Although we haven’t had a easy start to the season (Liverpool at home, West Ham away), the next couple of weeks will be perceived as the granite test of what we are capable of achieving this season. Manchester United at home, followed by Chelsea away. Two fixtures in which we generally don’t come away from smelling of roses.
The last time we beat United at home was in 2001, when Willem Korsten scored twice in a 3-1 win. The following season saw the infamous 3-0 up at half time/5-3 down at full time match, which was to prove to be the first of six successive United victories at White Hart Lane.
Over the last couple of seasons, we’ve managed credible draws and came within seconds of a 1-0 win in 2007/08, before Tevez ghosted in to head home an equaliser. I think that most fans would be pleased enough with another draw this time round, but if we actually beat them, then the optimism-meter might actually explode.
After the Birmingham game, I can’t say I was that optimistic, what with Modric’s broken leg and Ledley’s injury. Now we know that King is fit to start and we have as ready made replacement for Modric in the form of Kranjcar, as is currently available. Even Sebastien Bassong has shrugged off an injury picked up whilst playing for Cameroon and will line up alongside Ledders. We’re looking strong.
For United, it seems as if Ferdinand will return to their defence alongside Vidic. With Wes Brown and Gary Neville also returning to full fitness, their defence is looking somewhat more impenetrable, which it will need to be, as they adjust to life sans-Ronaldo.
All the same, I still think this is a good time to play United. They’ve lost to Burnley, were lucky against Arsenal and were uninspiring against Birmingham. Let’s hope that they remain in first gear for at least one more game.
Another hope is that Berbac**t doesn’t score against us again. Ledley, you need to pick this man up and slip him into your pocket. I’m not sure who will be dealing with Rooney whilst you do this, but if he scores it will have less of an emotional impact.
Curiously I think that the key battle on the day will be in midfield. I say ‘curiously’, because I never imagined that the day would come when I’d consider that Darren Fletcher would be the key man for Manchester United. His battle for midfield supremacy with Palacios will have a huge impact on this game.
My final verdict? Head says 1-1, whilst the heart says 2-1.