at home; City could drop points in this fixture if they are not at their best.

Regardless of City’s result, United need to get maximum points to keep pressure on their arch enemies. However, with less than convincing performances of late, victory is not assured against a rejuvenated West Brom team. Roy Hodgson has turned the Hawthorns club’s fortunes around over the last month, to the point that he is now being considered in the media as a potential candidate for the vacant England manager post.

West Brom have won their last three games in the league, scoring ten goals in the process. A 1-0 win over Chelsea in their last outing saw the end of Andre Villas Boas, and dealt a blow to the Blues’ season. In particular, Peter Odemwingie has recovered form and fitness and will pose a threat to a under pressure United backline; the Nigeria international has scored five goals in the three-match run and is being linked with a move to Arsenal in the summer.

All things considered, United should pick up three points against the Baggies on Sunday if they play to anywhere near their best. Rio Ferdinand will more than likely be reinstated to the back four, and the veteran needs to step up and command his fellow defenders. If Sir Alex’s men can solve their issues at the back, they may well be top of the league at the end of the weekend.

Tottenham and Manchester United have it all to play for at White Hart Lane

Second host third in the Premier League on Sunday, as Tottenham welcome Manchester United to White Hart Lane. With the business end of the season upon us, both clubs need points to wrap up a successful campaign, and a defeat would leave each respective team facing a considerable setback. Spurs have seen their lead over the chasing pack reduced in the race for a top four place, whilst United need to keep pace with cross-town rivals and current division leaders Manchester City.

Tottenham’s excellent form this season hit a massive speed bump last weekend, as a 5-2 north London derby defeat to arch enemies Arsenal brought the side back down to earth. Harry Redknapp’s team missed the chance to all-but-guarantee Champions League qualification, as if they had beaten Arsenal a lead of 13 points between the rivals would have been opened. However, the loss means that the gap between Spurs and both the Gunners and Chelsea is down to seven points, and the White Hart Lane men’s confidence may have been shook.

Spurs’ showing at the Emirates Stadium was disappointing to say the least, as the side in white threw away a two-goal lead and looked a shadow of the team that has enthralled and captivated fans this term. Tottenham’s defence last Sunday was questionable at best, and will need to improve if they are to avoid consecutive defeats. Ledley King was not his usual assured self last weekend, and Redknapp will need to organise his troops to withstand the advances of the champions in this outing.

Redknapp admitted that his team selection was flawed in the derby, and Rafael van der Vaart needs to start this game, either as a second striker or on the right side of midfield. In attack Emmanuel Adebayor was isolated for large portions of the game at the Emirates, and to stand more of a chance this time round the likes of Gareth Bale and Van der Vaart must get closer to the Togolese marksman.

United are notorious for kicking into top gear at this time of the season, but as yet Sir Alex Ferguson’s team have not shown the performances we are accustomed to. A two-point gap at the top means the title race may well go down to the wire, but the game between the Manchester sides at the Etihad Stadium at the end of April could be the decider.

Ryan Giggs scored an injury-time winner against Norwich at Carrow Road last Sunday to mark his 900th appearance for the Red Devils, but it was widely acknowledged that the champions were lucky to escape with all three points against the newcomers. Wayne Rooney did not play against the Canaries and similarly missed England’s international friendly with Netherlands on Wednesday; United just do not look the same attacking force without his invention and energy, and the visitors’ potency going forward at the weekend will depend on the striker’s late fitness test.

The battle in the centre of the park will play a key part in deciding the eventual victor also, with both clubs having midfielders unavailable. Spurs will be without Scott Parker for the match-up, after the newly-appointed England captain was sent off to compound Tottenham’s misery against Arsenal, which will put an added weight of expectation on Sandro to fill the role of shield in front of the back four. Veterans Giggs and Paul Scholes continue to play a pivotal role for the Old Trafford side despite their age, and will look to use all their experience to steer their side home in the absence of Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Darren Fletcher.

This should be an exciting spectacle for the neutral, but both sets of fans will know the importance of the game. United have had the better of the London club in recent meetings, so this fixture will be a real tester to see just how far Harry Redknapp’s men have come.

Published – Soccerlens

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