GARY MABBUTT: Palacioius has been signing of the season
PUBLISHED: 17:01 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:08 07 September 2010
WE go to Old Trafford on Saturday still unbeaten against the top four in the Premier League – and safe from the season-long battle against relegation. Indeed, I feel finishing seventh – and likely entry into the Europa League – is now a real possibility f
WE go to Old Trafford on Saturday still unbeaten against the top four in the Premier League - and safe from the season-long battle against relegation.
Indeed, I feel finishing seventh - and likely entry into the Europa League - is now a real possibility for Spurs. We are now equal eighth with Fulham on 44 points after Saturday's 1-0 win over Newcastle, just one point behind West Ham.
And one of the main reasons has been the arrival of midfielder Wilson Palacios from Wigan. For me, Wilson is the signing of the season for us. He's the type of combative midfielder we've needed for a long time - I would put him in the PFA team of the season.
Before he joined Spurs I watched Wilson play for Wigan against United and he was Michael Essien-like in the way he broke things up and tackled in midfield. I thought "that's a player we could really do with."
Wilson was a huge signing for us in the January transfer window as was the return of strikers Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe.
But the most important thing about Palacios is that he allows the likes of Aaron Lennon, Luka Modric and Jermaine Jenas the freedom to get forward, knowing that he is behind them.
There is no doubt we face a difficult task against United. They may be out of the FA Cup but they are an excellent team.
Yet, we showed in our previous meetings that we can more than compete with the current champions of England, Europe and the world. We did not concede in either the first league meeting at the Lane or the Carling Cup final, where over the 120 minutes we created just as many chances as they did.
Now, after having being involved in a relegation dogfight for most of the season it is so refreshing to see the players play with a freedom, having passed the 40-point mark.
I was always concerned about how we would turn things round and the man-management skills of Harry Redknapp has worked wonders. My only criticism of Harry was his approach to the Uefa Cup, especially the home leg against Shakhtar Donetsk.
OK, Harry's remit was to keep Spurs in the Premier League - and he has - but I have always held the view that we would try to win every competition we enter. So I'll give Harry the benefit of the doubt. But I was disappointed with the second leg against Shakhtar when we had so many big names on the bench.
Now, we face an exciting run-in in the league. As I say, that seventh spot looks achievable. Indeed, I feel we should be even higher in the table. The Blackburn game was one we should have won. It was similar to West Ham where I thought one goal was going to be enough but Palacios's sending off changed all that.
After United we play the bottom club West Brom at home and that is a "must-win" game, in terms of finishing seventh. If I have one criticism of the team it is that we don't play our best against lower-placed teams. We need to win our home games and the same applies against Manchester City, who will probably feel they have an outside chance of seventh.
Having Defoe fit for the final five games will be a big boost. It was hugely disappointing for him to miss so many games through injury after he re-signed.
We have dictated many games this season and should have scored more goals in the league, especially at home. The door is now open for European football next year. And if we can achieve that, having avoided relegation after our terrible start and reaching the Carling Cup final, the season will finish on a high.
Gary Mabbutt was talking to sports editor Patrick Mooney
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