On February 28th, Manchester United welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford for what is due to be an abnormal game between these two sides. With all of United’s injuries and struggles this season, some bookies have Arsenal going into this match as favorites, the first time that has happened in the Premier League era. After a huge win against Leicester two weeks ago to keep the Gunners in the title race, they’ll need another big performance against Manchester United to push their title aspirations. With a difficult North London Derby on the horizon, Arsene Wenger’s side need to pick up as many points as they can. The Frenchman acknowledged the importance of this match in his press conference saying it could be “decisive.”
Saying Manchester United have injury issues would be one of the biggest understatements of the year. They have injury concerns of every type and in every position. Their fitness, or lack there of, could be a huge hindrance in this match.
First off, Bastian Scheinsteiger, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Matteo Darmian, and Marouane Fellaini are all out with injuries of differing seventies. On top of that, David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Anthony Martial, Adnan Januzaj, and Cameron Borthwick Jackson are all doubts for the match against Arsenal.
Arsenal have a few injuries, but no where near as many as United. After suffering an injury against Barcelona, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will join Gabriel Paulista, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, and Tomas Rosicky on the injury table for the Gunners.
Arsenal have not won at Old Trafford in the league since 2006 when Emmanuel Adebayor scored a late winner. They did however break their winless streak at Old Trafford in all competitions last year with a 2-1 in the FA Cup. When these two teams faced off earlier in the season at the Emirates Stadium, it was a slaughter with Arsenal scoring three goals in the first 20 minutes and coasting for the rest of the match. While United have struggled mightily this season, they have been tough to beat at home with only two losses from 12 games having only conceded five goals.
Manchester United: Morgan Schneiderlin
The last time these two sides met Arsenal slaughtered United. They scored three goals inside 20 minutes, cutting through their midfield at will. The midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger were made to look silly on countless occasions. If they’re to get anything this time around, they’ll need to stop Arsenal’s creative players from playing. Morgan Schneiderlin could have a huge role in doing just that. The defensive midfielder is an expert in breaking up counter attacks and helping keep playmakers quiet. He’ll have quite the task ahead of him facing Mesut Ozil, but, if he can contain the German, it will give United a very good chance of getting something from the game.
Arsenal: Mesut Ozil
On the flipside, Arsenal need their star man to continue to come through. Mesut Ozil has taken the Premier League by storm this season. He has created 105 chances this season, 28 more than any other player in the Premier League, and is only three assists from equaling the all time Premier League record with 12 games to go. The German playmaker is arguably the best player in the league and has been great in big games this season, one goal and six assists in five games against the top five. He has the quality to win the game by himself and he gives Arsenal a huge edge over United.
Arsenal should win this game. Even if it is at Old Trafford, with all of United injuries Arsenal should be able to put out a much better team than their opposition. Still, Arsenal have had trouble scoring lately, and, if they don’t score the first goal they could lose and suffer a crushing blow to their title challenge.
Prediction: 2-1 Arsenal.