Vertonghen: You can't write us off
Jan Vertonghen thinks Tottenham's critics are making a mistake by writing off their season.
Andre Villas-Boas' position as Spurs boss has come under scrutiny this week after his team followed up their loss to Newcastle with a humiliating 6-0 reverse at Manchester City.
Tottenham will slip closer to the bottom half of the table if they lose to in-form Manchester United on Sunday, but Vertonghen sees no reason to panic even though the team have already lost four times.
The Belgian remembers how Tottenham and Villas-Boas came under pressure at roughly the same time last season following three straight defeats.
Spurs responded by losing just one of their next 16 league games and Vertonghen is hoping the team can go on a similar run this term.
"You cannot write us off," the Spurs defender said.
"We did not do well in this period last year with losses against Wigan and City and Arsenal. But we had incredible months in December and January and I think that is what we are aiming for now.
"We want to do well in those two months and then I think we can be back easily because the top half of the table is so strong that everybody can win."
Tottenham's confidence increased on Thursday night when they beat Tromso 2-0 in freezing conditions deep inside the Arctic Circle.
Still, the performance was hardly vintage Spurs and you do not have to be a football expert to know that United will pose a much stiffer challenge than Tromso, who were relegated from Norway's top-flight three weeks ago.
The Norwegians have no-one who is anywhere near as good as Wayne Rooney, who had a helping hand in four of United's five-goal blitz in Leverkusen in midweek.
Rooney will have taken encouragement from the way Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo tore Tottenham's flat defence apart last weekend.
Vertonghen thinks the Spurs back four may be in for an even tougher ride this weekend when they come up against Rooney and Robin van Persie.
"Rooney and Van Persie are quite similar to the City strikers," the former Ajax man said.
"They move well and play better and better together now.
"They are at least the same level as Negredo and Aguero. They are unbelievable.
"They are the most important players of the team but the strength of Manchester United is that they have always been stronger as a team together."
Vertonghen insists Tottenham will not be petrified about the prospect of facing Rooney and co, however.
The defender believes confidence has been restored somewhat following the victory in Tromso.
"It was important for the group to come away with a win in difficult circumstances," he said.
"We are so motivated to do well on Sunday, especially after the City game.
"I am very confident for that game because the supporters will be behind us and we will be so motivated to do well after such a loss."
Villas-Boas is expected to recall the likes of Jermain Defoe, Kyle Walker and Paulinho, who were rested for Thursday's win over Tromso but striker Emmanuel Adebayor is a doubt because of a groin injury.
Manager David Moyes is happy to massage Nani's ego if it makes the Manchester United winger more consistent.
It has been a rather strange few months for the Portugal star. For the latter half of last season, it appeared certain Nani would be on the move as agreement over a new United contract looked impossible. Amazingly, once the transfer window closed and Nani was still at Old Trafford, he quickly signed a five-year extension.
That raised a few eyebrows and the fact he had made only six appearances prior to Wednesday's Champions League rout of Bayer Leverkusen has done little to settle the debate over Nani's future.
However, the 27-year-old was an integral presence in Germany as United romped to their biggest European away win since the Matt Busby era, and Moyes is wanting to see those same skills on show more often.
"Nani is a talented player," Moyes told www.manutd.com.
"We are trying to give him the feeling that he is important. It's something he needs - to get back to that consistency which gives him the reason to say: 'I'm the man. I can do that job regularly'."
Moyes certainly feels Nani has all the attributes needed to have a major influence on his reshaped Red Devils outfit.
"He works hard enough at his game," said the Scot.
"He is happy to do all the leg work and his shooting with both feet is almost as good as anybody I've ever seen.
"He's incredibly talented and there is a chance he can improve. We want to give him the opportunity.
"You have to accept skilful players are going to be a bit indifferent.
"They are keen on showing you what they have got and, when it doesn't come off or work, it looks bad. That's the balance you have got to get right."
Moyes faces a tricky selection dilemma after the hammering of Bayer Leverkusen, leaving the Scot to decide whether to break up a winning team.
Marouane Fellaini is definitely available after suspension, while Moyes claims both Nemanja Vidic (concussion) and Robin van Persie (groin) "have a chance" of being available.