Manchester United vs. Tottenham: Why Sandro Is Key to Spurs' Chances

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Manchester United vs. Tottenham: Why Sandro Is Key to Spurs' Chances
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Between late August and mid-September of 2010, a hashtag briefly trended on Twitter before the start of every Tottenham match.

With increasing volume as each game of the new season approached, there was one major question on the mind of Spurs fans: #wheressandro?

Finally, after leaving boyhood club Internacional in Porto Alegre as a Copa Libertadores winner in August, the much-hyped 21-year-old made his Tottenham debut at White Hart Lane on September 21 on a Carling Cup tie against the club's local rivals, Arsenal. His new team lost 4-1.

Since that inauspicious start to his career in England, however, the Brazilian defensive midfielder has progressed on a steady upward trajectory to the point where he is now an indispensable part of the Spurs midfield.

Not only that, but he proven himself to be a real character in the Spurs dressing room. How many other Brazil internationals would you see popping up at darts legend Bobby George's Essex mansion for a game of arrows?

The Londoners will need him to be at his best when they travel to face Manchester United on Saturday evening.

Tottenham lose at Old Trafford—that's just what they do. The last time they won away at United, Gary Lineker scored the only goal of the game. As if to underline how rare such an occurrence is, Lineker scored what must have been one of the few goals from outside the box of his career, and a beauty it was too.

With Scott Parker unlikely to return from his Achilles injury in time for the trip north, Sandro's presence at the base of the Spurs midfield will be even more important as they face their toughest test of the season so far.

Tottenham's task could be made even more difficult if striker Wayne Rooney and midfielder Darren Fletcher feature against them, after the duo returned from injury in United's midweek Capital One Cup tie against Newcastle.

That would make Sandro's ability to dominate midfield with his ability to break up attacks via tackles and interceptions even more important. He has shown that he can raise his game against the best opposition, perhaps most notably his crucial performances in the Champions League second-round triumph over AC Milan in 2011.

Scott Heavey/Getty Images

With no Parker, summer signing Moussa Dembele will likely play alongside Sandro at Old Trafford. The Belgian can provide the link between midfield and Tottenham's front five, which should include the in-form Jermain Defoe ever-dangerous Gareth Bale. That will leave Sandro free to concentrate on screening the Spurs defence and, if charged with the task by his manager, man-marking Rooney when the England forward drops deeper.

Now 23, Sandro is rapidly becoming into a world-class player in his position, and is sure to be a key component of the Brazil national team when they attempt to win the World Cup on home soil in two years' time.

The way he is progressing, he could be the next star player Tottenham have to try and retain in the face of interest from some of Europe's major clubs. Recognising this, last year Spurs tied him down to a long-term contract which commits him to the club until 2016.

If Spurs are to have any hope of claiming a first league win at Old Trafford since the '80s, or even return home with a point for the first time in seven years—Sandro will surely be pivotal to their cause.

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