Manchester United vs. Spurs: 5 key players

Manchester United host Tottenham this weekend as the race for a top-four finish heats up.

United’s interim manager Ralf Rangnick will be desperate to see a big reaction from his squad after an insipid derby day loss to the Premier League leaders Manchester City a week ago.

Tottenham, meanwhile, are the Jekyll and Hyde of the Premier League. Antonio Conte’s men have thrilled in recent away wins to City and Leeds United, as well as dismantling Everton at home, but defeats to Burnley and Middlesbrough show they have plenty of missing pieces.

Saturday’s clash at Old Trafford will be huge in the battle for Champions League qualification as the games run out. Here are six of the key players who will decide the outcome of this match.

 

Rodrigo Bentancur

January arrival Bentancur struggled to make an immediate impact after signing on loan from Juventus, but he is now helping to make Tottenham tick.

Bentancur’s fresh partnership with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg showed plenty of potential in Monday’s demolition of Frank Lampard’s Toffees, with the Uruguay international poised in possession.

With a passing accuracy well over 90 per cent against Everton, Bentancur is the midfield metronome Conte has been looking to rely on in the middle of the park.

 

Raphael Varane

Back in training this week after a recent lay-off due to testing positive for COVID-19, Varane’s expected return to the United backline could not come at a better time.

Rangnick has made United hard to beat but their defence was breached repeatedly against City, with club captain Harry Maguire enduring another difficult day at the back.

Varane’s presence next to Maguire has brought a more reassuring air to United and the World Cup winner will be looking to repeat his strong display in a 3-0 win against Spurs last time out.

That day, United were also responding to a chastening loss to rivals having been beaten by Liverpool. Varane’s return to the fold could help United to repeat the trick this weekend.

 

Harry Kane

Kane moved into sixth spot in the Premier League’s all-time top scorers list against Everton and the England skipper has finally found his groove in a tough season.

Much has been written about Kane’s future over the past few months but the striker is fit and firing for Spurs right now, having hit five goals in his last four Premier League appearances.

Kane was at the top of his game against Everton, converting two emphatic finishes to move above Thierry Henry’s total of 175 goals in the Premier League.

Even though Kane is widely understood to have been below his best for much of the campaign, 22 goals for club and country from 44 appearances shows he remains reliable in front of goal.

 

Bruno Fernandes

Fielded as one of twin false nines to little effect against City last week, Fernandes will surely line up in a deeper role for the visit of Tottenham.

Like Kane, Fernandes has not always hit the high standards he sets himself this term but nine goals and a further six assists shows the Portugal playmaker has kept producing the goods.

Tottenham’s defence has not always been comfortable when opposition players drop into the hole and that is the position Fernandes can dominate if he is given time and space on the ball.

 

Hugo Lloris

Lloris has had an up and down season in the Tottenham goal, with mistakes in recent games against City and Wolverhampton Wanderers showing he remains slightly error-prone.

But at his best, Lloris is one of the best goalkeepers in the game and he can be a daunting presence for opposition attackers. Lloris extended his contract to 2024 in January with the Spurs skipper committing to taking his time at the club beyond a decade as a result.

Cutting out those errors will be crucial if Conte is able to turn Spurs into contenders, though.

 

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

City targeted Wan-Bissaka relentlessly in the derby and the right-back struggled to cope. It is harsh that “what happened to Aaron Wan-Bissaka” is the top Google suggested question for the 24-year-old, but it is understandable when the £50 million buy has been unable to develop.

Wan-Bissaka’s future is reportedly in doubt with United ready to cut their losses on the former Crystal Palace defender during the summer, though any decision is likely to depend on who replaces Rangnick in the dugout.

Heung-min Son is sure to give Wan-Bissaka a tough time on Saturday and how the defender copes in the spotlight will be a clear sign of whether or not he is cut out for life at United

Author: Lucas Carlson