Luka Modric has been omitted from the Tottenham squad because "his head's not right", which prompts the obvious quibble: but no Tottenham player ever seems to have his head right for a trip to Old Trafford. The Croatian is a wonderful schemer but what Harry Redknapp desperately needs in his side tonight is a Copernicus character, someone who can destroy a widely-accepted truth, viz. that Tottenham simply cannot win away to Manchester United.
United, meanwhile, will want to silence the mounting confidence of their noisy neighbours, who have been the most impressive performers so far in this juvenile Premier League season, albeit not against sides who finished in the top half last season and following a diabolical display against United in the Community Shield. With both United and Spurs suffering creativity deficits in the centre of midfield – unless Tom Cleverley really is the answer for United – then we can expect lots of attacks down the wings, which sets the scene for potentially thrilling duels between Young/Nani and Bale/Lennon. Elsewhere, other intriguing questions to which answers will be outlined include: how will Phil Jones cope with trying to shackle Rafael Van der Vaart and cover Jonny Evans? Is Brad Friedel the man to banish Heurelho Gomes or is the American too far over the hill? Does the fact David De Gea is starting mean that we are still guaranteed at least one goalkeeping howler? And does anyone out there think that Javier Hernandez, who's on the bench tonight, will not finish this season as Premier League top scorer?
United: De Gea, Smalling, Jones, Evans, Evra, Anderson, Cleverley, Nani, Young, Rooney, Welbeck
Subs: Giggs, Fabio, Lindegaard, Carrick, Park, Hernandez, Berbatov
Spurs: Friedel, Walker, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Livermore, Kranjcar, Bale, Van der Vaart, Defoe
Subs: Presumably Harry's saying he doesn't have any. No wait, here they are: Gomes, Huddlestone, Jenas, Pavlyuchenko, Bassong, Corluka, Townsend.
Premier League top scorer prediction, cont'd: "I'll take Shane Long against your Hernandez, Mr. Doyle," hoots Harry Tuttle. "As an optimistic Scunny supporter wishing an old boy good, I'll also bet Beckford scores more goals than Berbatov."
The inaugural meeting the newly-formed Gary Neville Appreciation Society "I don't know about anyone else but I am starting to like Neville as a pundit (I must have drunk more than I thought at tea!)," confesses George Trevers. "After a shakey star I think he's starting to talk a lot of sense, and all so he doesn't seem like such berk now. Yep, I must be drunk." No, you're right, he's very good. Lots of sense, no bull.
7:55pm: The teams take to the pitch, with U-21 team-mates Kyle Walker and Phil Jones virtually arm-in-arm. Isn't that nice, eh?
8pm: We have kick-off! Rooney to Welbeck, and all the way back to De Gea, whose first touch is an assured boot down the park.
1 min: Smart defending from Kaboul to clear a dangerous Young cross just before Welbeck could connect. It's a cutting high-tempo start from United ...
3 min: Lazy play from Van der Vaart gifts United possession and slack defending in the middle allows Rooney to meet a Nani cross unperturbed. But he nods straight at Friedel from 12 yards.
5 min: It's been non-stop United pressure in the opening five minutes. It normally takes slightly longer for Spurs to capitulate here.
7 min: Some successful passing by Spurs! I counted six ... before Kranjcar attempted a cross-fielder to Lennon but overhit by several furlongs.
8 min: Fine save by Friedel, low to his left from a 20-yard shot by Cleverley after a lightning counter-attack by United, launched after a composed interception and burst by Jones.
10 min: Spurs attempt to deflate United's verve with some patient possession play but United press feverishly and soon Spurs surrender the ball.
12 min: Frank Mersland is one of large number of emailers to ask who tonight's referee is. It's as if there's a large body of people who expect officiating to play a key role in the result at Old Trafford. Tonight's man in the middle is Lee Probert, if you must know.
14 min: The ball is played back to De Gea and Lennon scampers after it to apply pressure to the vulnerable young keeper ... who deals with it superbly, dragging the ball and feinting past the forward before being felled. Free out.
15 min: A Van der Vaart long-range effort is deflected behind and from the ensuing corner Dawson rises well to power a header just over the bar. Spurs are steadying themselves.
17 min: The speed of United on the break is frequently threatening to unhinge Spurs, who are starting to spend a little more time in the United half.
20 min: Jones is having a sterling game so far: all Tottenham attack founder on him.
21 min: Nani hurtles down the right and clips as tantalising ball across the face of goal, but no one is there to finish. Spurs then tear down the other end and Bale brings a comfortable save from De Gea with a reasonable low shot from the edge of the area.
22 min: Another superb cross from Nani but again no one is on hand to perform the simple task of prodding it into the net: that's no good for my fantasy team, which could already do with Nani getting a couple of assists.
24 min: As already mentioned, Jones has been solid for United. Evans, meanwhile, has looked rickety. Following earlier errant passes he has just completely mis-timed a tackle on Van der Vaart, allowing the Dutchman to scamper towards the box. but Evra came across to cut out the danger.
27 min: After sustained pressure Rooney clips a ball from 25 yards towards Young near the back post. Young attempts to steer his header into the far corner but it drops just wide.
29 min: Redknapp throws up his arms in exasperation as Van der Vaart delivers a diabolical corner. However, a woman behind the goal, who looks a lot like Tom Kiefer of glam rock pretenders Cinderella, is very pleased. Presumably because she's a United fan and not because she has always wanted to be compared to Tom Kiefer of glam rock pretender Cinderella.
34 min: Strong play by Livermore to dispossess Nani. The youngster has held the midfield fort well for Spurs so far.
35 min: United are brimming with pace and attacking intent yet, after an exhilarating start, there is a certain lack of cohesion in the team: no one is really pulling the strings for them in midfield. "I would really like David De Gea to be good, but most of all I would like him to shave his beard," warbles Joe Mann. "He looks like he should have a packet of Embassy Super Kings and some super strength lager."
36 min: Evans is booked for a clumsy foul, and then Welbeck charges down Kaboul's freekick from about two yards away.
39 min: Young beats Dawson to a bouncing ball and is then clattered by the centreback, who justly cops a booking. Freekick to United some 40 yards out. Van der Vaart would shoot from there.
42 min: After a good move from Spurs, Van der Vaart lets fly from the edge of the area and De Gea produces an accomplished save. "Great Tom Kiefer reference," strums Jason Graff. "I just want to say I like Cinderella's music and I don't care who knows it. I suppose you'll have many more interesting e-mails but I had to tell someone. Damn me if you will MBM readers but Long Cold Winter rocked my little adolescent world."
45 min: No Premier League match is allowed to pass without a schoolyard squabble and that's exactly what follows a slightly late tackle by Nani on Kaboul. Once the players fulfil their quota of posturing and chest-puffing, the game carries on. "I see that, after your opening query, Cleverley has received no mention in your report," notes Lou Roper. "Am I the only Wigan supporter who believes that he is highly overrated and that we survived despite Martinez' unaccountable insistence on starting him (or was he required to play him by the terms of the loan agreement?)--and the wretched di Santo?"
Half-time: After United threatened to blow them away in the first 15 minutes, Spurs have steadied themselves and started to pose sporadic threats of their own, though they would be far more menacing if they had a decent striker. United remain dangerous on the break thanks to their speed but there is a slightly rudderless feel to their play. All in all a decent enough game, though lacking quality at crucial times. It would be hard to call a winner at this point .. if it weren't United versus Spurs at Old Trafford.
In other news, is everyone enduring a more painful evening than Dave Hickey. "I'm having the least manly night ever. I'm eating salad and felafel in a room with 5 women, and they're forcing me to watch xfactor. The MBM is my testosterone safe haven."
Not quite the Gary Neville Appreciation Society: "Did you hear him say after a foul in midfield Paul that "anywhere else on the pitch and that's a penalty". Priceless!" parps Patrick Donohoe.
Wow! Who knew there were so many Cinderella fans following this here mbm. I've under strict instructions from dozens of swaying rocksters to link to this. If epic rock ballads aren't your bag, don't click that.
Tottenham change: Corluka has come on for Walker, who apparently is feeling sick. Will Young or Nani exposes the creaking Corluka's slowness?
47 min: After something of a stramash in the Spurs box, Rooney threads the ball through to Young, who shoots from 12 yards, brining a fine save from Friedel. "At least Dave Hickey has five women with him [cf half-time]," groans David Brady. "I'm working in my local and I have two old timers and a terrier called Colin for company. They keep asking for Chas and Dave to be played as well. Marvellous."
49 min: Defoe decides to test the theory that De Gea is dodgy on long shots. The Spaniard offers no proof, saving well. Moments later Bale gives it another go, but fails to find the target.
50 min: Aaron Lennon's final ball improved immensely last season but he has just goofed big time there. After outmuscling Evra, he drove to the byline and had three team-mates waiting for a simple cut-back ... but instead he blasted it straight at Evans. A great chance spurned.
53 min: After a long period of purposeful interplay by Spurs, United gain possession and hurtle down the other end, their whizzbang move culminating with an Anderson shot from distance that is parried by Friedel, and then a Rooney one that meets a similar end.
56 min: Freekick to United, from wide on the right. Young's delivery is uncharacteristically bad, allowing Spurs to clear.
58 min: Welbeck flicks on a Jones ball into the box and young elects to take it first time, volleying wide from the right.
59 min: Absurd effort from Van der Vaart, who wafts one over the bar from 40 yards.
GOAL! United 1-0 Spurs (Welbeck 61') Lovely cross from the right by Cleverley elicits an excellent header from Welbeck, who guides the ball into the corner from 9 yards.
62 min: Another stupid shot from Van der Vaart. He can be irritatingly self-indulgent at times.
64 min: An inept challenge from Kranjcar on Evra gives United a freekick on the edge of the box. Rooney rolls it to Young, who stops it for him and then Rooney curls towards the near post but is denied by a good Friedel save.
66 min: Rooney hammers one just over from 25 yards.
68 min: United are going for the jugular now and with Spurs tiring, especially in midfield where Kranjcar is being bypassed with ease, a second goal or them seems inevitable. Welbeck just attempted to deliver it with an excellent overhead kick, which, unhappily for him, was straight at Friedel.
70 min: Welbeck, buoyed by his fine goal, storms past two and into the box before Dawson puts the ball out for a throw-in. "It's gone past 60 minutes, that surely means Van der Vaart is done for the week, time for the Hudd no quibble," quoth Ed Gostelow.
71 min: A rare sortie forward for Spurs ends when Defoe chooses the wrong option: slipping the ball to Evans rather than a team-mate.
74 min: Nani swings a corner straight into Friedel's arms.
Spurs substitutions: Kranjcar off, Pavlyuchenko on. Livermore off, Huddlestone on. Both changes make sense.
75 min: Bale romps down the left before being thwarted by a superb tackle by Jones, who has been outstanding tonight.
GOAL! United 2-0 Spurs (Anderson 76') Great move, concluding with a wonderful one-two in which Welbeck backheels the ball back into the path of Anderson, who slots into the net from 12 yards.
78 min: Defoe blems one against the post from 16 yards after a fumble by De Gea, who spilled a lofted cross into the box. Those goalkeeper jitters haven't gone away, then.
A triple change from United: Off go Welbeck (to a rapturous ovation), Cleverley and Young, on trot Giggs, Hernandez and Park.
83 min: Rooney scoops the ball over the bar from four yards after another delicious cross from Nani!
85 min: Van der Vaart has another shot, this time from a more reasonable 25 yards. And De Gea spills it behind for a corner.
GOAL! United 3-0 Spurs (Rooney 88') Spurs' capitulation is complete, as Nani nudges the ball to Giggs, who chips it into the centre for Rooney to head in from close range.
89 min: Oh for goodness sake. Another ridiculous effort from Van der Vaart goes way, way wide.
90 min: Huddlestone lets fly from 25 yards and again De Gea spills it. But He recovers just in time, pouncing on it before Defoe can prod it in and the little striker gets a booking for a late challenge.
Full-time: It was an even match for a while but in the last half hour United took control and took Spurs apart with devastating speed and precision. Spurs, whose central midfielders tired in the second half, didn't help themselves with some dreadful decision-making (Van der Vaart and Lennon) and a grim lack of cutting edge. For United, Jones, Rooney and Welbeck were exceptional.