United away? Easy peasy...
Manchester United away on Saturday. If I told you I wasn’t nervous, would you believe me? Not that we ever go to OT confident of winning there (even when we do beat them we only return to London with a point) and I’m not for a second suggesting that just because they’ve not been playing at the same fearsome tempo and pace of prior months they’ve suddenly become a soft touch. It’s United. Even a patched up side is dangerous to most opponents.
They appeared casual yesterday evening against Pompey. But still won. They are doing just enough and it’s more than enough. When we make trips up there, we usually give a plucky performance only to then be out-done, usually by a wonder-goal. Sometimes, we follow this up by falling to pieces allowing Utd to run rampant. It’s textbook stuff, Utd always take points off us with relative ease up there. They do the same down south (although the last two home games at the Lane have bucked the trend and had us gutted for not claiming all the points).
This season we are unbeaten against the Sky Sports Four© in the Prem and we’re not afraid to have a go against any of them. And with our safety assured along with a flirtatious swagger towards 7th spot, there’s no harm in trying to win at OT – even if the odds are still stacked against us, based on history and the fact that the game is far more important to Utd than to us. Its three points closer to a title for Fergie. With us, if we do happen to finish up in a European spot it will be nothing more than a surprising bonus. So Utd don’t need to be told how important another solid home performance would be for them.
But we have no idea what United will turn up. And we can’t go second guessing (tbf, we have no idea what Spurs will turn up either). Add to the mix Giggs 800th United appearance and the signs are the game is set up to be a joyous one for the home support. If we can gatecrash and party-poop and possibly take back those two points left behind in January 2005, I’ll be more than happy.
We should push forward with impunity. I’m not suggesting we turn up in yellow jerseys and samba our way around the park. We should just give it a go. A proper one at that. We all know they will. Last night, for all the casual running and effort made they still played some wonderful slick football. Sitting back is not an option. No need for a defensive display and one point. We are not desperate for points and Utd are not flying. What I’m desperate for is a little glory. Enough to sit in my back pocket for a week so I can float to work and back.
In the past, trying to out play Utd at Old Trafford hasn’t worked. But I don’t think we need to concern ourselves with anything other than the present. We are playing well. Both defensively and in midfield. Failing to score more than a goal a game is our Achilles heel. But with the pressures of relegation banished, the players and manager have the chance to press ahead with the development of a re-born Spurs (not trying to be overly dramatic by suggesting a new dawn is upon us, just mean that it’s nice we have a winning mentality and cohesive team structure with players understanding their responsibilities).
It’s test time. Palacios Vs Mr '600' Scholes. King (hopefully) and Woodgate standing tall against Ronaldo and Rooney. It ought to be daunting, but it’s not. It’s also far from being a rabbit in the headlights scenario. More like a rabbit smoking a joint.
Neville and O’Shea are both out injured and Wes Brown is set for a possible return to first team action if he gets through a reserve team unscathed. I repeat, Wes Brown. Shudder. Though I’d prefer O’Shea to have been available, as the bloke is a liability. We might even be treated to Berbatov on Saturday. I won't say anything more in case I jinx it. Utd also have to take into consideration the little matter of a Champs League game next week.
As for us?
BAE has been consistent since Harry’s arrival. Corluka has had the odd lapse, but works great in partnership with Lennon. There are solid partnerships throughout our side. I'm hoping Jenas is fit as we'll need his box to box energy as Utd always work their socks off, and we'll have to match them. Pav scored a beaut up at OT in the Cup, but missed sitters in the Cup final. Bent scores, regardless of doing very little else. If Pav is fully fit, will he get the nod? I hope so. We need some of our players to sharpen up their game for this weekend (Keane, Lennon, Bent) and others to excel as per usual (Palacios, Modric, King, Woody). And just hope that Utd don’t do the same. Something tells me Bent will start, and Spurs will look to counter making the most of the one ability Darren has.
Of course, we all half expected a miracle when we played them at OT in the FA Cup, and what we got was a performance of tragedy. Should have had a right go at them and we didn’t. But then we had the distraction of possible relegation hanging over our heads, and Harry was still tweaking around with the balance and confidence of the side leaving our tactics some what muddled and confused.
So on Saturday, I’d rather us not play for a point but go for all three and if we end up with nothing so be it. I wouldn’t shake my head despondently at a point. I’d just like to see us shake things up at the top.
The key is whether we can stick away a second if we get a first. It’s like the Cup final. Nobody took their chances and it was settled on penalties. If it’s a similar type of game with chances at both ends, then anyone can win it (otherwise we end up with another no score draw).
No pens this time round. The heartbreak that partners defeat would be more evident if it happened to the reds more than if the whites tasted it.