Leicester City
6:00 AM UTC
Game Details
Manchester United
8:30 AM UTC
Game Details

Tottenham's solid start faces first real test against Manchester United

Mauricio Pochettino has warned supporters that this is likely to be the toughest season yet during his time at the club but, on the pitch at least, the early signs have been positive. Tottenham Hotspur may not have made any signings, and the new stadium may have been delayed, but they have nonetheless made their best start to a Premier League campaign for four years after winning their opening two fixtures.

Perhaps this is evidence that Pochettino's side can indeed improve, as he has suggested, despite the club's "difficult situation". On the other hand, victories against Newcastle and Fulham should be considered par for the course.

Spurs also started the last campaign with a victory at St James' Park, and Saturday's 3-1 triumph over Fulham was their 19th consecutive home win over a newly-promoted team in the Premier League, so they have hardly broken new ground in the opening fortnight.

The first major hurdle is only appearing now, with Monday night's trip to Old Trafford, and it is a hurdle Tottenham have tended to trip over in recent years. In seven of the last eight seasons, the north Londoners have faced at least one top-six side in their opening three Premier League matches, and they have failed to win any of those contests.

In fact, they have lost six of the eight early meetings with their biggest rivals, with two of those defeats coming at Old Trafford.

In August 2010, Spurs kicked off their league campaign at home against Manchester City and drew 0-0. The following year they started with a 3-0 loss at Manchester United and then a 5-1 defeat at home to Manchester City, leaving them with a goal difference of minus-7 after two rounds of fixtures.

In 2013, Tottenham visited Arsenal in their third league match, losing 1-0, and in 2014, Pochettino's third top-flight fixture in charge was a 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool.

The 2015-16 campaign began with another reverse at Old Trafford, this time 1-0 courtesy of Kyle Walker's own goal, and in the two Augusts since then Spurs have drawn 1-1 with Liverpool and lost 2-1 at home to Chelsea at Wembley.

Tottenham's early successes this season have been encouraging but now is the moment when they can truly take forward strides; when they will show whether they are capable of keeping up with the pacesetters for more than a couple of weeks.

"We've got to beat these teams if we want to win the league," said Harry Kane. "Whether it's early in the season or late in the season, these are the big games that you have to make a difference in. We're going to be up for it. I'm sure United will be up for it as well.

"The top six are so strong now, you have to get off to a good start. In recent years, we've picked up around Christmas time, carried it on for the rest of the season and we've ended up finishing second and third. So it's important we don't get too far behind. We want to get ahead early on.

"We've had a lot of players come back later than others, which is a good thing because we all did at the World Cup, but it was important that we started well and gained confidence [from our first two wins]."

Old Trafford has not been a happy hunting ground under Pochettino -- his Tottenham side have lost their last four visits there without scoring. But the last three have all been close, ending 1-0, and Spurs were level in the 80th minute last October before switching off and allowing Anthony Martial to net the winner from a routine long ball.

It would only take a slight improvement in performance, finishing and focus for the north Londoners to earn a draw this time, or more, and deny United the three points they have become accustomed to in this fixture.

These are the marginal gains that can help a team reach a new level. If Spurs are serious about challenging for the title, as Kane has suggested, then changing their record both in these early heavyweight duels and at Old Trafford would be a good way of showing it.


Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.