Manchester United v Tottenham: Hernandez in hot form while Wayne’s away

Wayne Rooney is on holiday in Dubai this week as he celebrates his lucrative new contract, but United have uncovered a new star in striker Javier Hernandez, who has scored three goals in two games in the past week.

NOT for the first time, football fans are peering into the alternative reality that is the Premier League and musing that life doesn’t seem very fair.

Perhaps it is the lurid revelations about his private life, and the fact that England’s ‘talisman’ was one of the very worst players at the World Cup.

Maybe it is the fact that United have rewarded a striker who has scored one club goal in 12 games (a penalty), publicly voiced his desire to leave and questioned his team’s ambition.

Whatever the reason, there is something unjust about the fact that Rooney is this week sunning himself in Dubai with his wife Coleen, celebrating a new contract worth around �200,000 a week.

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It will be interesting to see the reaction that Rooney gets from the terraces when he returns, but Spurs will not be playing when that happens as the forward’s holiday/ankle injury will rule him out this weekend.

Rooney declined to watch his team-mates battling at the Britannia on Sunday as United grabbed a 2-1 win over Stoke in the Potteries in the 86th minute.

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However he has seen, and indeed played in, plenty of similar United games this season – and that was probably the basis of his fears over the Red Devils’ future.

The victory over a below-par Stoke was United’s first league win in over a month, and their first three-point haul on the road all season after draws at Fulham, Everton, Bolton and Sunderland.

That has given Chelsea a five-point lead, and Sir Alex can hardly blame tricky fixtures for his side’s position.

Thus far, the Reds’ toughest opponents have been Everton and, um, Liverpool...

United’s failures are largely down to a failure to put games to bed and, of the six games they have won in all competitions since August 28, five have been by a single goal – the other coming with a 5-2 win over Scunthorpe.

The Reds seem to have lost their ruthless streak, and that was particularly evident two weeks ago as they allowed West Brom to come back from 2-0 down at half-time to gain a 2-2 draw at the bastion of Old Trafford.

There are, however, positives for Ferguson, whose side are the only unbeaten outfit in the top flight. Despite Rooney’s poor form United continue to find the net, scoring 20 goals in their nine league games – compared to Spurs’ 11.

That is partly due to ex-Tottenham forward Dimitar Berbatov, who has struck seven times this season – including a hat-trick against Liverpool – while Nani has also found an end product to his tricks, netting six goals.

However, United’s main in form is summer signing Javier Hernandez, the Mexico international striker. The 22-year-old scored twice at the World Cup and has netted six times for his new club – including three goals in two games over the past week

Hernandez struck both goals in the 2-1 win at Stoke on Sunday, and came off the bench with nine minutes left on Tuesday to strike another late winner against Wolves in a 3-2 home win in the Carling Cup.

The verdict: Spurs have lost their last eight trips to Old Trafford, and lost all three meetings in league and cup last season.

Tottenham were 1-0 up at the Lane within a minute last September before losing 3-1, and were disappointingly timid in the Carling Cup quarter-final in Manchester, when Spurs fielded the stronger side.

The Lilywhites also allowed United to edge the contest in the north at the end of last season as 1-1 became 3-1 in the final 10 minutes.

Spurs have the qualities to get a result here and even win, but they just seem to have a kind of mental block when it comes to facing Manchester United.

It always seems to be a case of so near but so far, and Tottenham’s defensive record offers little hope that things will be different this time.

Prediction: Painful as it is, objectivity demands that we back United for another narrow win – 2-1 to the hosts.

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