Manchester United versus Arsenal has always been a big occasion for both sides but Sunday will be particularly special one as arch-rival Jose Mourinho led Manchester United will welcome Arsene Wenger for the final time as Arsenal manager.
United got the job done in the FA Cup as a final against Chelsea await them in May. A top-four finish in the Premier League is virtually guaranteed, but should United win on Saturday – they take a step closer to the commendable 80-point mark in the league for the first time since 2013.
However, the focus will be on the touchline as one of the great modern managerial rivalries in the Premier League could come to an end this weekend and the Portuguese will no doubt want to have the last laugh in a largely one-sided contest. Beneath the cold demeanour and unsavoury exchanges including the infamous remark, Mourinho certainly has a lot of respect for the Frenchman as he wished him luck for the future but it will be interesting to see whether that will continue after the full-time whistle is blown.
Arsene Wenger may feel that the timing was not perfect, but announcing his decision to leave the club by the end of the summer will have come as a relief more than anything – for him after years of strained relationship with a section of fans that steadily grew year-on-year. The abuse was at times vitriolic and uncalled for but the Frenchman has by and large carried himself with dignity despite hinting his disapproval quite a few times in the last couple of years. More recently he expressed his disappointment at the ‘lack of unity’ sometimes among the fans at the Emirates and the effect it may have had on the players and the camp.
Though Arsenal must now fully concentrate on getting to the final of the Europa League by overcoming Atletico Madrid next Thursday, the players and staff at Arsenal have a duty to not let the manager down on a memorable day for him at a venue his Arsenal were once crowned the Champions.
But after catastrophic away form this campaign (5 losses in 5 in 2018) which rendered them incapable to finish in the top 4, let alone mount a title challenge, it does seem a tall order for Arsenal come away with a good result from one of the best sides in the league at home.
Sergio Romero remains the only absentee as Manchester United prepare to face Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s recovery comes a little too late to face the club he left in January, while Mohemed Elneny is also sidelined with ligament damage. Santi Cazorla who is currently recovering is still some way from being fit to play.
- The Red Devils haven’t completed a league double over the Gunners since the 2011-12 campaign – the last Man Utd manager other than Sir Alex Ferguson to achieve this was Ron Atkinson in the 1984-85 campaign.
- In all competitions, Arsenal have lost 13 of their last 18 away visits to Old Trafford (W2 D3), although only one of those defeats has been in the last four visits (W1 D2).
- Danny Welbeck has scored on both of his visits to Old Trafford for Arsenal in all competitions – no Arsenal player has scored away at Man Utd more under Arsene Wenger (Emmanuel Adebayor and Sylvain Wiltord also two).
Paul Pogba – Manchester United
Pogba has had a good season for Manchester United- if not stellar, with as many as 5 goals and 15 assists in 22 starts in the Premier League. For a central midfielder, Pogba has been very productive at United often deployed in a 2-man midfield with little license to venture forward.
Recent weeks have seen Mourinho opt for more protection in midfield allowing Pogba that extra freedom and it has paid off – as the 25-year old played a crucial role in overcoming Spurs in the FA Cup semi-final. The opening goal was a testament to the ability of Pogba and new man Sanchez whose partnership is certainly an exciting prospect for Manchester United next season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Arsenal
Aubameyang has already hit the ground running with 7 goals and 2 assists to his name in the first 8 starts in the league. The Gabonese Superstar has all the pace to burn and torment any defence in Europe and Manchester United are no exception to the rule.
The 28-year old has seemed to gel well with the other forwards at his new club and his link-up play with Lacazette and Ozil making it one of the best trios in the league – will be one to watch at Old Trafford. Arsenal needed a genuine goalscorer up front who can win games single-handed since Van Persie’s departure and with Aubameyang they have quite clearly got one.
United will continue to remain unbeaten in the league against the Gunners at Old Trafford for the 11th time in a row.