Manchester United have revenge on their mind when Huddersfield Town come to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon. David Wagner’s Terriers handed United their first Premier League loss of the season back on October 21 — a result that manager José Mourinho will surely remind his players of this week.
On that dreary day in West Yorkshire, Huddersfield Town jumped out to a 2-0 halftime lead behind goals by Aaron Mooy and Laurent Depoitre. United eventually grew into the game, but could not break through the hosts’ stubborn defense until a 78th minute Marcus Rashford goal. Afterwards, Mourinho castigated his squad for lacking the necessary focus and application.
That same message might be ringing in their ears again after the poor midweek loss to Tottenham Hotspur. The Reds entered the match at Wembley having recorded six consecutive clean sheets, but dreams of a seventh lasted just eleven seconds before Christian Eriksen opened the scoring for Spurs. Phil Jones then doubled United’s misery with a careless own goal later in the half.
“It’s a performance that starts with a ridiculous goal,” fumed Mourinho in his postgame remarks. “That goal after a few seconds has a big influence in the game because Tottenham can play the way they like to play. In the end, we played against a very good team. Both goals were ridiculous goals.”
That’s a massive understatement. United’s defense completely switched off and left Eriksen unmarked to easily fire past David De Gea before many supporters had even taken their seats. Few teams can bounce back from such an early sucker punch — let alone going on to gift the opposition an unforced own goal later in the half.
When the Reds return to Old Trafford this weekend after three straight matches on the road, they will find a reeling Huddersfield Town squad ripe for the picking. The Terriers currently sit in 17th place, just a single point above the relegation line. The club has found life in the Premier League difficult of late, losing four in a row and notching the joint-worst goal differential in the top-flight.
Last time out, Huddersfield Town suffered a confidence-shaking 3-0 loss to Liverpool. If United can strike for an early goal on Saturday, the lowly Terriers might crumble. And that’s a definite possibility — they have allowed a staggering 44 goals so far this season. Huddersfield Town must find a way to arrest their slide or they might be one-and-done in the Premier League.
David Wagner did not mince words when discussing his club’s current plight: “Confidence, of course, is not at the highest point if you have a lot of defeats. We don’t like this situation. We don’t enjoy where we are, that we have this period where we don’t collect points.”
With less than three days between the midweek Wembley debacle and Saturday’s match, José Mourinho may make a few changes to his lineup. The defense struggled mightily against Spurs, so perhaps Victor Lindelöf and Luke Shaw will get some minutes on the pitch.
Huddersfield Town really picked on Lindelof in their October win over United, so this might be a good chance to see how much the slick-passing center back has progressed in the last few months.
Most importantly, Mourinho needs to get his offense firing again. Going into the Spurs match, the entire attack of Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, and Alexis Sánchez looked to be in fine form. But they were outshot 21-6 by the Londoners and created few dangerous chances. While probably just a bad day at the office, the Reds will be glad to come up against Huddersfield Town’s porous defense.
On the injury front, Marouane Fellaini suffered a reoccurrence of his knee injury after just eight minutes on the Wembley pitch. “He has an injury in his ligament,” Mourinho told the club’s website. “It’s always the same thing. It is the lateral ligament. I don’t think it’s a big, big thing, but he was immediately feeling something and telling us he couldn’t carry on.”
There’s been a lot of talk and speculation about the Belgian’s future at Manchester United since his contract expires at season’s end and this latest injury will do nothing to help his bargaining position. Fingers crossed that he won’t be sidelined for too long.
All things considered, Mourinho’s men got off a little easy in their loss to Spurs — both Chelsea and Arsenal also lost in midweek. United now find themselves in a battle with those two clubs — plus Liverpool and Tottenham — for the three Champions League places still up for grabs.
The transfer window is now closed and Manchester United have a busy month coming up as they compete on three fronts. In fact, it might even include a round three with Huddersfield Town. If the Terriers can get past Birmingham City in their upcoming FA Cup replay, they will host the Reds in the next round.
Ahead of such important ties in the FA Cup and Champions League — not to mention holding on to second place in the Premier League — Manchester United need to regain the momentum lost at Wembley. That starts with a resounding win over Huddersfield Town on Saturday.