Tottenham Hotspur-Manchester United Preview
Manchester United kick off Louis van Gaal's second season in charge at Old Trafford with a home match against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
Van Gaal led the Red Devils to fourth place in the Premier League last season, earning a Champions League qualifying round berth in a faster-than-expected rebuild following the disastrous tenure of David Moyes. However, the former Netherlands national coach is under pressure to contend for a title following a summer spending spree that brought midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin, right back Matteo Darmian, forward Memphis Depay and goalkeeper Sergio Romero to Manchester.
Winger Ashley Young believes United will be stronger following the arrival of the new signings.
"The new players are big characters. Matteo (Darmian) is the quiet one out of them but they've all fitted in really well," Young told his club's website. "I remember when I first joined - coming on tour and integrating into the squad was great and that's exactly what they've all done and they've been welcomed with open arms.
"When you see new signings you're delighted and you want to help them settle straightaway. It also gives competition for places which you expect at a club like United. Everyone is fighting to be in that starting XI and everyone wants to get back to winning titles and trophies and that's our aim this season."
United will be looking to Wayne Rooney for goals following the departure of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao to Fenerbahce and Chelsea, respectively. Van Gaal has confirmed the 29-year-old Rooney will be deployed as a primary striker.
"I hope to score 20 or more goals again," said England captain Rooney, who had only 14 in 37 matches across all competitions last season. "If I am playing as a striker, then I will be disappointed if I cannot do that again."
One player who left Old Trafford after just one disappointing season was record-signing Angel Di Maria. The 27-year-old Argentina winger completed his move to French champions Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday after failing to adapt to the physical demands of English top-flight football.
Tottenham claimed fifth place last season, six points behind United, to finish in the top six for the sixth successive season.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has strengthened his defence with the signing of Toby Alderweireld from Atletico Madrid. The 26-year-old Belgian, who had been on loan at Southampton, penned a five-year contract and is expected to form a formidable centre-back partnership with fellow international Jan Vertonghen.
"I've played a lot of big games so I know what to expect," Alderweireld told his club's website. "The first game of the season is always a strange one – everybody is very excited and we're looking forward to it. It's a big challenge.
"We have confidence in ourselves to play football. It's always difficult to play at Old Trafford but we have to believe in ourselves and how we want to play. If we do that, we can get a good result. Everyone wants to show their ability and we want to finish as high as we can this season. That starts on Saturday."
United finished last season with just one win in their final six games, going 1-2-3, and failed to score in four of those matches. Van Gaal's team scored just 62 times last season, the club's lowest scoring campaign since netting 58 in 2004-05.
Tottenham had a strong away record, taking 31 points from their 19 away matches, with only the Premier League's top three (Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal) collecting more on their travels.
United midfielder Marouane Fellaini will miss this match due to suspension following his sending off against Hull City on the final day of last season. Javier Hernandez and Anders Lindegaard are doubtful due to injury.
Spurs midfielders Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend and Alex Pritchard are all fitness doubts.
United took four points off Spurs last season - winning 3-0 at Old Trafford on Mar. 15 and recording a scoreless draw at White Hart Lane in late December. Michael Carrick, Fellaini and Rooney scored the three goals in win in Manchester, while United collected four yellow cards in their draw in north London.
The 3-0 win in March was United's first Premier League win over Spurs since March 2012, ending a five-match winless spell (0-3-2) in top-flight meetings with the Lilywhites. Tottenham are just 5-11-30 all-time versus United, but they've won twice at Old Trafford in the last three seasons.