A few days short of 13 months ago Manchester United thrashed Tottenham 3-0 at Old Trafford in a performance which gave the impression that, after much faltering, they had found their equilibrium under Louis van Gaal.
That victory was the first of a four-match winning streak that included a 4-2 win over Manchester City, yet, ultimately, they reverted to unconvincing type, claiming just one more victory across the season’s last six games.
All but a year on, they are still some way short of developing a coherent and, more importantly, consistently rewarding modus operandi.
In the meantime Tottenham have developed precisely such a way of operating, but not before losing to the Red Devils 1-0 in the opening game of the season.
Surprisingly, the much-maligned Van Gaal has yet to be beaten in three managerial battles against the roundly-praised Mauricio Pochettino since he arrived at Old Trafford, winning twice and drawing the third.
Indeed, the Lilywhites have yet to score a single goal against the Iron Tulip’s United under Pochettino’s guidance.
Hardly the most heartening of factoids, with the north London side having won a mediocre two of their last three league games and four of their past 11 in all competitions….
Win, Lose or Draw?
The fact that the sole one of the three Van Gaal v Pochettino encounters mentioned above the Dutchman failed to win was played out in the capital should come as little surprise.
United’s ropey road form under the Iron Tulip has been one of their few consistent qualities.
They’ve won just four of their last 14 fixtures away from the Theatre of Dreams, with two of those victories coming against lower-division opposition.
During that sequence, in stark contrast to their incredibly-stringent home defence, they kept just three clean sheets, each coinciding with a victory.
Scoring has proven little easier than stopping their hosts from doing the same, with Derby and Shrewsbury the only clubs among the last nine they have visited to allow them more than a single strike.
As a result it can be deduced that finding the net once should be enough for Tottenham to procure a point, while keeping a clean sheet would go a fair way towards ensuring victory for the title chasers.
Just five of their 24 visitors to date this season have denied the Lilywhites a goal, while their most recent guests, Bournemouth, gave up three.
They also boast the third-best home defence in the division, having conceded just 12 times in 16 league games, with Jan Vertonghen’s return from injury a further boost.
It’s been seven games in succession since United last participated in a match featuring more than two goals and stifling Spurs may well be their game plan once more in north London.
The hosts’ past failures to find a way past the Reds under Pochettino suggest that they won’t be ransacking their poor-travelling guests either.
Who will do the damage?
Harry Kane has struck seven times in his last seven games for club and country and will take all the keeping out in a vital game for his side’s title aspirations.
With goals expected to be at a premium at White Hart Lane, backing the 22-year-old to open the scoring looks a plausible path to greater profits than the slender 13/10 about the prolific hitman finding the net at any time during the fixture.
Tottenham have outscored their opponents 18-3 between the 30th and 75th minutes of their home league games in 2015/16.
United have conceded five goals without reply in the quarter of an hour before half time their divisional road outings this term too.