Manchester United vs. Tottenham: Predicting the Starting XI for the Red Devils
Andre Villas-Boas' vastly improved Tottenham side come to Old Trafford this Saturday, in a Premier League showdown that will prove no easy task for Sir Alex Ferguson's team.
Though Spurs and United have yet to really click into top gear form-wise, they have both begun showing a ruthless efficiency in picking up results of late, and the weekend's clash is sure to go some way to proving the pedigree of both.
With a number of key players nearing a return to full fitness for United, most notably Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher, Sir Alex's options in attack and midfield seem to be growing.
The same cannot be said, however, for the defence, with Nemanja Vidic's injury problems rearing their ugly head again last week.
Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans are the last two standing at the back, though if United's Capital One Cup win over Newcastle on Wednesday night proved anything, it's that the youth team contains several promising players ready to step up when the time ultimately comes.
Though newcomer Alexander Buttner has looked impressive in his early showings for the Red Devils, I can easily predict Sir Alex sticking with the barnacle that is Patrice Evra at left-back. Rafael is sure to get the nod on the other side, too.
Perhaps the greatest lesson learned in last weekend's frustrating win at Anfield was the ever-growing importance of Paul Scholes to the central midfield.
Without him present to dictate the flow of the game with his remarkable awareness and sat-nav passing, Michael Carrick struggled in his partnership with Ryan Giggs for much of the game.
However, Carrick is likely to keep his place in the team, even though his regular, early-season struggle for form looks set to continue.
Antonio Valencia is an automatic choice for the right wing, but considering Nani's horrendous outings in recent weeks, a demotion to the bench for him seems inevitable.
I could well foresee Sir Alex experimenting with Shinji Kagawa in a wider position Saturday, a position he has played in with great success for the Japan national team.
Wayne Rooney is in great need of game time; he'll likely sit a little deeper than goal-machine Robin van Persie, often moving out to the left flank when the space presents itself.
Anders Lindegaard is also a near-certainty to return between the sticks.
For me, the greatest test for the Red Devils against Tottenham will be in restricting the movement of Spurs full-backs Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker.
Evra and Rafael are not the strongest defensive players, and if Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon get strong support from behind, United could be in for a torrid time at Old Trafford.
With another Champions League clash next week, it seems a little more difficult than usual to try and read the thoughts of the United boss.
He seems to be placing greater emphasis than ever on the competition's group stage games in the wake of last season's disastrous premature elimination.
Who do you think Sir Alex will pick for Saturday's game?
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