"Can you believe we were selected over Ji and Chicha?!"
I suppose this sort of post is becoming a regular thing now. We'll see.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will most likely deploy his side in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1ish shape so I will stick within these parameters when offering a suggested starting XI. Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp has a variety of systems that he could deploy his side in (*). However, United's likely shape should be able to compete well against any one that Redknapp is likely to use. Keep in mind that this is a suggested starting XI from me and not the selection choices that I think Fergie will make (**). For example, I'd rather see Fabio start at left-back but we all know that Patrice Evra is the automatic choice right now. Here are my selection choices:
* Once again, there's a lot of arrows going on here... let me briefly explain. The solid yellow arrows are the general movements I'd expect from the players while the dotted yellow arrows with footballs at the end of them are passes I'm looking for certain players to make.
* David de Gea (goalkeeper): The 21-year-old has had a bit of an up-and-down start to his United career but in my opinion, some of the exaggerated criticism leveled against him has been unfair. Nonetheless, he has been shaky at times in commanding his box. But for the past month or so, the Spaniard has been in tremendous form with his continual world-class saves and his improved presence in the box. de Gea was even overwhelmingly selected as TBB's February player of the month. He is the obvious choice for this game too.
* Jonny Evans (center-back): In a season full of injuries and inconsistent form from our center-backs, the one consistent performer has been Evans. He's simply having the best season out of any of our defenders. He's been solid in tackle, strong in aerial duels, and perhaps most importantly, his positioning has been very good -- the man has a good footballing brain it seems. The Northern Ireland international is also able to step out of the back into the midfield when his side has spells of dominance in possession.
* Rio Ferdinand (center-back): In a recent interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, Fergie discussed how Rio needed to adapt as a player because he no longer has the pace of his youth. Perhaps this is the reason that the former England and United skipper is positioning himself a bit deeper now. This is allowing him to be the covering CB now while his partner is usually the combative one -- this role is exhibited more when up against a lone striker system. The covering role may also be the reason for Rio playing as the left-center-back now rather than his old right-center-back position -- so that he can provide cover for the often caught out Patrice Evra.
* Rafael (right-back): The energetic Rafael has shown good form as of late after recovering from a shoulder surgery that kept him out for most of this season. If the dangerous Spurs winger Gareth Bale is fit enough to start, then Rafa may be the man best suited to battle with him. The Brazilian fared very well against the Welshman last season as his pace and tackling ability helped him contain his counterpart. The biggest keys for Rafa would be to not get an early booking and for him to also be constantly aware of his positioning.
* Fabio (left-back): Unless Evra has a secret injury or succumbs to an illness prior to kickoff, he is almost certain to start at left-back and with the captain's armband. Perhaps it is the armband that making him an automatic selection choice for Fergie because the Frenchman has been poor this season. Fabio showed very well against Ajax during the recent two-legged Europa League tie. The Brazilian -- like his twin brother Rafael -- has tremendous energy, pace, and the ability to surge forward in support of the attack. Even though Spurs is a massive game, the occasion is not too grand for Fabio -- this is a lad that started the Champions League final last May.
* Michael Carrick (central-midfield): Carrick has played every single minute of Premier League action since United's mid-November match at Swansea City. I fully expect him to play every single minute at White Hart Lane. The Englishman's calm distribution in the center of the park and his intelligent positioning is vital for United. The latter attribute could be key in this match if Redknapp elects to use players in a free role behind a lead striker.
* Paul Scholes (central-midfield): I watched Andrea Pirlo play twice in the past week -- once for Italy in a friendly versus the United States and the other in a Serie A match for Juventus against Chievo -- and it was a treat to watch l'architetto pull the strings. This is also what Scholes has been doing as a deep-lying playmaker since his recent return from retirement. Who knows how much longer we'll have the privilege of watching the legendary Scholes magically work the ball -- just enjoy it while it lasts. Scholesy has been United's heartbeat since his return.
* Nani (right-winger): The Portuguese winger hasn't quite shown the same standout early-season form since his recent return from injury. Physically, he looks fine so it's likely just a matter of rustiness and belief. Nani can certainly frustrate at times but his quality is very important to United's attack. Not many wingers can match the chances that he creates for both himself and others. If Bale continues to come inside for Spurs, then it'll be important for Nani to pin-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto so that the Spurs left-back can't get forward to provide width in attack.
* Ashley Young (left-winger): I feel so dirty making this selection. I feel so guilty choosing the England international over my all-time fave player Park Ji-sung. I feel so heartbroken not typing his name into this fake team sheet. Ji-sung, if you're reading this, hear me out though. First of all, I love you in a totally healthy and non-stalker man-crush sort of way. You're my idol. But Ash may be the better choice for this match...
It's uncertain whether Kyle Walker is fit enough to start at right-back and it's possible that Younes Kaboul may slide over to right-back from center-back in order to provide cover. Either way, I prefer Young. Park is my guess to be selected because he's often the choice for Fergie in 'big' matches -- particularly away and against sides with marauding full-backs like Walker. Young also went the full 90 minutes for England at the midweek while Park is rested. But Young terrorized Walker in the reverse fixture and pinned him back. If Kaboul deputises, it may be better to have Young have a go at the natural CB. Young also takes up intelligent positions in attack and perhaps this could confuse Kaboul as well if he's forced to play an unnatural position.
* Danny Welbeck (striker): Along with trying to decided between Young and Park, choosing between Welbeck and Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) was my co-most difficult selection choice to make. Chicharito is the more clinical finisher and his pace -- by sitting on the shoulder of Ledley King -- could cause trouble as well. However, a few factors leaned me towards Danny: (1) He too has a lot of pace. (2) His all-around game is better suited to start a game and then Chicharito can always be introduced in the 2nd half if chasing a goal is our priority in that moment. (3) Chicharito just returned from national team duty where he featured for Mexico in Miami -- where kickoff was at 1:00am U.K. time on Thursday morning. Perhaps his body not fully adjusted yet.
* Wayne Rooney (striker): Our talisman. Read this for further elaboration on Wazza's importance to United.