Can Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho dent Manchester United’s top four charge?
The former Old Trafford boss faces his old side on Friday
Tottenham and a top-four finish have gone hand in hand in recent seasons – but it hasn’t quite gone to plan this time around.
A combination of poor form, injuries to key players and the likes of Leicester, Sheffield United and Wolves exceeding expectations has left Jose Mourinho’s side on the outside looking in.
In contrast, the Portuguese’s former club Manchester United have steadily improved under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Despite an inconsistent first half of the campaign, they’ve managed to stay within touching distance of the top four and the enforced break has given them the chance to get back to full fitness ahead of the run in.
Can United close the gap?
Four points and three places separate Spurs and United and the two giants get their seasons back underway on Friday night, under the lights in north London.
And while Mourinho’s priority will be rescuing Tottenham’s season, he’ll be well aware that doing so could potentially derail his former employers.
With just nine games to play, the top three looks set in stone. Liverpool all but have the title wrapped up while Manchester City and Leicester are unlikely to drop enough points to be caught.
Unless City’s Champions League ban is overturned, fourth and fifth spot look set to be a portal into UEFA’s elite competition, although that’s not a guarantee.
Chelsea are currently in pole position in fourth place but United are hot on their heels just three points behind.
The Blues will fancy their chances against Aston Villa on Sunday meaning anything less than a win for Solskjaer will leave his side bereft of momentum and playing catch up.
Mourinho may not be the manager he once was but he knows United’s side better than most and he’ll look to frustrate.
Spurs will also be buoyed by the return of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, whose seasons looked to be over before the league was postponed.
Yet Dele Alli’s suspension and Giovani Lo Celso’s injury could leave them light in midfield, an area where United finally appear to have strength in depth.
Bruno Fernandes has been a breath of fresh air since arriving in January and fans are licking their lips at the prospect of him lining up alongside Paul Pogba, who is back following a long-term spell on the sidelines.
Marcus Rashford is also back from injury and he’ll undoubtedly cause problems for a Tottenham defence that has already conceded more Premier League goals than they did throughout the whole of last season.
Both sides will want to return in style but will also be wary of being sucker punched, which could result in a cautious affair.
Of the two, Spurs arguably have the more difficult run in, with games against Sheffield United, Everton, Leicester and Arsenal to come.
But the Premier League at its best is among Europe’s most unpredictable leagues. It remains to be seen whether United can continue their title charge or if their old boss will come back to haunt them.
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