The 118-year-old love affair ends today as Tottenham Hotspur host Manchester United in the last-ever game to be played at White Hart Lane. With the league done and dusted, it will be all about pride as Spurs aim to give a memorable farewell to their beloved stomping ground. On the other hand, Manchester United will be keen to spoil the emotional occasion albeit having nothing significant to play for with a top four finish looking beyond reach. This will be the 186th match exclusively featuring these two clubs. The Red Devils lead the head-to-head with 88 wins to the Lillywhites’ 49 triumphs.
ONE FINAL HURRAH FOR SPURS AT THE LANE
The end of 90 minutes today won’t just mark the end of a game but will also bring down curtains on an era itself. White Hart Lane has been the heart and soul of Tottenham Hotspur. The Lane was where Spurs lifted both of their First Division titles they have won to date in 1951 and 1961. The stadium also witnessed the North London club achieve European glory for the first time in 1972 when the Lillywhites won the UEFA Cup at the expense of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Though little success has come in the Lillywhites’ way during the past three decades or so, White Hart Lane has remained a footballing marvel throughout its existence thanks to the boisterous home support.
However, now the time has come for the club to move onto bigger things. It would have been a fitting farewell had Tottenham won the league this season only for those hopes to get dashed last week at a venue which, the Spurs hierarchy a few years ago thought of as a prospective future home. Coming back to present, the North London club is just a point short of ensuring themselves a second-place finish for as many seasons on the spin. Also, they have been unbeaten at home all season and if they could maintain that proud record come the end of the game, it will be certainly the most appropriate way to sign off from a ground that has been a second home for many of those associated with the club.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS
Danny Rose is back in training but not yet match-fit. So, Ben Davies will continue as a left-back. Mauricio Pochettino has started Kieran Trippier over the first-choice Kyle Walker and the former Manchester City man has repaid his managers’ faith by putting in some good shifts. He could start as well. Erik Lamela (hip) and Harry Winks (ankle) won’t be featuring in the final stretch of the season.
MANCHESTER UNITED SEEKING TO BE THE ANTAGONISTS
369 days ago, the Red Devils were the last visitors to West Ham’s Boleyn Ground. A year on, they are again bestowed with the privilege of being the final visitors, this time to White Hart Lane. However, Jose Mourinho’s men would definitely want to avoid the repeat of the events that took place at Upton Park last year. That defeat to the Hammers was the main reason why the Mancunians failed to qualify for this season’s Champions League, although the setback has now proved to be a blessing in disguise. By Jose Mourinho’s own admission, a route into Europe’s elite football competition is no more possible through a top-four finish for his side. And to couple it up with the fact that Chelsea have already won the Premier League title, this match has a bit of a ‘dead rubber’ feel about it in a competitive sense.
But with the host expected to be emotionally charged up owing to the backdrop in which this game will be contested, it won’t be any ordinary match to say the least. United are assured of a 6th-place finish and with the Stockholm showpiece already in the Portuguese’s mind, he is likely to field a ‘second-string’ eleven which, in all honesty, is good enough to beat any team in the division on their day. It has been 10 years since Mourinho last managed his side (Chelsea back then) to a win at White Hart Lane and this match arguably provides the ideal platform to put that barren streak to an end.
MANCHESTER UNITED TEAM NEWS
As expected, Jose Mourinho is going to make wholesale changes. Antonio Valencia and Paul Pogba haven’t travelled with the squad to London. Marouane Fellaini is suspended. David De Gea will return between the sticks for the Red Devils. Eric Bailly should continue in the heart of United’s defence but alongside Chris Smalling. Daley Blind could play in a more natural left-back role while Axel Tuanzebe should continue on the other side. Former Spurs man Michael Carrick should be partnered by Ander Herrera in the midfield. The front four is likely to feature Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard dropping to the bench.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Lloris(C); Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembele; Eriksen, Alli, Son; Kane.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Tuanzebe, Bailly, Smalling, Blind; Herrera, Carrick; Mata, Rooney(C), Mkhitaryan; Martial.
PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR:
The 19-year-old made his first senior club appearance at the Emirates just a week ago and did pretty well to keep Alexis Sanchez at arm’s length. With Antonio Valencia left behind in Manchester and Ashley Young out for the season, the teenage prodigy will be handed another chance to impress in a hostile environment. It will be interesting to watch how Tuanzebe would deal with a pacy Spurs attack.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Manchester United
Spurs have been indomitable at home all season and if they could avoid a defeat today, the North London club will end their home season undefeated for the first time in 52 years. Jose Mourinho is expected to field a slightly weakened XI owing to the midweek Europa League excursions. Thus, the Lillywhites are massive favourites to give White Hart Lane a fitting farewell.
Live on STAR SPORTS SELECT HD 1 at 21:00 IST.