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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Wembley trip holds few fears for Manchester United

Tottenham and Harry Kane rarely trouble Red Devils

David De Gea was sensational for Manchester United
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Premier League
BT Sport 1, 8pm Wednesday

You have to go back to the Christmas holidays for the last time miserly Manchester United conceded a goal so bank on Jose Mourinho, old Scrooge himself, to offer up slim pickings for Harry Kane and pals at Wembley.

Kane hit the 30-goal mark for the season at Newport on Saturday – 34 if you throw in his England goals – but he’s scored only once in seven showdowns with United.

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Stoke v Watford

And he isn’t the only ace marksman struggling to break down Mourinho’s men, who have kept an astonishing 20 clean sheets across all competitions this term.

Burnley on Boxing Day were the last team to find the United net and the Manchester giants are currently on a run of five wins to nil.

Wembley is a stadium their players know well enough and seem to enjoy playing at – they’ve won six in a row at the ground culminating in last February’s League Cup final – and they are going to take the beating in this clash.

They can certainly avoid defeat but with Alexis Sanchez added to the attacking mix and key players set to be missing from the Tottenham ranks, the visitors may well be worth the risk. Remove the stalemate and United are 11-8 in the draw-no-bet market.

This match marks the start of the most gruelling fortnight of Tottenham’s season – three Premier League matches against top-six rivals, an FA Cup fourth round replay and topped off with a trip to Juventus in the Champions League – and it doesn’t appear to be coming at a great time.

Mauricio Pochettino managed to keep a few off his stars off the Rodney Parade quagmire – though Kane, Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and one or two other key figures endured the full 90 – as Tottenham fought out a desperately disappointing 1-1 draw. It was the second successive desperately disappointing 1-1 draw following the previous weekend’s setback at Southampton.

Premier League standings

United have had an extra 24 hours' rest and crucially Pochettino can’t seem to get pivotal players back on the pitch, none more so than Toby Alderweireld, their singularly most important defender. Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen have also been massive misses in recent weeks.

Having said all that, they’ve lost only one of their last 13 – and that was at Manchester City – and their last home match against any of the top dogs ended in a 4-1 mauling of Liverpool.

Tottenham have that level of performance in their locker but they definitely look less potent as the season progresses.

United are odd in as much as they are getting results, are packed with match-winners yet rarely these days win with style.

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Their five games against their nearest rivals – the yardstick by which any United team has to be measured – have produced just nine goals in total. They beat Spurs 1-0 at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture in a match memorable for a chronic lack of ambition from Tottenham and not much zip from United.

Mourinho’s focus will be on not losing, although the threat offered on the counter from Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford would make any defence wary.

Manchester United draw no bet
1pt 11-8 Betfred 

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Team news

Serge Aurier and Harry Winks are out. Toby Alderweireld and Hugo Lloris are major doubts. Danny Rose and Erik Lamela could be in contention.

Manchester Utd
Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahamovic and Daley Blind are the only absentees. Alexis Sanchez is set for his United Premier League debut.

Key stat
Manchester United have won 18 games to nil in all competitions.

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Manchester United have won 18 games to nil in all competitions
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