Manchester United host Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in Premier League action on Monday. For United, it’s a chance to right the ship after a disappointing loss last weekend, and head into the international break on something of a high. Ahead of the match, friend of the site Sean Cahill from Cartilage Free Captain stops by to discuss Mourinho, Pochettino, the Alderweireld deal that never was, and all things Spurs.
The Busby Babe: It's well known now that United were interested in Toby Alderweireld, but apparently our idiot chief executive thought the price was too high. Rumor also has it that Spurs asked for one of Anthony Martial or Juan Mata in part exchange. What’s your verdict now on the (non-)outcome of the deal?
Cartilage Free Captain: It’s no surprise to say that Spurs wanted Martial as part of the deal. Spurs were looking for someone to bolster the attacking band and a player like Martial who could basically play any of the four positions across the top would have been the sure fire fit. Ask any Spurs supporter at the end of the last season that we were expecting Toby to leave and we wanted to either get a dump truck of money for him or a player that fit our needs. I’m genuinely surprised one of these moves did not happen.
As for the verdict, rumor is that Pochettino pulled the squad together before the start of the season and said the slate was wiped clean. Any issues at all were no longer a problem. Toby has already featured in one match this season and is expected to continue to feature, especially with Spurs insisting on playing a Back 3. I really wanted Martial, but a fully fit Alderweireld not frozen out of the squad for one more season is fine by me.
TBB: Speaking of deals, how are you feeling about the lack of incoming players in the last window? After Pochettino publicly challenged the club to “be brave,” nothing happened. Has Levy gotten too clever for his own good?
CFC: Daniel Levy is responsible for the transformation of Tottenham Hotspur to what it is today, for better or worse. When ENIC purchased the club, they were a cup team that might crawl into the top half of the table from time to time. Now, they’re on a multi-year run of Champions League qualification. There’s this shiny new stadium that we’re desperate to have open.
That being said, Levy’s negotiating tactics may not work anymore. The market has gotten out of control and to say that the club was “waiting for the bigger clubs to do their business” was hilariously stupid. If this team is going to take the next step after three consecutive Top 3 finishes, they have to be involved with big players right out of the gate.
TBB: Pochettino has improved the team each season that he’s been in charge, but doesn’t yet have the silverware to show for it, and now apparently hasn’t been backed in the market. How will success be judged this season? Will a top 4 finish be good enough to keep Pochettino away from - let’s just say, hypothetically - a big club up north in need of a manager who isn’t a football dementor?
CFC: Funny enough, I think with no movement in the market, Top 4 again may be good enough to satisfy the masses. Pochettino, even without getting any players in, is going to do his job and keep things internal even if he and Levy are drawing pistols at dawn and neither one can pull the trigger on each other.
As for him leaving, the only club I fear him leaving for is Paris Saint-Germain. If you read his book (and I suggest you do because it’s a great read), he and his wife gush about Paris and how they vacation there. He’s not a “big club” guy and probably could have taken Real Madrid if he wanted it this season. If PSG ever truly come calling with that dump truck of money for him, I will be terrified.
TBB: With no new signings, any improvement will have to come from within. Which player is most likely to make The Leap this season?
CFC: This is the year Dele Alli truly hits superstar status. I know that’s kind of a cop out given his meteoric rise already, but if you watch his early matches this year, you can see the confidence and the intelligence in all his movements already. The comforting thing about Dele leaving, if it comes to it, is that Levy is going to ask for the GNP of a small nation in return.
If you want a non-cop out answer, keep your eye on former PSG man Lucas Moura, right back Kieran Trippier, or defensive midfielder Harry Winks. All three have obviously shown flashes in the past (especially Lucas in his early PSG days) but Lucas is already terrorizing defenses and Trippier is showing versatility and is damn dangerous in the back three. was so close to making that jump last year, but a long-term injury killed his momentum.
TBB: What are you expectations for this season? What is the realistic best case scenario? And the worst?
CFC: I do not expect to catch City unless the injury bug does a tap dance on their corpses. I think, realistically, Liverpool could compete with them but City are still the class of the league. For Spurs, I think third place is entirely achievable again and, with a little help, could get back to second. Worst case would be getting hit with injuries in key places and falling down into Europa League spots.
TBB: Where will the match be won on Monday? Any interesting match ups to look out for?
CFC: Spurs’ midfield is picking up where they left off last year, and I expect them to be the force that decides the match. Spurs seem content with trotting out Eric Dier at the Six and then either Sissoko or Dembele in the 8. With Winks making a cameo last week, he’ll be back for selection but I would figure him to be a late sub if things are going well. Moose will almost certainly be in this match as he gives the team the best chance of winning that midfield battle.
TBB: And finally, your prediction for the final score?
CFC: The last London Club to take all three points at Old Trafford was Spurs back in 2014. That was a battle for the ages between David Moyes and Tactics Tim Sherwood! Things have changed a bit since then and I fully expect the Mourinho special: Try to get a goal early on and park the bus immediately after. If Spurs can nip a goal early, there’s no reason they can’t take all three.
Lineup prediction: Lloris; Vertonghen, Sanchez, Alderweireld; Davies, Dele, Dier, Trippier; Eriksen, Lucas; Kane (3-4-2-1)
As for score, I’ll play it safe and say a draw at Old Trafford is in the works, 1-1.
TBB: Cheers, Sean! Check out my Q&A at their place here.