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No pressure, but to keep any hopes of the title alive, Spurs really have to win on Sunday afternoon.
There’s a bit of a debate on right now over who should start between Vertonghen and Wimmer – assuming both are fit. I can understand arguments saying not to disturb a working partnership. And I can understand not bringing Jan back for such a big game. But not only do I believe Vertonghen is the superior player I also think this game is made for him.
United play such a Dutch interpretation of the game it borders on satire and Vertonghen is the Dutchiest of defenders – especially for a Belgian. Reading through-balls, defending the channels, early interceptions… Although Wimmer does all those things his stand-out strength is his ability in the air and unless Van Gaal unleashes Fellaini on us again there’s just no need for that.
So I’m crossing my fingers for a Vertonghen start and a Lamela start with Wimmer and
Son the obvious alternatives.
No-one is quicker to point out how boring Van Gaal’s Manchester United has been than United fans themselves. Conservative, slow, possession as a defensive method, reliant on individuals making something of nothing are all attributes worthy of complaint but I’d like to quickly take a look at why.
I don’t believe Van Gaal is a defensive coach – his record at Barca shows that. I don’t think he has a passion for 1-0 wins or retaining possession for the sake of retaining possession. I don’t think it’s simply a case of having good defensive players and poor attacking players.
I think Louis Van Gaal recognises an overall lack of quality, a lack of balance in the squad, and has decided that it’s better to lean on the defensive and attempt to win every game 1-0 than it is to go the other way, do as Everton have done, and throw caution to the wind. And we’ve seen from the couple of games Van Gaal has caved into the pressure, set United up to play an attacking game and given very Everton-esque performance.
I mentioned that Manchester United play a very Dutch style of football and what I mean by that is they stretch the game to an extreme horizontally and squash it vertically. They play safe passes to feet looking to swap overloads in wide areas from side to side in attempt to stretch the oppositions defence from which they create either crossing opportunities or release creative players into the channels.
Pochettino will likely instruct his full-backs to surrender those wide areas leaving it to our wider attacking players to defend that space. That’s a hard ask of them and we’ll likely allow United some crosses. But their lack of height, our defensive ability and Lloris’ reading of crosses means it’s unlikely to be a fruitful path to goal.
The Old Trafford pitch is enormous and White Hart Lane below the FA’s minimum legal width. That change should be quite jarring for United. Not only in them attempting to stretch our defence. But in their ability to resist our pressing.
United’s high-quality movement of the ball across the width of defence makes them very hard to press and Blind’s ability on the ball is comparable to Alderweireld’s. It might be tempting, as I’ve suggested for a couple of games in the past, to restrict how far we press in order to concentrate it on certain players and keep up it’s intensity but I’ve yet to see Pochettino apply such an idea and Lamela especially seems to have no off-switch when it comes to relentless chasing down the ball across every blade of grass.
One of the main themes of Pochettino’s style is winning the ball as high-up the pitch as possible but United can be guilty of leaving their midfield exposed when attacking and winning the ball at those points and quickly moving the ball into those exposed areas to drag Carrick out of position may be the most effective way of opening them up.
United will use our high-tempo, pressing, style of play and the fact that we need a win to frustrate and tire us. An early goal in this game would mean everything but at the same time trying to keep up the intensity needed to score for the entire 90 minutes will kill us. Tottenham need to put the occasion to the side and demonstrate calmness and self-control in this game.
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