Manchester United vs Tottenham HotspurEnglish Premier League, KO: 19:30 Dec 4, 2019, Old Trafford
JOSE MOURINHO will be relishing his return to Manchester United as Tottenham Hotspur look to plunge his old club further into the mire.
It's almost exactly a year since the Special One was axed at Old Trafford, with United sitting sixth in the table, some 19 points behind old rivals Liverpool at the top.
But as Mourinho prepares to head back to the Theatre of Dreams looking to claim a fourth successive win as Spurs boss, the reign of his successor is approaching a full-blown nightmare.
While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tries to focus on long-term plans and the promise of his young players, the stats clearly show United have gone backwards since he was appointed full-time boss after a hugely impressive spell as caretaker.
His side sit ninth after Sunday's 2-2 draw with Aston Villa and trail Liverpool by an incredible 22 points after just 14 games. United have won only four of their last 18 league games, a dismal record for a club of their size, and even Solskjaer has admitted he fears the sack if things don't improve quickly.
With this clash against Spurs followed by a derby against Manchester City at the Etihad, Solskjaer could be gone before the week is out, especially with Mauricio Pochettino available after being ousted for Mourinho in London.
What will give the Norwegian some solace is the fact he was under similar pressure heading into their last huge league clash at home. When Liverpool came calling in October, United had gone five games without a win, scoring just three goals in that horror run.
But they turned in a vastly improved display and took a deserved lead through Marcus Rashford, only for a late Adam Lallana goal to salvage a point for the Anfield side and bring up one of the bets from our man Slips Tips.
Solskjaer's side actually have a decent record in big games this season, beating Chelsea twice, drawing with Arsenal and defeating Leicester. Their five defeats have come in games when they have been favourites (Crystal Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Astana) so they could raise their game once more for the visit of their old boss.
How the bookies view it
This is a tough one to call and there's not much difference in the odds between all three results. A United win is 7/4 with Unibet, while the draw is 5/2 with the same firm and Tottenham are 17/10 at BetVictor.
While Spurs have picked up since Mourinho replaced Pochettino at the helm, their three wins haven't been all that convincing. A poor West Ham side, Olympiakos and Bournemouth all managed to score twice against Tottenham, which is a surprise as Mourinho usually starts any assignment by tightening things up at the back.
United's biggest problem is a paucity of midfield talent, with injured duo Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay keenly missed at the weekend, but they have quality up front in the shape of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James.
Thriller or chiller?
United couldn't buy a goal earlier in the season, scoring one or fewer in 12 consecutive games after thumping Chelsea 4-0 on the opening day. But since Martial (below) returned from injury they can't stop scoring, netting three against Norwich, Partizan Belgrade, Brighton and Sheffield United.
The problem has now shifted to defence, with Solskjaer's men conceding seven times in their last three games. With Spurs having netted 10 times in three games under Mourinho, it points towards an open game here.
Over 2.5 goals should come up at 5/6 with Marathonbet while the odds increase to 41/20 with Unibet for over 3.5 strikes. There should be a goal in both halves but the odds aren't great at a best 8/11 with BetVictor.
Recent head to head
Home advantage didn't count for much last season, with Spurs winning 3-0 at Old Trafford (below) at the start of the campaign before United got their revenge with a 1-0 win at Wembley in January.
But playing at home had a big say in the outcome in the three campaigns before that, with Tottenham winning all the games in London and United triumphing each time at Old Trafford.
The last stalemate came five years ago in a dreary 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane so I'd suggest we're due another.
World Cup winner Pogba continues to miss out for United but McTominay could return here while Nemanja Matic and Diego Dalot are doubts. Spurs have no new injury worries, with Hugo Lloris, Ben Davies and Erik Lamela still sidelined.
Players to watch
United striker Rashford is in a rich vein of form and was cruelly denied an 11th goal in 12 games when his header against Villa went down as a Tom Heaton OG.
The England star delivered for me when I tipped him to score against Sheffield United so I will stick with him here. Rashford is a boosted 5/1 with William Hill to break the deadlock but it safer to back him in the anytime scorer market at 7/4 with the same firm.
Dele Alli has been transformed under Mourinho, mainly due to him being placed in an advanced position behind Harry Kane. He has three goals in his last two games and is 7/2 with Paddy Power for another here while Skybet have Alli at a boosted 10/1 to open the scoring.
Anything else catch the eye?
William Hill are offering evens on Tottenham winning over one corner in each half and that looks great value while the same firm have over one card for each time priced at 5/4.
This English Premier League match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will be played on Dec 4, 2019 and kick off at 19:30