Luke Shaw and Giovani Lo Celso

What's changed since we last visited Spurs?

Wednesday 26 April 2023 07:00

Even taking football’s fast-paced and ever-changing nature into account, the upheaval that’s taken place at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur since our last visit to their new stadium is astounding.

Just 18 months have passed since the Reds ended a difficult October 2021 on a high note by convincingly outworking and outscoring Spurs on their own patch, beating Nuno Espirito Santo’s beleaguered side 3-0.

It was our second win in three visits to the north London side’s glitzy home since it opened in 2019, but so much has happened in the intervening year and a half that both sides will be virtually unrecognisable when they walk out for another crunch clash this Thursday.

Sure, many of the star names are still in place, with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min leading the line for the Londoners and United having the likes of David De Gea and Marcus Rashford in our squad.

But the most striking change you notice when looking back to that autumnal evening is in the dugouts.

Tottenham announce a change in management


Our opponents in the Premier League on Thursday night have confirmed a new head coach on a short-term basis.

Nuno was just four months into his Tottenham tenure following his impressive spell at Wolves, but the Portuguese would barely see out the weekend as, two days later, it was announced he would leave the club and be immediately replaced by Antonio Conte.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, meanwhile, was less than a month away from his own departure and this was the last time the Norwegian tasted victory as Reds boss.

His assistant Michael Carrick took charge for three games, with Ralf Rangnick then seeing out the season before the announcement, just over a year ago now, that Erik ten Hag would take over on a permanent basis.

Ten Hag got the better of Conte in the only meeting between the pair – a 2-0 success in October, where the scoreline failed to reflect United’s utter dominance – but the Italian left his post at the end of last month.

We were preparing to face his assistant, Cristian Stellini, who was set to manage Spurs the rest of the season on an interim basis, but it will now be Ryan Mason in the Spurs dugout – the former midfielder is caretaker boss for the second time, after succeeding Jose Mourinho in the spring of 2021.

Even without taking new additions like Antony, Casemiro, Ivan Perisic and Richarlison into account, both sides are likely then to set up extremely differently to last time.

Solskjaer reverted to the back five he’d often used for big games early in his tenure, with Victor Lindelof, Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire all playing at centre-back.

You can count the number of times we’ve lined up with a quintet of defenders since on one hand.

Nine of the 11 United starters are still at the club, although striking pair Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani – who combined brilliantly throughout the game and notched our first two goals – have now departed.

Highlights: Spurs 0 United 3 Video

Highlights: Spurs 0 United 3

See how United earned a terrific 3-0 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium back in October 2021...

Giovani Lo Celso is the only Spurs starter no longer in England, although seven of the nine substitutes have now left north London either permanently or on loan.

Tottenham played a 4-2-3-1 formation that evening, although Conte introduced his signature three-at-the-back system which was only changed on Sunday, during the disastrous 6-1 defeat at Newcastle which has dealt Spurs’s top-four hopes a significant blow.

Unlike October 2021, when we went into the game trailing Tottenham, the Reds have a six-point cushion over Thursday’s hosts in the Premier League table and two games in hand, while Sunday’s result now means we also have a superior goal difference to Spurs.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Nuno Espirito Santo shake hands after our last visit to Spurs.

Our opponents are, therefore, maybe more in need of a win than United, although Ten Hag will no doubt be looking at the tough upcoming games against Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion and wanting to grasp the opportunity to virtually end the Champions League dreams of one of the chasing pack.

What happens on Thursday feels key to shaping both clubs' identities for the 2023/24 season.

However, it's hard to imagine that when we're next in N17, things will have changed as much as they have since October 2021.