Three's not a crowd

Three's not a crowd

TOTTENHAM v MAN UNITED

Robin van Persie may be back against Tottenham Hotspur tonight at White Hart Lane, but Shinji Kagawa has to be in the starting line-up as well.

The Japanese midfielder played a starring role in Manchester United's 5-0 mauling of Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League in midweek, in his preferred role just behind the main striker Wayne Rooney.

With Rooney pushed up to replace the sidelined van Persie (groin), Kagawa had the freedom to dictate the pace of the game and pull the strings in the middle of the park.

His magic will be needed against the Lilywhites tonight as well, although in all likelihood he would be pushed back to the wings again if van Persie is back to lead the line.

If fit, the Dutchman has to be in the starting line-up, given his form, but that would mean Rooney will be back playing in the role that Kagawa craves so much.

While Andre Villas-Boas' men were thrashed 6-0 by Manchester City last week, one should not forget that they have been very difficult to score against this season.

Other than City, only West Ham United have scored more than one goal against the Londoners in the Premiership this year, with the Hammers coming up 3-0 winners at White Hart Lane in October.

AVB is facing increasing pressure to get the results to avoid the axe, and United would need all the firepower they can get to get something out of London.

FITTING

The problem now for David Moyes is to find a way to accommodate Rooney, Kagawa and van Persie in the same team and get the best out of them.

There must be a way to fit them all into the same line-up. After all, top teams such as Barcelona have been able to assimilate top technical players into their team quite effectively.

It could be possible for Rooney and Kagawa to play together if Moyes could afford to do without additional defensive cover in midfield.

That hadn't been possible this season, with their defensive frailties coming to the fore and that is something that Moyes would need to address.

Another player who had impressed in the Champions League tie in midweek was my old pal Ryan Giggs, who turned 40 last Friday.

He played all his professional games at top-flight level and that is testament of how well he maintains himself, through yoga or otherwise.

His game used to be dominated by pace, but with age slowing him down we've also come to see how his footballing brain ticks.

That brain and his experience came in handy against Bayer Leverkusen when he patrolled the middle of the park.

But he is definitely still capable of playing on the wings, but instead of using pure pace to beat his opponents he uses his head and experience to bypass them.

There's simply no telling when he will hang up his boots.

*Paul Parker is a former England and Manchester United defender who won two EPL titles and earned 19 caps for his country. Heis currently a football pundit with Fox Sports.

npsports@sph.com.sg


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