Rafa’s United gave a really good account of themselves last Sunday. We were tested against some of the best players this league has to offer and even with the whole universe against us (Sky, the ref, the centre half injury curse) we were in the game from start to finish.
This weekend we have a totally different challenge. A fellow promoted side who had the fortune to begin their campaign against one of the leagues lesser clubs (i.e. not the top 7). They took the surprise 3 points. If the opening weekend has taught us anything it’s that this really isn’t going to be the season for a betting man. There are going to be upsets every weekend, and we just have to make sure we’re not on the receiving end.
Huddersfield Town in the Premier League as our closest rivals is an unlikely story but a formidable challenge nonetheless. The Terriers are now the top dogs (BOOM) of Yorkshire and although they fell away from us at the end of last season as we romped to the Championship title; they did the job in the end in the play-offs and I put this down to their manager more than anything else. David Wagner has only been in management for 2 seasons having previously served as Dortmund reserve coach under Jurgen Klopp. He came to Huddersfield shortly after Klopp took the Liverpool job and similarities have been drawn between the 2 ever since.
Wagner adds to the growing list of success stories of European managers infiltrating English football in recent years with a newer brand of tactical thinking and man-management. He appears to have started the season where he left off and fair play to him. Thankfully we have the original tactical master in Rafa. He has 12 years on David Wagner and that will count today as it did in this fixture in March.
This lot have had a very similar summer to us in terms of transfer business. Yes, they’ve signed more players but they have taken similar gambles on lads from the continent that nobody has heard of. This is the market we find ourselves in and it remains to be seen who has come off better. Huddersfield’s incomings are very “Championship”. Mooy was decent last season in Division 2 as was Tom Ince. Whether either can offer the same this season is a big ask. Alas, it does look like they’ve have struck gold on their £12m striker from Montpellier (I didn’t realise Graeme Carr had found work so quickly again). Steve Mounié bagged twice on his debut at Palace on Saturday and looks like a real threat.
That said, we kept the prolific little prick that is Harry Kane quiet on Sunday (with 11 men) and I really back our defence this season against anyone in this league. Lejuene looked a class act on Sunday and I’m now desperate for him to come back in but Clark and Mbemba both gave more than encouraging performances. Lascelles looked fine too until we were overrun after the red card. I’d expect them all to play on Sunday with Manquillo looking to build on his debut at right back.
The midfield picks itself with Shelvey banned. Merino looked mint when he came on on Sunday though so I’m looking forward to seeing him and Hayden line up. On the wings, Atsu was excellent and surely plays again. Ritchie perhaps wasn’t at his best but I don’t see Rafa dropping him so quickly. Expect to see Jacob Murphy (his mother comes from Birtley) in some capacity though.
Gayle is an easy choice upfront. He scored twice against Huddersfield last season and while he was kept quiet by the best defenders in the league last week, he still had a couple of chances to score and always looks a threat. I’d like to see him supported by Mo Diamé though as was mostly the case last season away from home. Diamé probably isn’t a premier league quality player but his work rate and commitment are what we need right now for games like this. Perez is best used as an impact player away from home as his contribution over 90 minutes just isn’t enough. Mo has the engine and the pace to make things happen and his job in the number 10 position is to bring our attacking players into the game. Rafa knows it.
To sum up how this one will go, Huddersfield will likely be in a relegation battle this season, such is the lack of quality in their squad, but they have a good manager and have made a positive start. No games will be easy this season and this certainly won’t be. We need everyone at their best and to take the positives from the Spurs game but turn them in to points. Rafa and the lads are more than capable of this and as always we can only do our part in getting behind the lads.
Simon Campbell @simoncampbell11
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