One team seem unbeatable at the minute, the other look despondent and are struggling. In recent years this would have been the descriptions given to Manchester United and Arsenal respectively, but times have changed rather quickly.
Two well-earned victories over Norwich and Fulham in a matter of days last week saw the terms “kick-start” and “springboard” muttered around Old Trafford, yet a despondent draw away to a poor Real Sociedad side has seen them hushed slightly. A victory in Moyes’ fourth league match against title rivals would give players and fans a much needed confidence boost after failing to beat Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in the league thus far.
Arsenal travel to Old Trafford with the hope of completing a memorable week which saw them beat fellow early pace-setters Liverpool and everyone’s (not literally) favourite German team Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion. The North-London side are also in the unusual situation, in recent years anyway, of being favourites of this fixture and a win against an old enemy could convince critics and neutral fans alike that Arsenal shouldn’t be doubted as title contenders.
Manchester United fans have had the unusual feeling of disappointment after a number of poor results and performances, but the young Belgian/Albanian/maybe-English/Human midfielder has been a shining light surrounded by mundane dullness this season.
With criticism aimed at Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes about playing Kagawa on the left, most notably by Jurgen Klopp, Januzaj has shown the Japanese international how to play on the left wing as a playmaker – a similar case would be Mata at Chelsea. With the use of a defensive midfield by the opposition the lack of freedom in the middle becomes restricted, hence why players are move out wide to utilise the extra and cause havoc with clever movement into the centre away from his marker – and if Flamini doesn’t feature for Arsenal then Januzaj could take real advantage of this.
Januzaj’s match winning performance against Sunderland caught the headlines with two goals, but the ease at which the 18 year old has managed enforce his influence on the side has been impressive. The trickery and pace Januzaj gives Manchester United has seen the young midfielder win 18 fouls – showing the trouble causes defenders and forcing them into a tackle – and test the goalkeeper on 5 occasions – the third most for United.
In a season where Arsenal have already their expectations, especially after their opening day defeat, Aaron Ramsey has come to the fold and become the player his potential has always promised but delayed by his horror injury a few years ago.
The Welsh midfielder has already scored 11 goals this season, including the winner against Dortmund in mid-week and a tremendous strike against Liverpool last weekend. To put into perspective the magnitude of the improvement in Ramsey’s goal scoring prowess, in the 150 appearances for Arsenal prior to this campaign he scored the same total of goals he has managed in 17 games this season.
The amount of ground Ramsey has covered this season is also impressive and the quality that he has shown at both ends of the pitch has seen him dubbed as “Arsenal’s Steven Gerrard” by some – whether that is true is another discussion. Ramsey has made the second most challenges (197) in the league, amazingly only behind Marouane Chamakh, and has made the most tackles (46) and ground duels (131) so far.
- Since the Premier League was founded in 1993, Manchester United have only lost this league fixture on 3 occasions.
- Wayne Rooney has a liking for Arsenal scoring 10 goals against the Gunners, more than any other team.
- Arsenal have lost on their last 4 visits to Old Trafford and haven’t won since 2006.
- Arsenal have only scored 2 goals at Old Trafford on one occasion – the infamous 8-2 defeat.
David Moyes hopes to have Cleverley, Rafael and Evans fit for Sunday’s match after they were all replaced at half-time during the match against Fulham last week. The game comes too soon for Danny Welbeck however who is set to miss out.
Wilshere and Flamini are both doubts for a match despite being involved in training on Friday, but the latter is more likely is feature. Walcott, Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Poldolski are all still unavailable.
The importance for United is sorting out their midfield problems and the use of Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley doesn’t fill the opposition with terror, but they have been a effective duo in the games against Norwich and Fulham with their willingness to run and press high up the pitch – this will be important against Arsenal’s devastating creative talents. The likely return of Flamini will add extra defensive protection in midfield and allow other midfielders to venture forward. With this in mind, and the thought of an underperforming Felliani starting for United, Arsenal will leave with at least a point. Manchester United 2 Arsenal 2