Manchester United vs Tottenham: Spurs need victory at Old Trafford to send out statement

Pochettino hopes to lead Spurs to fourth place and the Champions League

Mauricio Pochettino insisted he was not happy as he sat at home on Thursday evening, with the Europa League on one screen and Premier League darts on the other.

He wanted Tottenham Hotspur, rather than Fiorentina, to have the privilege of hosting Roma in the last-16 first leg.

But there can be no doubt that when Spurs go to Manchester United tomorrow they will be far better off for having had a rare free midweek. Pochettino gave the players two days off at the start of the week and when they returned he put them through a double session on Tuesday to prepare them for their crucial last 10 Premier League games, and the fight for fourth place.

“They asked for more days off but we need to work,” Pochettino joked yesterday. “It has been tough since the beginning of the season. In the way that we play and want to improve our play, it is important to have a clean week to work. This week it was very good to work hard.”

 

Tottenham go to Old Trafford at a peak of form and fitness which is surprising given their tired defeat in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley two weeks ago. They have won both their league games since then and, crucially, did not have to fly back from Dnipropetrovsk, Kiev, St Petersburg or Istanbul in the early hours of yesterday morning.

“The players are very focused and try to give their best in every game and training session,” Pochettino said. “It’s true that it was tough after the Capital One Cup final to [adjust to] the defeat. But the team’s response was fantastic. They have got a very good feeling.”

If Spurs win tomorrow only goal difference will separate them from Louis van Gaal’s side. They will move up to fifth, with Liverpool not playing until Monday, and with Leicester City, Burnley and Aston Villa next to come, they would have a good chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

The problem is that, for all their improvement this year, Spurs are still waiting for one big statement victory away against a good team. They played well in patches in Premier League defeats at Anfield, Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium, and in the 1-1 draw at the Emirates. Pochettino hopes for a different outcome this time. “It is never easy,” he said. “We tried to get the three points but it was difficult. Maybe it will be possible on Sunday.”

If there is a justified criticism of Spurs’ recent form it is that they have kept just one Premier League clean sheet in 2015, but Pochettino insisted there would be no change of approach for this game.

“My football idea is always to think about going at the opponent’s goal,” he said. “This will not change. That would be to go against myself. My philosophy is to always have the ball and play attacking football and try to damage the opponent. I am brave. I want to win games.”

Pochettino takes confidence from the form of Danny Rose, whom he described yesterday as the best English left-back in the Premier League. Rose is considering representing Jamaica internationally but Pochettino said he should be part of Roy Hodgson’s plans, as statistics show that he has overtaken Luke Shaw. Last season Shaw enjoyed an excellent season under Pochettino’s management at Southampton but he has struggled since his £30m move to Manchester United last summer.

“So far Rose has been the best left-back this season; his performances have been great,” Pochettino said, putting the improvement down to Rose himself. “It is our job to compare our players with other players in the same position and we believe that Danny Rose has so far been the best English left-back.”

The manager said this judgement was based on in-house statistics as well as observation, and while he said it was not his place to judge Shaw, he said Rose had overtaken him. “Shaw was maybe in the top three [English left-backs] in the Premier League [in 2013-14]. I think that because after the season ended he was at the World Cup.”

Tottenham received some good news yesterday as their neighbour Archway Steel announced it would not be appealing against the High Court’s decision to refuse its legal challenge to the compulsory purchase order which is necessary to the progress of Tottenham’s hopes of building a new stadium.

Playing away: Spurs' poor run on the road

Tottenham have failed to record a win at a fellow top-four contender this season

27 Sep: Arsenal (a), drew 1-1

Nacer Chadli put Spurs ahead before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s equaliser

18 Oct: Man City (a), lost 4-1

Sergio Aguero scored four as Roberto Soldado missed from the spot and Fazio saw red

3 Dec: Chelsea (a), lost 3-0

Eden Hazard, Didier Drogba and Loïc Rémy found the net

10 Feb: Liverpool (a), lost 3-2

Spurs equalised twice at Anfield before a late winner from substitute Mario Balotelli

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