Arsenal away has always been a game to look forward to and mark out in the calendar for United fans and although priorities have changed for the two clubs of late, the significance of the duel has hardly diminished. Ever since the Frenchman Wenger revolutionized the once boring yet effective Arsenal side into one of Europeai??i??s most entertaining outfits, the two clubs have served up a plethora of memorable moments on and sometimes off the pitch: theAi??Roy Keane-Patrick Viera tunnel incident, the infamous Pizza Gate to name a few.

Gunners over the years have been tough adversaries and from the late 90ai??i??s up until 2005 the rivalry between the two proud clubs was at its zenith. Over the last few years with the emergence of Chelsea and lately City coupled with Arsenal losing a few of its major names, the challenge from North London has waned a fair bit. Itai??i??s not beyond comprehension that United fans look at this fixture in a different light, say to a decade ago. Arsenalai??i??s complete annihilation at the Theatre of Dreams earlier this season would have been further proof of their fall from the once towering pedestal.

Keane-Viera - Missing the main protagonists!

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Manchester v North London: Title Tilting Weekend In The League, Perhaps?

As United take on Wengerai??i??s men at the Emirates, neighbors and fierce rivals City entertain another North London club- Harry Redknappai??i??s high flying Spurs. The irony of the fixture list is hard to ignore. Victory of Manchester over North London on one hand would severely dent Tottenhamai??i??s faint title hopes and also put Arsenal on the back foot in their bid to claim the coveted top four spot.

There has been plenty of talk and numerous column space devoted to indicating the power shift in the two footballing hubs of the Premier League with City tipped to overtake their illustrious neighbors and Spurs finally coming out of the shadow of the mighty Arsenal. Well, the truth is closer to reality than fiction now as Spurs sit comfortably ahead of the Gunners while United trail Manciniai??i??s City by three points. Now perhaps is the time for the empire to strike back and reclaim their authority but not many are betting against the two traditional minnows as the two erstwhileAi??powerhouses look more vulnerable than any time in their recent history.

United won the reverse fixture by an astonishing 8-2 score line, while City dismantled Spurs in their own den by scoring five past them. Revenge isAi??on the minds ofAi??the North London faithful as they seek vengeance and possible redemption in these must-win clashes.

Fergieai??i??s Conundrum: Team Formations AndAi??PersonnelAi??For The Battle At Hand

Sir Alex and Man United over the years have religiously stuck to their favored 4-4-2 formation, at least in the league. The mantra of the club has been to play the ball out wide to two of the traditional wide men and feed the strikers. Unitedai??i??s success has largely depended on the quality of service from wide areas and therefore the width in their game play has always stood out as second to none.

However for this specific test, a unique one at that, the United manager has tended to pack the midfield and play the lone striker upfront. The Old Trafford club has tried to mirror the Arsenal formation to stop them from playing their intricate passing game and balance the midfield battle. Itai??i??s fair to say the strategy has paid rich dividends, with the outstanding performances in the Champions League semi-final in 2009 and the league game at the Emirates in the next season, a shining example of the change in approach.

Even at Old Trafford, United deployed a variant of 4-3-3 with the perennial Arsenal nemesis Wayne Rooney (six goals in last six games in all competitions against Leai??i??Arse) leading the line and the outcome has been satisfactory.

However at the fag-end of last season the Old Trafford club had perfected a style of play with a Carrick-Giggs/Anderson axis, Rooney in the hole and Chicharito upfront and with deadly success. The manager decided to stick to this new and successful mantra even at the Emirates but the midfield was overrun and outplayed by the Gunner trio and handsomely beaten on the day.

Yet again the wily Scot faces a dilemma, whether to stick or twist. The game at the Eastlands against City might come into consideration where the Red Devils played with two strikers – Rooney and Welbeck, but in a not so customary 4-2-3-1 when not in possession. Carrick and Giggs sitting infront of the back four while Rooney dropped deep flanked by the wingers Nani and Valencia. Welbeck was assigned the role of leading the line but the Englishman too performed more than his fair share of defensive responsibilities.

football formations

Whereas, when United wrestled back possession the formation quickly altered to a variant of 4-1-3-2, Giggs pushed forward to the attacking midfield position while Rooney teamed up with Welbeck leaving Carrick as the lone man shielding the back four. Carrick’s position was crucial to the United setup as he kept the shape of the team in tact and even allowed the full backs to go forward and help the team in attack.

football formations

Everything considered after City went down to 10 men, the numbers were stacked in Unitedai??i??s favor and hence the true effectiveness of the approach cannot be commented on with absolute certainty. However, Ferguson would more than likely stick with the winning formulae that served him well in that all important game, egg not broke and all.

The choice of personnel could yet be interesting; Rooney and Carrick virtually pick themselves while Welbeck has looked in sensational form and is ideal for the lone front man role. Valencia is arguably the form man at Old Trafford and has grabbed the right wing spot by the proverbial scruff of the neck. Nani is more than likely to occupy the other wing. However Fergie might be tempted to give the big game specialist Park Ji Sung a chance as he has invariably performed well against the Gunners.

Sir Alex would very well know the enormity of the task at hand and the importance of the duel with arch rivals City also involved in another high profile encounter against Spurs. Will this be the weekend that decides the title race, probably not? However a defeat for United coupled with a City win could possibly set alarm bells ringing as a six point lead although not insurmountable certainly becomes concerning.

Fergie & Wenger- Still going strong!

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United-Arsenal games in the past have always been high intensity and have guaranteed high drama, with so much on the line expect another titanic battle. There might be no Keano-Viera pre-match pep talks to pump up the adrenaline but the essence of the fixture remains intact with the Wenger-Fergie duo at the heart of their respective clubs. Savor the occasion as the two legendary men of football will not grace the stage for eternity. This oneai??i??s for the young and the old and especially for us nostalgic forAi??those feisty nineties and iconic early noughties. The simmering feud needs a bit of spark and, more importantly, the place it once occupied in the ethos of English football.

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