Tottenham Need to Attack Manchester United to Earn Points at Old Trafford

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Tottenham Need to Attack Manchester United to Earn Points at Old Trafford
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Tottenham have a daunting task in front of them Saturday evening as they stroll into Old Trafford in an attempt to scale the mountain known as Manchester United.

Having not claimed a point at the home of the Red Devils since that match on October 22, 2005, Spurs would normally be consigned to the dust bin in this fixture and most pundits will not take a punt on the white half of North London this week.

But if the Lilywhites are to claim anything from this fixture, and after last term it has been proved it’s not impossible, there will need to be a sense of adventure about the squad at the right times to prevent a continuous onslaught of attacks from forming.

Liverpool showed that ball retention can limit United’s chances; not being profligate with their own might see Tottenham take a point back to North London, and what a point that would be.

If they are to do that, though, Spurs are going to need to demonstrate some of the attitudes that have seen nine other clubs come away with a result from Old Trafford in the past year.

In the course of looking through the records of last term, United were involved in nine contests at Old Trafford in which the hosts did not win.

If we discount the Carling Cup tie against Crystal Palace, the draws and losses break down evenly between four Premier League matches and four Champions League and Europa League matches.

Each result had its own distinct pattern, but there were some common threads between them.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
The most notable issue in most was United’s defensive line in each match.

From a standpoint of continuity, there was only one starting lineup that included the same four defenders. Those matches were the Champions League home draws against Basel and Benfica.

Otherwise, United have had a mix-and-match special at the back. Often, this was a result of an injury bug that has plagued the squad well into this campaign.

This has led to moments where the defense is not as solid or as synchronized as they should be. Many of the best defenses are those which have an absolute understanding between all the members of the back line.

Because of the constant shuffling, United has barely been able to throw the same defense out onto the pitch twice in a row, something they have not done yet this term.

This has led to the squad collecting a solitary clean sheet so far against Wigan. Goals are not necessarily, therefore, being denied all the time.

Another interesting stat is that the lowest scoring match was a 1-1 draw against Newcastle. The rest of the matches have featured an average of around five goals total.

This means that the opposition is not simply content to try to force a draw with the hosts. They are taking the game to the Red Devils in large chunks at a time.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
This means that Tottenham cannot simply be content to try to draw the match from the beginning. Attack-minded clubs have gotten rewards when the hosts are not 100 percent confident in the defensive ranks.

Often this term, it has been the emergence of Paul Scholes from the bench that has galvanized United to victories. At the same time, Spurs have been pumping the goals in during the second half.

Both sides might, then, be trying to hit their apex at the same time, which might make for an enjoyable match if the two sides are trying to trade simultaneous hammer blows.

It might be worth watching who is able to enforce their will at the key junctures of the match, particularly in the second half.

For Tottenham tactically, it will be interesting to see if Kyle Naughton is fit for the match, and even if he is, whether or not Andre Villas-Boas will utilize him or continue with Jan Vertonghen out on the left for another match.

It will be up for debate because wherever Vertonghen is not there will be a mismatch available for United.

Steven Caulker may be a great up-and-coming center back, but trying to match resolve with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney is an almighty task for the 20-year-old.

It would be more likely that Naughton will be drafted back into the side in order for Vertonghen to be able to deal with the potent striking force that United possess.

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Perhaps the biggest positional battler, however, will be just a little further forward on the pitch as Sandro will likely be asked keep tabs on Shinji Kagawa.

Sandro and Jake Livermore were given a torrid time by Hatem Ben Arfa in the first match of the campaign against Newcastle, but since then Sandro has looked composed in his defensive duties.

If Moussa Dembele is going to get a chance to move forward, it will need to come about because Sandro prevents Kagawa from being too much of a link player to the front line.

Rooney, if he starts, will inevitably drop into the midfield form time to time. Sandro cannot be distracted by his arrival and needs to be aware of Kagawa’s positioning to prevent the Japanese import from dissecting Spurs from range.

In the end, though, can Spurs do the unthinkable and win against United?

They would need to buck some rather harsh trends of previous years to do so, but a competent attack might see some of the weaknesses exploited by Liverpool last week bear fruit.

United will probably want to come out swinging in this encounter and try to bury Tottenham before they even get a chance to get in the match.

Spurs need a good start and a better finish; after all, United are still the kings when it comes to late comebacks, as Southampton and Liverpool can already attest to.

Tottenham would probably be happy with a point Saturday. If they get one, not many would likely argue with that thought.

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