Erik ten Hag says goal-shy Manchester United must show a clinical edge if they are to kickstart their Premier League campaign against Tottenham.
This has been a bumpy second season in the hotseat for the Dutchman, whose side enter the weekend eighth in the standings having lost nine of their 20 Premier League games.
That is as many top-flight defeats as United tasted in the entirety of last season and victory against Spurs would improve the mood around a team playing just one top-flight game in January.
Ten Hag takes heart from his side’s performance in August’s 2-0 defeat in the north London reverse but knows a killer instinct is needed if they are to beat Ange Postecoglou’s men on Sunday.
“It’s definitely different,” he said of the visitors’ approach under the Australian, who swapped Celtic for Spurs in the summer. “I think it’s a really big compliment the way they played, so he changed the environment there.
“They play really proactive, it’s very enjoyable to watch them, with a lot of dynamics. Very proactive. And they combine it with good results.
“But also, when we played them over there, I think we can take belief out of that.
“I would say, especially in the first 35 minutes, we dominated them and we should have gone in the lead.
“But we didn’t, so we have to make our own luck and take control of the game, and then we have to finish the chances.”
United’s inability to make the most of their dominance caused frustration in Monday’s FA Cup third-round win at Wigan, when they had 33 shots but only managed to triumph 2-0 against League One opposition.
Only Burnley and Sheffield United, the bottom two sides, had scored fewer than the Red Devils’ 22 Premier League goals entering a weekend they will again be without Anthony Martial for.
The 28-year-old forward is out of contract in the summer and has managed just two goals and 19 appearances in another disrupted campaign, leaving Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford as options through the middle.
“He’s not fit, so he’s not OK,” Ten Hag said of Martial, who has not featured since United fans cheered his substitution in the 3-0 home loss to Bournemouth on December 9.
“We want all the players to be fit and prepared for the game. In this moment, he is not. We have to make him fit.
“It’s his job as well to get ready for the next game, but in this moment he isn’t. He is in medical treatment, and he has to recover.”
Martial joins Victor Lindelof, Mason Mount, Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire on the sidelines, plus Sofyan Amrabat is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Morocco.
There is better news about Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro, with Ten Hag expecting the long-term absentees to be involved on Sunday.
Luke Shaw, Antony, Christian Eriksen and Amad Diallo are also back in contention for the visit of Spurs.