It’s one of the great rivalries in British football – as Arsenal welcome Manchester United – and with the managers on the touch-line who themselves share an animosity that has come to define the Premier League in the last fifteen years, the expectations around this game have rarely been higher.
Arsenal have firmly got themselves back in the mix. The Gunners will go into this game as one of the most in-form sides in the league – with five wins in the last six and a home record second to none (won their last 12 games at the Emirates). But this will nevertheless come as a big test for the home side – against a team with strength and depth. Arsene Wenger has had his say on his old rivals Manchester United ahead of Saturday. The long-serving Frenchman said,
“Man Utd are a dangerous team, they have made fantastic results so to beat a team like that you need to be at your best and that’s what I want to focus on.”
Recent history is on the Londoners’ side. Arsenal have got over the once seemingly unbreakable hoodoo by winning back to back games at home in the league against Manchester United – without conceding. It will be interesting to see if they can put on a similar display to make it three on the spin.
Manchester United have had a positive week so far themselves – they started by battling past newly promoted Brighton to secure all three points followed by an entertaining attacking display against a good Watford team away from home where Mourinho’s side scored four or more goals for the eighth time this season.
But Jose Mourinho has yet to win away from home against a top six side for two years now (one goal scored in ten games) and given the next few fixtures for United – not least the monumental Manchester Derby which is scheduled for next week – there is a sense of now or never at United, even though they are comfortably placed second in the league table.
The Portuguese needs to get the monkey off his back and what better way to do it than at a ground where he is arguably hated the most and against a manager he has historically had the beating of.
Alexandre Lacazette faces a long spell on the sidelines after injuring his groin on Wednesday night. Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud or Alexis Sanchez are expected to lead the line in his absence. Alex Iwobi is a doubt for the home side after missing the midweek win over Huddersfield with a dead leg.
Nemanja Matic is unlikely to feature for the visitors after limping off injured in midweek against Watford. Marouane Fellaini is also an injury doubt, but should recover on time to partner Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba in central midfield.
- Arsenal have won their last 12 home PL matches in a row, last enjoying a longer run between February and November 2005 at Highbury (13).
- No team have won more PL away matches at Arsenal than Manchester United (7, level with Liverpool) and only Chelsea (4) have won more at Emirates Stadium than United’s three.
- Arsenal have scored at least 2 goals in their last 10 home matches (Premier League).
- Manchester United haven’t secured back-to-back away wins in the Premier League since a run of four in April.
Mesut Ozil – Arsenal
Ozil’s resurgence has been one of the key elements behind his side’s upturn in form and fortunes – as the German looks to have finally regained his touch. The German has enjoyed a productive career in England – managing more assists in the Premier League than any other since he joined the North London club (47).
The attacking midfielder has also been directly involved in four goals in his last four Premier League appearances against Manchester United (two goals, two assists) – so if Arsenal were to get out of the blocks nice and early, they cannot do worse than build their game around Mesut Ozil to hurt United’s weak areas – behind the full-backs.
Ashley Young – Manchester United
Ashley Young has been one of the players of the season, not just for Manchester United, which in itself is a story worth telling, but the Premier League in general. He is the highest scoring full-back in the league and his recent form has been so good that he is keeping natural left-backs out of the squad.
Dependable, diligent and experienced – Ashley Young is everything that Mourinho looks for in his players and his delivery from the left will be crucial for Manchester United to leverage their obvious aerial advantage over the home side, on Saturday.
It’s very close to call – which is very atypical of an Arsenal-Manchester United fixture; at least in recent years.
So I’m sitting on the fence with this one. An entertaining and controversial draw, methinks.
Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United