Spotlight on Paul Pogba and other talking points ahead of Man United v Tottenham

Aditya Devavrat 09:52 27/08/2018
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Jose Mourinho's United face Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs on Monday.

All eyes will be on Jose Mourinho, Paul Pogba, and Manchester United on Monday night as they face the first true test of their season, a home date with Tottenham.

Coming on the back of a disastrous loss to Brighton last week, United will want to set things right – and move back to within a point of Manchester City, who dropped points this weekend.

Tottenham will have the same incentive as they look to establish their Premier League title credentials, with their poor away record against the top six coming under the scanner again ahead of the crunch clash.

Here’s a look at the talking points for the game.


Paul Pogba put the spotlight on himself after last week’s loss when he said his attitude wasn’t right. It was a commendable admission from the captain, but now he has to back it up by showing an improvement on Monday night.

One of the Frenchman’s worst moments of last season came against Spurs, in the away game when he was substituted while United were chasing the game – the beginning of the speculation that things were not well between manager and player.

Conversely, in the FA Cup semi-final tie between the two sides, Pogba had one of his better performances, rebounding from a shaky start to help boss the game in midfield and set up an equaliser.

United had plenty of luminaries in that fixture and they’ll all need to match that display, but none more so than Pogba. If he can help his side win the midfield battle, his team will likely win the game.


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By now it’s an infamous record – Tottenham have won just twice in 20 games against the rest of the established top six away from home under Mauricio Pochettino, a statistic that is emblematic of why Spurs have been the nearly team of the last three seasons. They can’t mount a serious title challenge without improving that record.

Tottenham did win their last big away date, beating Chelsea last season in April. A game at Old Trafford isn’t the worst fixture to have coming up, with United struggling and possibly there for the taking, and considering Spurs’ own good form to start the season.

If they can replicate the display they produced against Chelsea, they can take advantage of the sense of unease that is surrounding United and put their opponents to the sword. If not, however, Pochettino will have familiar questions to answer.

Spurs' away record against the top six will be under the scanner again.

Spurs’ away record against the top six will be under the scanner again.


United’s playing style is always under scrutiny with Mourinho at the helm, and if last season’s 1-0 home win over Spurs is any indication, Old Trafford’s patience could be tested again.

With Pogba missing through injury, United played Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic in midfield as part of a 3-4-3 formation designed to stifle Tottenham’s high-pressing, fast-breaking tactics, resulting in a drab game settled by one moment of quality from Anthony Martial.

For all the talk that’s surrounded Mourinho and his negativity on the pitch, it’s unlikely that United will be any more expansive this time around – after all, as the manager will point out, his strategy resulted in a win, so what’s the fuss?

But a repeat may not enough to settle the disquiet that has emanated from fans and observers regarding the lack of excitement about United these days – and the brickbats will be out in full force for Mourinho if this game doesn’t end in a win.

Mourinho is under increasing scrutiny as United manager.

Mourinho is under increasing scrutiny as United manager.


Speaking of poor records against the top six, Harry Kane hasn’t enjoyed much success against United, scoring just once in nine meetings. Having finally broken his August duck, however, the Englishman’s confidence will be high, even if there are still concerns over his fitness.

However, by and large United have historically defended Kane well. Chris Smalling seems to enjoy playing against his compatriot, and though he’s missed out in the first two games of the season, the defensive frailties United showed against Brighton might mean a rejig at the back which could see Smalling force his way into the side.

Phil Jones is another who’s played Kane well previously, so there’s every chance that the striker comes up against defenders who will have no fear in facing him.

If there is no defensive shake-up, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof will be expected to improve upon last week’s display and have a point to prove.

It all adds up to a potentially tough game for Kane, who will want to score his first Old Trafford goal.

Kane doesn't have the best record against United.

Kane doesn’t have the best record against United.

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