Man United v Tottenham: Will reliant Robin sinks Spurs again?
Manchester United’s star signing Robin van Persie has quickly picked up where he left off last season by topping the Premier League goalscoring charts.
For the first time in eight years north London is united in its fear of Robin van Persie’s prowess.
The Dutch international striker made a high-profile �24million move from Arsenal to Manchester during the summer, and he has continued the goalscoring form that helped the Gunners to overhaul Spurs’ 10-point advantage last season.
His sublime 43rd-minute strike in the derby at the Emirates in February levelled the score and signalled the beginning of Arsenal’s ascent and Tottenham’s decline, which ultimately cost them Champions League football.
Given his central role in that 5-2 comeback, and his stunning 30-goal haul last season, the sight of the flying Dutchman is unlikely to be greeted with any degree of warmth by the travelling Spurs fans this weekend.
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With five goals already in the league – including a decisive hat-trick against Southampton – Van Persie is currently the top flight’s leading scorer again.
In the absence of the injured Wayne Rooney, he has relished the opportunity to be the focal point of the attack, alongside Danny Wellbeck and Javier Hernandez.
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With Shinji Kagawa adding to United’s attacking options following his summer move from Borussia Dortmund, Sir Alex Ferguson has assembled a fearsome and creative front line which is collectively clinical en route to goal.
However, the defence has not been strengthened in the same manner, and Nemanja Vidic has now joined Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in the treatment room after undergoing knee surgery this week.
United consequently look frail in the centre of defence and, with Johnny Evans and Rio Ferdinand the only available options, Michael Carrick has had to fill in at the back on occasions.
Ferguson has better cover at left-back, and Alex Buttner has arrived from Vitesse Arnhem to compete with Patrice Evra, who at times looked all too comfortable and lackadaisical in his position and found himself ‘left back’ on the bench against Wigan – watching as Buttner scored on his debut.
The 70-year-old manager is also spoilt for choice in midfield. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs refuse to age and still dominate games as if they were approaching 30 rather than 40, while the choice of attacking players is threatening to any team.
The return of Darren Fletcher will be particularly welcomed by the United fans. The Scot has had a 10-month sabbatical due to a chronic inflammatory bowel condition, but he made a substitute appearance against Galatasaray in the Champions League last week.
“We have the game against Tottenham and he could be involved in that,” said Ferguson. “He is handling the condition at the moment and, as we saw the other night, he is looking fine.
“It is a matter of hoping the condition stays dormant and he is handling his diet well. Hopefully he gets that break.”
Fletcher is a doubt to start at Old Trafford – as is Ashley Young, who is sidelined with bruised cartilage in his knee – but Andre Villas-Boas and his players will head to Manchester in the knowledge that they are facing one of the most lethal attacking line-ups in the league.
Pressing the home side’s attack and goal-hungry midfield will be vital, but United tend to make the most of their home advantage and should continue their dominance over the Lilywhites.
The verdict: Tottenham certainly have the ability to get a result at Old Trafford, but they never do. We usually try to be positive but in this case it would fly in the face of a mountain of evidence from previous years – 3-1 to United