This was deemed the perfect send-forth party. Son Heung-min’s final game for Tottenham Hotspur before joining his South Korean teammates at the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
But for the good of the team, Mauricio Pochettino should start Lucas Moura instead. Tottenham enjoyed a remarkable first stanza. Despite failing to reinforce last summer and playing away from home in Wembley, the Lilywhites have been a force to reckon with.
They may not ooze the flamboyancy of Manchester City or carry the charm of Liverpool. Still, the North Londoners have dazzled and charmed in their own modest way. Spurs are third after 21 matches with 48 points. They are in chasing distance from log leaders Liverpool and City, who are six and two points ahead respectively.Embed from Getty Images
Not blessed with the luxury of squad depth, Pochettino has been forced to manage his resources. It perhaps explains why Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son have featured prominently. Son, in particular, has shone brightest. The Korean has been superb over the past few weeks, directly involved in 17 goals in his last 11 appearances. Of that tally, nine were buried himself.
Only Harry Kane (14 goals) has netted more times than Son (eight) in the Premier League this season. Explosive pace and positional sense are his greatest strengths.
But these traits may be counterproductive against United. On the surface, dropping the in-form attacker for Lucas appears harsh. For the sake of balance, however, it could prove a masterstroke. Unlike Son, the ex-Paris Saint Germain forward is direct and could take advantage of United’s feeble defence.
This would mean Pochettino reverting to a 4-4-2 diamond with Eriksen playing in his natural role as a No.10 and Lucas partnering Kane in the attack. This system yielded massive dividends last year. Spurs destroyed the Red Devils 3-0 in August – a game in which Moura scored a brace. The Brazilian would be inspired to repeat that feat on Sunday, adding to his eight goals.