LONDON: Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho badly needs a performance and result to encourage his club’s supporters when they take on Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Monday.
After a close-season soured by Mourinho’s discontent over the lack of transfer activity, Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Brighton & Hove Albion brought an early chorus of complaints from fans and former players about the state of the side.
United beat Leicester City at Old Trafford in the opening game of the season but Spurs present a very different quality of opponent.
The bare statistics suggest United are favourites, given that in the Premier League era Spurs have managed just eight wins against United, who have enjoyed 33 victories over the North Londoners.
Even in the recent era, as United have lost their air of dominance, Spurs have lost on their last four trips to Old Trafford.
But Mauricio Pochettino’s side have begun the new campaign well with wins over Newcastle United and Fulham and while they didn’t make any moves in the transfer window they have kept together their impressive squad.
United’s defence was at all sea on the south coast last week and it would be no surprise if Mourinho made changes in that department against a Spurs attack featuring Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.
England internationals Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are options should Mourinho decide against the partnership of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof who struggled at Brighton.
United already trail title favourites Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea by three points and that gap could have doubled by kick-off at Old Trafford with all three expected to win again this weekend.
Champions City have picked up where they left off last season with two wins, including Sunday’s 6-1 thrashing of Huddersfield Town, and they will expect to maintain their 100 percent record at promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool will look to show United how to deal with Brighton at Anfield on Saturday and Chelsea, who have made a positive start under their new manager, Italian Maurizio Sarri, face a tricky test at Newcastle on Sunday.
Arsenal have already made their worst start to a Premier League season, although they were handed one of their toughest starts with games against City and then Chelsea.
Losing a third successive game, when West Ham United visit north London on Saturday, would make life even more uncomfortable for new manager Unai Emery.
Arsene Wenger’s successor is trying to introduce a high pressing game, with the Gunners playing out from the back. But those two losses have shown Emery it will take time to transform the team that finished sixth in Wenger’s last season.
“We need to win this match,” said Emery. “I think it’s very important to show them [the fans] a better performance than in the two first matches.”
The Hammers’ pre-season optimism, following the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini as manager and heavy investment in new players, has been tempered by losses to Liverpool and Bournemouth.
Fixtures (1400GMT unless stated):
Saturday: Wolverhampton Wanderers v Manchester City (1130), Southampton v Leicester City, Arsenal v West Ham United, Bournemouth v Everton, Huddersfield Town v Cardiff City, Liverpool v Brighton & Hove Albion (1630).
Sunday: Watford v Crystal Palace (1230), Newcastle United v Chelsea, Fulham v Burnley (1500).
Monday: Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur (1900).
Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2018