Manchester United to host Tottenham

Manchester United made its title-winning team even stronger and Tottenham started the season chasing a Champions League spot.

updated: August 26, 2007 06:32 IST
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Manchester United made its title-winning team even stronger and Tottenham started the season chasing a Champions League spot.

Yet just three games into the Premier League campaign, both are struggling as they meet at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Despite investing heavily in their squads in the offseason, United has collected just two points and Spurs has only a solitary win with Martin Jol already reportedly close to losing his job.

Tottenham has been linked this week with Sevilla coach Juande Ramos to replace Jol. The Dutchman is still in charge, but he cannot afford many more defeats after losing the first two games.

"I don't think they have put me in an impossible position," Jol said on Friday in reference to Spurs officials having talks with Ramos. "I get on with the job. I could have easily walked out. My players backed me up, they want to do their best and they showed me against Derby County (4-0).

"I'm not a guy that you can give an ultimatum because I'm very proud. (Chairman) Daniel Levy sat down with me twice and said 'we never went to another coach to approach him to be manager of Tottenham Hotspur and to replace you' and I believe him."

United manager Alex Ferguson, whose team has scored only one goal in two draws and a loss, has only sympathy for Jol. Ferguson rejected calls to quit in the earliest days of his 21 years at Old Trafford, and he went on to win nine Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the Champions League.

"I don't think it's the right time (to fire him)," Ferguson said Friday. "You need quite a time with a massive club like that to change it all around to win a championship. Tottenham haven't won the league for 46 years. It's a club with a fantastic football history of producing fantastic players.

"Now that does create an expectation and therefore, just as I felt when I lost my first real attempt to get the league (title), it's quite deflating."

Ferguson interviewed Jol for the assistant's job at Old Trafford in 2003 when Carlos Queiroz joined Real Madrid as coach before returning for following season.

"He doesn't need me to trumpet his abilities, I think everyone is aware of them," Ferguson said. "It's just sad that there's just such a knee-jerk reaction in football today."

For a second week, Ferguson will be denied the services of the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo and injured Wayne Rooney. But he hopes to deploy Louis Saha's pace and power as a substitute after overcoming hamstring and knee injuries.

Argentina striker Carlos Tevez, who was rushed into action in Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Manchester City, will be hoping to score against Tottenham. Midfielder Paul Scholes has scored United's only goal this season, in the 1-1 draw at Portsmouth.

An unwelcome spotlight will be on Tottenham goalkeeper Paul Robinson, whose blunder in England's 2-1 loss at home to Germany on Wednesday has been making headlines.

Robinson, who dropped a cross for Kevin Kuranyi's equalizer at Wembley, also risked a reprimand from his club for attacking the Tottenham board's treatment of his manager.

"When you see how far Martin Jol has taken the club and the way he's managed it in the last two years, to then go behind his back to obviously seek other options is very disappointing," Robinson said. "The manager has the full support of the players."

Jol has guided Spurs to successive top-five finishes and UEFA Cup spots, but the board is insisting on Champions League soccer next season.

Ferguson hopes to win his second Champions League this season. But transforming the Red Devils' stuttering start is the new priority after his worst league start for 15 years.

After beating United last week, Manchester City holds a two-point lead atop the Premier League, but manager Sven-Goran Eriksson's team has another tough test at Arsenal on Saturday. Second-place Chelsea hosts Portsmouth.

Saturday's other games are: Sunderland vs Liverpool; Aston Villa vs Fulham; Bolton vs Reading; West Ham vs Wigan; Derby vs Birmingham; Everton vs Blackburn.

On Sunday, Middlesbrough hosts Newcastle.