OPTA PREVIEW: Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur
After having their defence put under severe scrutiny following some high scoring encounters, Tottenham’s back line can relax in the knowledge that on Saturday it is their opponents defence who will come under the spotlight.
Sunday saw Spurs keep only their second clean sheet in eighteen Premiership games as they beat fifth placed Newcastle 1-0. At the same time, reigning champions Manchester United were conceding four to local rivals Manchester City as the effects of Rio Ferdinand’s absence inflicted further damage to their title challenge.
Since Ferdinand began serving his ban from first team action, the United defence has conceded 14 Premiership goals — more than any other side in that same period of time. Spurs, who have also had their defensive problems recently, conceded 12 goals over the same period.
This should provide encouragement for Tottenham’s forwards who have been unusually quiet in the past two games, after having blitzed the Premiership for most of 2004. Spurs are the fifth highest scorers in the league, averaging 1.43 goals per game this season. They have only failed to score once since the turn of the year, but on Saturday they will have to break a run of three games without a goal at Old Trafford.
While United’s defensive frailties are making the headlines, they are still a force to be reckoned with going forward. Only Arsenal have scored more than the Red Devils this season and their strike rate remains the best in the league, with 16% of their efforts finding the back of the net. Leading scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy particularly enjoys playing Spurs having scored in every one of his five appearances against them.
The signs of weakness at the back for United are there for all to see as they have made fewer clearances than any other side. There have also been calls for United to toughen up and with just 331 fouls conceded this season, they are the Premiership’s cleanest side. This is in stark contrast to Tottenham who have committed the highest number of fouls this season and have received 50 yellow cards, although Tottenham are one of just four Premiership sides not to have had a player dismissed during the current campaign
Spurs have never won at Old Trafford in the Premiership and only Southampton have lost more points at the home of Manchester United than Tottenham. With United having tried three different defensive pairings in the last three games with little success in stopping the rot — this could be one of the best times for Spurs to face them.
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|Manchester United||Tottenham Hotspur|
|Shooting accuracy %||45%||44%|
|Pass completion %||80%||72%|
|Cross completion %||25%||21%|
|Tackles won %||72%||70%|