Harry Redknapp has confirmed that Luka Modric will not feature for Tottenham in tonight's Premier League match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. The Spurs manager said that the midfielder, who was the subject of an increased £30m bid from Chelsea yesterday, will not play against the champions as "his head is not in the right place".
Spurs have already rejected offers of £22m and £27m from their London rivlas for the Croatia playmaker, who made his desire to make the switch to Stamford Bridge clear last month. Modric is understood to have grown increasingly frustrated at his club's unwillingness to do business.
The Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, has maintained throughout that the 25-year-old will not be sold at any price, but Redknapp himself hinted last week that a big enough offer would free up funds to help him add depth and improve his squad.
Last night Redknapp said that Modric was carrying an injury, but that the midfielder might have been fit enough to play in tonight's game were it not for his state of mind.
"He's got a little bit of an injury but probably not that bad, and there was the possibility that he could have played through it," Redknapp said. "At the moment his head is not in the right place, so it's a problem for us. We need him playing, he's very important to us."
The visitors to Old Trafford tonight could certainly use some of Modric's guile as they bid to end an extraordinary 25-match winless streak there that stretches back to 1989, when Gary Lineker scored the only goal. Any sense in Tottenham that the ground is cursed for them is only enhanced by a grievance over refereeing decisions there, and a fear that some things in football are just not meant to be.
The problem with such an attitude, though, is that it can be self-fulfilling. Redknapp therefore wants his players to free themselves from bad memories this evening. "I don't look too much at what's happened in the past," Redknapp said. "I have different players, I've not been here for the however many years it's been since we won there. We went there and played well last year but it's a tough place to go and we have got to be at our best if we want to get anything."
While Old Trafford retains an aura of invincibility which surpasses nearly every other ground in the country, some in N17 may feel as if being at their best is not enough. Last October, Spurs lost 2-0 at United, the second goal coming after Luis Nani had blatantly handled the ball. In April 2009, Spurs were 2-0 up at the ground before conceding a penalty despite minimal contact from Heurelho Gomes on Michael Carrick. Ronaldo scored, and United ran in four more in the next 22 minutes to win 5-2.
Those were both issues of poor judgement but the failure of vision in January 2005 was striking. In a scene which made the case for goal-line technology like no other, Pedro Mendes's final-minute shot was at least two feet over the line before being dragged back by Roy Carroll. The officials missed it, and the game finished 0-0.
Defensive injuries will likely force Sir Alex Ferguson into starting Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans tonight, after Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic both limped out of last weekend's 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion. Spurs have an issue in the same position, with Ledley King, William Gallas and Alan Hutton out.
Spurs have had a quiet summer so far, and Redknapp believes they should focus on finishing fourth this season. "I'm being realistic, I'm not being a pessimist," he insisted. "I think it's between ourselves, Arsenal and Liverpool for the fourth spot – that's how I see the season panning out. The chairman's close to doing a few deals and I think if we can get a couple of players with even more quality then it will improve us again. You have to keep improving because all the other teams have gone out and improved."
Manchester Utd v Tottenham
Kick-off Tonight, 8pm, Old Trafford (Sky Sports 1; Highlights SS1, 12.30am, Tues).
Referee L Probert (Lancashire).
Odds Man Utd 4/6. Tottenham 9/2. Draw 11/4.