Tottenham used to be one of Manchester United’s favourite shopping destinations. From Teddy Sheringham to Michael Carrick to Dimitar Berbatov, they would browse the choicest of produce before adding them to the basket.
That supply line has buckled in recent years as Spurs’ reputation has swelled and United’s has dwindled, but as the teams meet at Wembley on Sunday, Tottenham fans will know that supermarket season could be hurtling towards them once more.
And it’s not just the players who could leave this time. Indeed, Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly, and understandably, top of the Old Trafford list as the permanent replacement for Jose Mourinho.
If that managerial move transpires, will Pochettino succumb to the temptation of returning to his former club and raiding them for talent?
Tottenham’s policy of seemingly renewing their players’ contracts every three weeks could help avert this doomsday scenario but if he does head to Old Trafford, who might he be tempted to bring with him?
Twelve months ago the goalkeeper position was a no-brainer. David De Gea almost earned Manchester United their runners-up spot by himself last season, preventing an additional 14 goals based on Opta’s Expected Goals model.
It was one of the great campaigns by a goalkeeper in Premier League history and was almost certainly unsustainable – something that 2018-19 has proven, with the Spaniard regressing to par (30 goals conceded, 30.3 on the xG model).
On the same basis this season’s pace-setter is Alisson at Liverpool (+7) but just behind him in second place is Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (+5). His Premier League form dipped last season – only Petr Cech made more errors leading to a goal – but the underlying numbers suggest that he has been one of the unsung heroes for Spurs in 2018-19.
United’s central defence needs some reconstruction work and one man who most definitely could find himself travelling up the M6 at some point is Toby Alderweireld.
The fact that Tottenham have conceded less than a goal a game when he has featured in the Premier League (0.8) compared to 1.1 when he has been absent suggests that even though he turns 30 in March, he would likely improve what has, for the most part, been a suspect Red Devils defence.
Meanwhile, Bury-born Kieran Trippier would likely be an upgrade at right-back, with the England defender having recorded 13 Premier League assists in the last three seasons – one more than Antonio Valencia’s assist record in the past six campaigns.
If Dele Alli’s six-year contract is insurmountable, even for United and all their riches, Christian Eriksen wouldn’t be a bad alternative.
The Dane is yet to pen a new deal and the vultures are already circling, with Real Madrid having been heavily linked with a move for as much as £225 million ($289m), if you believe what you read in the Spanish press.
Second only to Eden Hazard for chances created in the Premier League in 2018, Eriksen has scored 19 long-range goals since joining Spurs in 2013, more than any other player. It’s that sort of return that would help United close the gap on their rivals, with their tally of goals scored from disance way lower than their top-four rivals.
The 26-year-old is also the owner of a quasi-telepathic relationship with Harry Kane. His total of 18 assists for the England captain is rapidly approaching the Premier League record of 24 (Frank Lampard to Didier Drogba).
|Team||Goals from long range since 2013-14|
Which leads us to neatly to the attack. The thought of Kane and Marcus Rashford transposing their international relationship to the club game would be a tempting one for whoever takes over at Old Trafford.
Kane would follow in the footsteps of Sheringham and Berbatov and is younger, and almost certainly better, than both of them were when they moved to Manchester.
Already hurtling towards 150 Premier League goals, Kane offers many of the attributes of Romelu Lukaku but potentially in a more consistent format.
Only six players in Premier League history have scored five or more goals with each of their left foot, right foot and head in a single season. Lukaku is one of them, but Kane is the only player to have done it twice.
|Season||Player||Left-footed goals||Headed goals||Right-footed goals|