Harry Kane
Harry Kane suffered a hamstring strain against Liverpool and will not be fit to face Manchester United

Tottenham Hotspur supporters saw their worst fears realised on Friday morning (27 October), with Mauricio Pochettino ruling prolific striker Harry Kane out of Saturday's heavyweight lunchtime clash with Premier League title rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford.

After being seen clutching the back of his leg during a late substitution that followed his two-goal haul against Liverpool last weekend, the England international was omitted from Spurs' squad for their dramatic midweek Carabao Cup fourth round loss to London rivals West Ham United.

It has now been confirmed that Kane, following an assessment and investigation that took place earlier this week, is suffering from a minor strain to his left hamstring.

Pochettino claimed it would be "impossible" for the 24-year-old to feature against United, while he will also now be considered a doubt for the Champions League Group H return fixture against Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Quizzed about potentially employing a tactical change to cope with Kane's absence, the manager replied: "We are thinking [about the tactics] because today is the second day after the West Ham game.

"I think we need to wait until tomorrow to decide a formation. It's not a problem because we can use one or another, with different formations.

"It's a situation we worked a lot on during pre-season and the players have the capacity to adapt to one shape or another, but first we need to assess the players and then try to take the best decision and be competitive."

The wily Pochettino has been known to spring a tactical surprise or two in the past, as evidenced by his recent decision to start two strikers - both Kane and Fernando Llorente - inside the cauldron of the Santiago Bernabeu.


IBTimes UK could therefore be made to look very foolish indeed in attempting to second-guess his thinking for United, but we are going to work off the assumption that he will still opt for a variation of his favoured 3-5-2 system with Llorente deployed as the figurehead in lieu of Kane.

Pochettino often went without an out-and-out central striker during Kane's two lengthy absences last term, although that had more to do with the ineptitude of Vincent Janssen than anything else.

Dele Alli has thrived in a deeper midfield role of late, but the 32-year-old Llorente is evidently not as mobile as Kane and will need someone with pace to get closer to him. Alli seems a better option for this than Christian Eriksen.

Heung-Min Son is obviously the ideal candidate for that role, but did not quite mesh with an isolated Llorente in midweek. The South Korean forward has been in good form of late, although the fact that he played 90 minutes against Liverpool and 83 against West Ham leads me to (probably incorrectly) believe that he will not feature from the off at Old Trafford.

While often reckless in a defensive capacity, Serge Aurier offers crucial pace down the flank and will surely be restored to the team having been completely rested in midweek. It seems unlikely that Danny Rose will start for the second time in four days having only recent returned from almost nine months on the sidelines, so Pochettino will likely choose between natural left-back Ben Davies and the adaptable Kieran Trippier on the other side.

The return to fitness of the excellent Mousa Dembele presents another potential conundrum, yet it remains to be seen if he is ready to start after making only a 20-minute cup cameo at Wembley. Victor Wanyama and long-term absentee Erik Lamela remain out, of course.


It is also surely feasible that Pochettino could opt to switch to a four-man defensive system this weekend, although the respective returns of Davies and Rose would necessitate him dropping one of those three centre-backs. Aurier does not seem like the most reliable option for a four-man defence, either, particularly if Marcus Rashford is given the nod on the left of United's attack.

In this iteration, Eric Dier and Harry Winks sit deeper to protect the defence and Llorente has the support of both Alli and Eriksen.

If Son is not deemed fit enough to complete that supporting trio, then could it be that someone like Moussa Sissoko is given the nod instead after his impressive showing against the Hammers?