United still in search of best XI ahead of Spurs clash

Posted by Mark Payne

GettyImages / Matthew Peters/Man Utd/Getty ImagesWayne Rooney looked sharp midweek against Newcastle, as United fans hope he starts with RvP against Spurs in the league Saturday.

Manchester United head into this match against Spurs on the back of a sixth straight win against Newcastle midweek. However, United's midfield this season has been less than impressive and it is at about this time Fergie would like to start fielding his best 11 against more accomplished sides. Problem is, nobody knows what that is.

Anderson and Cleverly, or Cleverson and Anderley as some wag dubbed them, both auditioned for the role of saviour midweek, but both have flaws in their game. Anderson is not physically fit enough to play a full 90 minutes, let alone two matches in a week. In other words, he is definitely overweight. Cleverley is getting there but is some way off being a 'go-to' man.

This is made all the more worrying by the presence of Dembele in the Tottenham team. He has already had the run of Old Trafford once this season, as a Fulham player. United will need somebody to make him feel uncomfortable this weekend.

That person will not be Darren Fletcher. The manager confirmed yesterday the Scottish midfielder will be starting on the bench. His comeback on Wednesday was heartening, but another 90 minutes? Too much, too soon.

Much is made of Spurs's poor record against United at Old Trafford. I was there in 1989 and always dread this fixture, much like I used to our home game against Villa. Spurs are due a result against us and it will arrive at some point.

Andre Villas-Boas is a canny manager and will not have missed the fact that sending crosses into the box ruffles our defenders. They stand a chance this weekend for several reasons, not least because this may not be the worst time to face United. We are yet to hit full pelt and have a back-line pockmarked by injury.

Ferguson used the power of understatement to great effect in describing Nemanja Vidic's latest injury as “a blow.” Scott Wootton, who only has 90 minutes more first-team experience than I do, will be facing the Londoners on Saturday. The need for focus from Rio Ferdinand is crucial and the manager was delicate in trying to steer him away from pursuing ambitions with the national side. The likely solution for United will be to emphasise our attacking strengths. That shouldn't be too hard.

Wayne Rooney was impressive against Newcastle and the whole damn world wants to see if he can play with Robin van Persie. So does Fergie, and the show will start this weekend. We can only hope, and my hopes are high.

The prospect of last season's two top scorers dovetailing together is tantalizing. Perhaps they have already started working on routines together in training. Tellingly, there was almost no mention of either player in the pre-match press conference on Friday. With issues in midfield and defence, it would be nice if United's attack could reach its full potential. If it does, the sky's the limit.

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