England strikers set to battle it out as Spurs welcome United

By James Nalton, Football Whispers

It has been 29 years since Tottenham Hotspur last did the double over Manchester United in the league, but they have the chance to do just that this weekend when they face the Red Devils at Wembley.

They defeated United 3-0 at Old Trafford back in August, and the game set the tone for both teams this season with United struggling and Spurs in the top three and even threatening to mount a title challenge.

But Mauricio Pochettino’s side will come up against much different opponents than the ones they faced over four months ago, and even though many of the faces in the United XI will be the same, they are now playing with a renewed sense of freedom and attacking vigour.

One player who has looked to benefit from the backroom changes at the club is young English striker Marcus Rashford, and recent reports that Solskjær has told him he is his number one striker means he will be expected to start in London.

So the question is, can Rashford not only prove he deserves his place ahead of Romelu Lukaku in the United team, but also upstage England No 9 Harry Kane at the national stadium?

It was during United’s warm weather training camp in Dubai that the Norwegian boss reportedly informed Rashford that he was to be his go-to centre forward.

It is the show of confidence that could work wonders for the young striker’s confidence, and he has not been guaranteed a place in the side until now.

Rashford has three goals and one assist in the four games the new head coach has been in charge, and though Lukaku appeared in the FA Cup tie against Reading last week if anything this was further evidence that Rashford first choice, and the Belgian was just deputising in the cup.

Rashford has two fewer league goals in total when compared to Lukaku, and his number of goals per 90 minutes is also less with 0.45 compared the the 0.58.

However, given the increased attacking freedom the side will have for the rest of the season under Solskjær, both strikers’ numbers should improve, with Rashford the main beneficiary if he is to be the more regular starter.

Kane, meanwhile, tops the goalscoring charts with 14, and averages an impressive 0.7 goals per 90. No matter how attacking United go, he’ll take some catching, although Rashford’s goals per 90 since Solskjær came in is 0.82 and he is first in the league for shots during this time with a total of 18.

Rashford creates more than his team-mate Lukaku with six assists to his name compared the the Belgian’s 0. Though three of these came while playing out on the wing under Mourinho, three have also come while playing as a centre forward, showing that he can set up chances for his team-mates as a No 9 as well score goals.

Kane only has four assists in the league, so even when playing as a striker this is one area where Rashford is at least approaching the level of the Spurs star.

He also averages more key passes in open play than Kane with 0.99 per 90 compared to his compatriot's 0.80. Perhaps surprisingly, Lukaku is better than both in this area with a total of 15 key passes this season giving him a per 90 average of 1.09.

This shows that United have two good options up front, and even though Solskjær has pinned his hopes on the Mancunian, Lukaku could still have a key part to play this season, and even off the bench in this game.

Lukaku’s 3.29 aerial duels won per 90 is as much an indication of the style of play Mourinho used than anything else, with Rashford and Kane both lagging behind in this area, but Lukaku will offer an excellent plan B once plan A has been revamped.

Kane may begin to struggle once his partner in crime in attack for Spurs — Son Heung-min — leaves to take part in the Asian Cup, but luckily for them they will have him available for this big game.

Conversely, United have a player in Alexis Sánchez who has been on the sidelines this season and hasn’t shown anything like the form he has over the years for Chile, Barcelona and at times with Arsenal. Should the real Sánchez make a return, then this could help Rashford as Son helps Kane.

This game is without doubt the biggest of the weekend, and give the way both sides have been playing recently — United especially — there should be goals.

It’s likely to be a shootout between Rashford and Kane, which could have repercussions at both club and national level. Even though the United man is some way off replacing the England captain, he could secure a place alongside him as Gareth Southgate will no doubt be watching from the stands.

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