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Can Manchester United or Spurs put cup misery behind them with vital points in the top four race?

12 Mar | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Can Manchester United or Spurs put cup misery behind them with vital points in the top four race?

Spurs will need to make it an unlikely hat-trick of wins at Old Trafford to dent United’s Champions League push

The moment Antonio Valencia under-hit his back pass to David de Gea on Monday night, Manchester United’s match with Tottenham on Sunday became season defining for both clubs.

As the ball trickled towards him, De Gea knew he was in trouble and raced out to try to retrieve the ball – and the game.

He was already too late.

Danny Welbeck was too quick, got there before him and took the ball round the despairing ‘keeper with one touch, then knocked it into the empty net with a second.

In that moment, Manchester United’s FA Cup hopes faded to black, as did Louis van Gaal’s last chance of returning the Red Devils to trophy-winning ways in his first season at the helm.

For Tottenham it is different. Their last trophy hopes disappeared when first John Terry and then Diego Costa hit deflected goals to sink Spurs 2-0 in the Capital One Cup final at the end of February.

So both these storied old clubs will finish the 2014/15 season without silverware – at least in the traditional sense. If you listen to Arsene Wenger, sealing a top four finish is as good as a trophy. But then, in the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies: he would say that, wouldn’t he?

But a Champions League slot has now become the only thing these two clubs have to play for, and despite being three points ahead of Spurs, United look more in need of a win here than their rivals. With a tough run-in that sees them face Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in their last ten games, suddenly Tottenham at home looks like a must-win.

Conversely, of the current top four, Spurs have only to play the two Manchester clubs before the season is up.

And surely, surely, United’s need is greater. Can anyone imagine them failing to make the Champions League for a second year in succession? Don’t bet on Van Gaal still being in the hot seat next season if they don’t.

The Dutchman knows that is the minimum required to keep his job. One suspects that this imperative might just be the reason for the safety-first football he has been serving up this season. And despite the groans from the Old Trafford faithful, the league form has actually not been bad: just two defeats in their last 18 matches is decent form in anyone’s book.

Tottenham’s is far more patchy. But consider this fact: this fixture used to be a stonewall home banker for United. In 1989 Spurs won twice at Old Trafford in League and Cup, but they would not see victory again on that ground for fully 23 years. But Tottenham have taken all three points on their last two visits.

Can they make it a hat-trick this weekend? Don’t be so sure. At Old Trafford, sometimes even when Spurs win they don’t win. Just ask Pedro Mendes…