What: English Premier League
Who: Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur
When: Monday 22nd August, 2011, at 20:00 UK time
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester, England

Not So Convincing

An Ashley Young cross deflected home was enough to see champions Manchester United topple West Bromwich Albion on the opening day of the 2011/12 Premier League calendar. Still marked as favourites to lift the trophy, United were not as impressive as they would have liked however, and will need to up their game when they face Champions League aspirants Tottenham Hotspur.

The talking point of the champions’ opening fixture was undoubtedly Spanish shot-stopper David de Gea’s blunder, one that allowed West Brom to equalise. The new Manchester United number 1 has been under fire lately following his average start to life in England, but he has found support from an unexpected source in the form of Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina. “He is a boy who cost a lot of money and he is very young, but if Mr. Ferguson has put his trust in him by signing him then it seems logical that he will settle and be a quality signing for them”, said De Gea’s fellow Spaniard.

Following the retirements of senior players Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar, a new era starts under Sir Alex Ferguson. The Scotsman has shown his ability to rise from the ashes during his tenure as Manchester United boss and while it may take some time to fully integrate De Gea, Phil Jones and the club’s other new arrivals, there is little doubt over the long term future at Old Trafford.

Critical Point

The transfer window has twists and turns remaining, meaning that for Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea’s pursuit of Luka Modric prepares to enter a critical period and rumours abound about Lassana Diarra landing at White Hart Lane. Having high hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season, the Croatian playmaker is an asset that the club would want to retain.

To add spice to the issue, Spurs manager Harry Redknapp opened the door for Modric’s potential departure though, saying that it would be beneficial for the team should they manage to lure a few players with the received fee: “There are two options. You either sell him, get the money and bring four players in and have a better team, probably, in all honesty. Or you keep Luka, who’s a fantastic player. We all love our club and he’s got to play for Tottenham, but when someone comes along and offers to treble your wages and play for a team in the Champions League, who could win the Champions League…", said Redknapp.

Indeed, Spurs could soon be transformed if Modric goes, with Diarra able to be joined by Emmanuel Adebayor. Both were team-mates at Real Madrid last season and each one has been discarded by their respective clubs. However, none appears close to making this game – should the transfers go through – and Spurs will have to find that extra source of motivation amidst their injury crisis; not that it affected Redknapp’s side in midweek Europa League action, with Scottish outfit Hearts simply crushed (5-0) in their own backyard.

Recent form

Manchester United:
Barcelona 1-2 Manchester United (31/07; Friendly)
Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United (07/08; Community Shield)
West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Manchester United (14/08; Premier League)

Tottenham Hotspur:
Brighton 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur (30/07; Friendly)
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Athletic Bilbao (06/08; Friendly)
Hearts 0-5 Tottenham Hotspur (18/08; Europa League)

Key absences

Manchester United: Rafael; Nemanja Vidic; Rio Ferdinand; Darren Fletcher; Javier Hernandez (doubt)

Tottenham Hotspur: Steven Pienaar; William Gallas; Jermaine Jenas; Tom Huddlestone; Wilson Palacios (doubt); Ledley King

Players to watch

Manchester United – David de Gea: All eyes will be on the young Spaniard as he battles to cement a starting berth and to convince the Manchester United faithful that he can succeed Edwin van der Sar. De Gea will be expected to quickly find his form of old and prove to the world why he is the second most expensive keeper ever, even at his tender age.

Tottenham Hotspur – Gareth Bale: Last season’s revelation, the “new Ryan Giggs” is a man that could turn De Gea’s night into a disaster. Bale’s speed could baffle the United defence, who will be missing the rocks of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. All in all, the Welshman may prove to be a difference-maker.

Match Prediction

While Manchester United have some problems of their own, their fortunes appear to be better than Spurs’, who are enduring a hard injury crisis. Spurs could take advantage of United’s defensive absences and will be on a high after their crushing of Hearts in the Europa League. But Redknapp’s side have a poor record at Old Trafford, and even sky-high confidence should not stop the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young from running the show. Manchester United 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur.

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