As I sit to type a preview of Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, I am wondering if I am better off saving everybody’s time and saying ‘same as last year, boys,’ and heading off down to the pub.
Because Tottenham just don’t win at Old Trafford, do they? They barely even get a draw at Old Trafford. And as Andre Villas-Boas attempts to end the most embarrassing sequence of results for one of England’s traditionally big clubs, he has his work cut out once more.
But why is it so? Spurs’ record against Manchester United in the Premier League is pitiful either home or away – Tottenham have won just three of the 48 meetings in all competitions since the Premier League was formed in 1992 – but you have to go back to before football was invented for the last time they won at Old Trafford, when that fella off the crisp adverts scored the only goal in 1989.
That is a run of 25 matches where Spurs have picked up just three draws. Mull of Kintyre is the only record worse than that (and it goes on a bit longer, as well) and you have to wonder if the weight of history is telling on Spurs, because there is no way that a club as big as the White Hart Lane outfit should be going so long without a victory at Manchester United, even if the Red Devils have been the vastly better side over those years.
Spurs’ record against Manchester United in the Premier League is pitiful either home or away – Tottenham have won just three of the 48 meetings in all competitions since the Premier League was formed in 1992.
Why is it that some teams just cannot beat another one? It is one thing about football that constantly puzzles me. Why do clubs struggle at certain grounds, or against specific opponents, over any length of time? On the face of it, it is nonsensical. There were certain factors at play over a short amount of time – one manager has the beating of the other, team X’s style of play is suited to facing team Y – and that is understandable, but for a team to struggle so badly over a prolonged period of time doesn’t make any sense.
Peter Shreeves, Doug Livermore, Ossie Ardiles, Gerry Francis, Christian Gross, George Graham, Glenn Hoddle, David Pleat, Jacques Santini, Juande Ramos and Harry Redknapp have all failed to take a Tottenham team to Old Trafford and win, and I think come Saturday evening, you will be adding Villas-Boas to that list.
United are 11/20 favourites to do as they do every year, with the draw at 11/4 and Spurs put up at 21/4, and the Red Devils have to be the call here once more.
Not that United have been playing too well themselves. Even by Sir Alex Ferguson’s own admission, his team were outplayed by ten-man Liverpool at Anfield last weekend but they still managed, as they so often do, to grind out a result. It is what United have been doing since an opening-day defeat to Everton and even if performances against Southampton and Galatasaray, for example, have been below par, Ferguson’s men have still won six on the bounce in all competitions.
Most of those relative struggles have been away from home: at Old Trafford it is business as usual. United have lost just two of their last 42 home league matches, winning an incredible 37 of them, and with Wayne Rooney back in the fold after his run out in the Capital One Cup victory over Newcastle in midweek, United’s attacking options are bolstered even further.
But instead of the odds-on, I’ll take the 6/5 that United win a match with over 2.5 goals. You have to go back to December 2009 for the last time Ferguson’s side didn’t score at Old Trafford in the league and with Tottenham, who a win at Reading apart have been pretty average so far, keeping just one domestic clean sheet this season (at League One Carlisle), that sequence is not going to end.
Twenty-seven of those 37 wins have featured three goals or more and six of the last nine meetings between the sides have produced over 2.5 goals.
With that in mind, there should also be some interest in the 3/1 that United win 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1. Tottenham are capable of scoring against a United defence without the injured Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones and with question marks about both goalkeepers, especially with Jermain Defoe in such great form.
Recommended bet: Manchester United to win and over 2.5 goals @ 6/5
Outside punt: Manchester United to win 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 @ 3/1
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