Saturday 8th August – 12:45 – Old Trafford
The Premier League is back. The pick of the opening weekend games is incidentally the first to be played, as Tottenham Hotspur visit Manchester United. The Red Devils, who finished fourth last season and spent big this summer, with Louis van Gaal bringing in Memphis Depay, Matteo Darmian, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin and Sergio Romero, most of whom are in line to make their debuts. Angel di Maria is the most high-profile departure from Old Trafford, whilst Robin van Persie, Nani, Tom Cleverley and Rafael have also left. Spurs meanwhile are looking to build on their fifth place finish in 2014-15, by signing Kevin Wimmer, Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld which sures up their defence. Paulinho, Benjamin Stambouli, Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chriches are amongst 19 players to have left White Hart Lane. Mauricio Pochettino’s side are aiming for a third consecutive opening day win, whilst United lost their campaign opener for the first time in 42 years when Swansea beat them 2-1 last season.
- David de Gea has been left out of the match day squad, as Louis van Gaal says the goalkeeper has been affected by speculation regarding his future. This means that Sergio Romero will make his debut.
- New signing Bastian Schweinsteiger and defender Marcos Rojo are unavailable as they lack match fitness.
- However, we could see debuts for Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian.
- Hugo Lloris could start in goal after returning from a fractured wrist in the midweek friendly win over AC Milan.
- There could be debuts for Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer and Kieran Trippier in a new look Spurs defence.
- Ryan Mason, Roberto Soldado and Andros Townsend are all fitness doubts, whilst Emmanuel Adebayor is unlikely to feature.
The Key Battle: Memphis Depay vs Eric Dier
Angel di Maria’s departure to PSG might not seem as bad for Manchester United as they have a ready made replacement in Memphis Depay, who has taken the Argentinian’s vacated number seven shirt.
After he scored 22 goals (the most in the league) as PSV won the Eredivisie last season, Louis van Gaal moved quickly to secure Depay’s services for just under £25 million.
Naturally a winger, the 21 year old has played just behind the striker in pre-season so is likely to start their against Tottenham.
Another player adapting to a new position is Eric Dier, who Mauricio Pochettino has deployed as a defensive midfielder for the majority of Spurs’ friendlies despite him normally being either a centre-back or right back.
It would be a slight gamble to play the 21 year old there against the Red Devils, but with Ryan Mason a doubt, Dier could be the only option.
He had an indifferent campaign in 2014-15 after signing from Sporting Lisbon last summer, but did start incredibly – scoring in both of the first two Premier League games. Dier will be dreaming of a similar beginning to this campaign.
Manchester United wins = 81 / Tottenham Hotspur wins = 39 / Draws = 43
Last Meeting: Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur (15th March 2015)
Manchester United cemented their place in the Premier League’s top four with the finest display of manager Louis van Gaal’s reign as Tottenham were easily dismissed at Old Trafford. Van Gaal and United were under pressure to produce after the FA Cup quarter-final loss at home to Arsenal in their previous game left them with a place in this season’s Champions League as their only target. And they did so in style as a performance of pace and verve rarely seen this season ripped top-four rivals Spurs apart, especially in a first half where United raced into a three-goal lead. Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick effectively settled the contest with two early goals before captain Wayne Rooney added a third – complete with a self-mocking boxing knockout celebration after the publication of a video showing him being floored by Phil Bardsley in an impromptu bout in his kitchen.
Managers Quotes (New for 2015-16)
Louis van Gaal: “I think that we are far better now than last year when we started, so I have a lot of confidence. When we play in the same style and at the same level as the last six months of last season, then we can make a good year.”
Mauricio Pochettino: “For us it is better to start with Manchester United at Old Trafford. We arrive from Munich and played Real Madrid and AC Milan, so we are fit to compete.”
The Referee (New for 2015-16) – Jonathan Moss
Jonathan Moss will kick the new season off as he is the man in the middle at Old Trafford. Last season he took charge of 37 games in all competitions, including the FA Cup final, and handed out 142 yellow cards and nine red cards. This included sending Spurs’ Federico Fazio against Manchester City. He was in charge when these two sides drew 0-0 at White Hart Lane in December. His assistants are John Brooks and Edward Smart, whilst Andre Marriner is the fourth official.
Stat of the Match
Harry Kane’s goals earned Tottenham 24 points last season, more than any other player in the Premier League in 2014-15.
Where can I watch it?
Nothing has changed from last season, with BT Sport getting all the Saturday early kick-offs. Their coverage starts from 12pm, with kick-off 45 minutes later. You can then watch the highlights on the first Match of the Day of the season, which is on BBC One at 10:20pm on Saturday evening.
My Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Tottenham
Louis van Gaal wants to win the title, meaning he needs to start strongly and I think the Red Devils will indeed get the win because they look like they will be a very attacking side this year with a huge amount of quality going forward. However, their defence still looks shaky with no reinforcements in the middle, so Tottenham should score through Harry Kane. United’s goals will come from Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney.