On Monday evening the biggest clash of the FA Cup quarter-finals takes place at Old Trafford. Louis Van Gaal’s side host the current cup holders in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. With both sides currently caught in a battle for a Champions League spot it will be interesting to see what the mentality is from both teams heading into this match. Van Gaal would surely love to end his first year in charge with a trophy, while Arsene Wenger will want to repeat last season’s cup victory in order to keep adding trophies to the cabinet after their prior barren spell. The truth is there is never a game between these two sides that isn’t a big occasion, FA Cup or not both men are aware of the importance of a victory over each other, if not just for the confidence of the squad but for the fans as well who see each other as constant rivals. The two sides are also joint top for most FA Cup wins with 11, so the chance to pull away from the others in that regard would also be welcomed by the supporters of either side. Arsenal’s luck at Old Trafford in recent years hasn’t been great to say the least. It has in fact been nearly 9 years since they last managed a victory at the Theatre of Dreams. However, as Wenger’s men proved only a couple of weeks ago, such records are there to be broken after they managed a victory away at the Etihad stadium against United’s blue neighbours. Neither side is likely to take this tie lightly, as such it’s wise to expect a top drawer FA Cup tie between two of the giants left in the competition.
Heading into the FA Cup quarter final clash with Arsenal, United’s only injured personnel is former Arsenal captain Robin Van Persie. Van Gaal will be glad to have midfielder Michael Carrick back at his disposable after the veteran Englishman came on as a late sub against Newcastle midweek. Luke Shaw is a doubt for the tie but has not been ruled out.
Arsenal are set to be without January signing Gabriel, the centre-back suffered a hamstring injury in midweek against QPR. Gabriel is an addition to Arsenal’s injury list joining the likes of Jack Wilshere, Mathieu Flamini, Mikael Arteta, Abou Diaby and Mathieu Debuchy. Polish Goalkeeper Wojiech Szczeny is expected to feature in goal for the Gunners, giving him a chance to try and win his number one spot back from Colombian stopper David Ospina
- The two sides are joint top of the all-time winners list of the FA Cup. Both teams have won the competition on 11 occasions
- Man United have only lost 2 of their last 22 matches. Arsenal meanwhile have won 8 of their last 10
- Arsenal haven’t won at Old Trafford since September 2006
- Arsenal have lost their last 2 FA cup matches against Man United
- Arsenal have won 3 of their last 4 away games in the League
- In 100 games at Old Trafford Arsenal have only managed 16 victories
- The last time Arsenal beat Manchester United in the FA Cup it was the 2005 Cup final. Arsenal won on penalties that day
Manchester United: Ashley Young
One of the biggest surprises of the season has to be Ashley Young’s rejuvenated form for Manchester United. The English winger had become a scapegoat for United’s poor form under David Moyes as displays for the team lacked confidence and he was expected to be moved on in the summer when Van Gaal took the reins. That really wasn’t the case. After an early injury crisis saw United low on personnel, Young was charged with playing at left wing-back in Van Gaal’s hard to decipher system. It seemed like this should have been Young’s position all along, as he played more games he became more confident and began to keep summer signing Luke Shaw out of the team in his own natural position. Up until his injury just before the Christmas run, Young was becoming an important part of an ever improving United side. However, his injury stalled his season and it is only in the past couple of weeks he has been able to regain his spot in the side. His late winner against Newcastle rounded off a performance where he was one of United’s clearest threats in the game and earned him the praise he deserves even if the goal itself was gifted to him. In a side that is struggling for stellar performances, players with confidence can be extremely important, heading into this massive clash with Arsenal it is unlikely you will find many players as confident as Ashley Young. The winger has the capability to cause Arsenal’s defence problems and should he do that on Monday he will go another step further in his attempt to endear himself to the United faithful once more and perhaps be back in contention for the England squad.
Arsenal: Olivier Giroud
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud seems to have an ability to split opinion, fans either love him or hate him. His performances are either top class or dreadful. His performance against Monaco in the Champions League had warmed up the Arsenal supporters’ wrath towards the Frenchman and he started the game after that against Everton in a similar fashion. Fortunately, he got himself a goal and followed that up with another goal against QPR in midweek. All is forgiven for now then. What would really go a long way to buying the Arsenal fans’ support at least for the time being would be a performance they know he is capable of against Man United on Monday. The striker got a goal against United in November, a stunning goal in fact, on his return from injury and if he is capable of repeating that feat Arsenal could be advancing to the FA Cup semi-final. Even when the striker isn’t contributing with goals himself his link up play and movement off the ball is at times second to none in the league. With United’s defence having its flaws readily noted, Giroud should be going into this game believing he is capable of getting a goal or two and putting his side on course for successive FA Cup trophies.
This is a hard match to call. Arsenal have looked the more impressive of the two sides in terms of performances (forgetting their Champions League capitulation), but Man United seem to be able to grind out results as of late. Their form of only 2 defeats in their last 22 games is testament to that. United may not look very impressive on the eye and seem to just struggle through games against lesser sides, but they were able to comfortably beat Arsenal when to two sides last met in November. Wenger’s men are unlikely to allow for the same result as they did when the two sides last met. It is a game that can go either way, but I can see Van Gaal’s side managing to once again frustrate Wenger’s men in a match that will look like Arsenal are going to win throughout. Arsenal may have to wait another year before they can beat Man United at Old Trafford.
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