January 12, 2019
One area where Manchester United are probably stronger. Both David de Gea and Hugo Lloris are excellent goalkeepers and regular internationals for Spain and France respectively. There is not a great deal to choose between the two except that De Gea has been playing behind a less settled and more porous defence of late and has had to come to his side’s rescue more often. He has managed that with a minimum of fuss and significantly keeps winning the club’s player of the year award. De Gea would most likely get into the Spurs side, whereas United would not swap him for Lloris.
Verdict Advantage United
Tottenham win this one, not least because the United manager for the last couple of seasons made no secret of his dissatisfaction with the strength of his central defence and Toby Alderweireld was believed to be high on the list of transfer targets. Based around the Belgian pairing of Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen Spurs have a back line that is both reliable and flexible. They can play with a three if Davinson Sánchez comes in, or just as well with a two, and while United have been using converted wingers at full-back, Spurs have a full set of specialists from which to choose even after parting with Kyle Walker.
Verdict Advantage Spurs
On paper United should excel in this area. They have certainly thrown enough money at it and, though there are encouraging signs that the shackles have been removed under Ole Gunnar Solksjær, it is still too easy to recall a time when Marouane Fellaini was the most consistent performer. Paul Pogba remains potential unfulfilled, despite the enormous fee, whereas Spurs have creative midfielders such as Christian Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko who deliver on a weekly basis and are beginning to be coveted by some of the biggest clubs in Europe. As the league table suggests, Spurs have a system that works.
Verdict Advantage Spurs
A month or two ago Spurs would have won hands down in this area because United were playing without confidence. Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min would all have been on José Mourinho’s theoretical shopping list, because the manager said so. United have done some catching up in recent weeks, however, with Marcus Rashford in particular showing his value and Romelu Lukaku becoming more effective. While Spurs are still more of a handful for defences, due to Kane’s accuracy, Alli’s elegant simplicity and Son’s cleverly channelled energy, perhaps a revived United deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Intuitively one would say United have the greater strength in depth, because they have so many quality players who cannot get into the side, though quite often when Fred, Alexis Sánchez or the presently injured Marcos Rojo make an appearance it is soon apparent why they are peripheral. Big credit is due to Mauricio Pochettino here for, when Lucas Moura, Harry Winks or Érik Lamela step up, they usually make a strong case for remaining in the team. United have suffered through managerial churn and inconsistent recruitment; Tottenham are more integrated and it is easier for Pochettino to play the rotation game.