Old Trafford, Manchester
November 10, 2013; 16:10 BST
This will be the first match in which Arsene Wenger will face an Manchester United side without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm. But in all fairness the rivalry between Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex have mellowed down in recent past. Arsenal were no longer Manchester United’s direct rivals for the title as the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City arrived at the scene. The outcome of the recent clashes between these two sides has been pretty one-sided as the Gunners have managed to win only two matches against their rivals since 2008. The horror of the 8-2 defeat still lingers in the mind of the most of the Arsenal supporters and they like to believe that their team right now have the fire power to avenge it.
This could be the closest match between these two sides in years. Arsenal are at the top of the league and have eight points advantage over Manchester United currently. Both the teams are coming into this game on good run of form. Arsenal haven’t lost in the league since their opening day defeat at the hands of Aston Villa, whereas Manchester United are on an eight match unbeaten run and have seemingly recovered from their slow start to the season.
Arsenal are coming into this game on the back of a historic win over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League away from home. A lot of cynics who have questioned whether Arsenal are the ‘real deal’ this season have been silenced with that performance. Manchester United on the other hand had to contained with a point against Real Sociedad as Fellaini was dismissed right at the end.
Manchester United have won the last five meetings between these two sides at Old Trafford. The last time Arsenal were able to take a point from this ground was back in 2009 when the matches ended in a goalless stalemate. But with both teams boasting of world class attackers upfront and vulnerable defence, goals are guaranteed these Sunday.
With Manchester United’s visible regression after the departure of Sir Alex and the new found spirit in this Arsenal side this season, this rivalry is once again on the verge of being ignited with a spark that has been missing in the past few seasons.
Manchester United – Team News, Lineup And Formation
David Moyes will have to contain with some injury concerns ahead of this big fixture. Rafael, Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans are all out of contention for this fixture with injuries. There are also concerns about the fitness of Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick ahead of this game, although the Carrick is likely to feature in this game.
David Moyes is expected to make four changes to the side that was fielded in the mid-week Champions League clash against Real Sociedad. Michael Carrick is expected to recover in time for this clash and partner Fellaini in the pivot ahead of the defence, as Giggs drops back to the bench. Highly rated youngster Adnan Januzaj is expected to start on the left wing ahead of Kagawa, while Nani replaces Valencia on the right. Wayne Rooney will once again play in the hole behind former Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, the Dutchman will replace Hernandez upfront.
If Carrick fails to recover, there is also a possibility of Jones being fielded in the midfield. The defender has played in that role before, but it will certainly be a risk to play him against Arsenal’s in-form midfield. But the main problem for United might be right side of the defence where Chris Smalling will play as the right back. Smalling has looked uncertain while playing in that role and this could be exploited by Cazorla and Gibbs on that wing. The defensive side of Nani’s game is also questionable, and David Moyes might think about fielding Valencia on the right as he is capable of tracking back.
Manchester United defenders will have to be on their toes to prevent a free scoring Arsenal side. The home side have failed to keep a clean-sheet in their last six Premier League fixtures and have conceded seven goals in their last five matches. How the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand deal with Olivier Giroud will also be crucial in the outcome of this game.
Possible Starting Line up [4-2-3-1]: De Gea (GK); Smalling, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Fellaini, Carrick; Januzaj, Rooney, Nani; van Persie
Arsenal – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Arsene Wenger still has a lot of big names out injured ahead of this game. Abou Diaby, Yaya Sanogo, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain are still out of contention due to injuries. Theo Walcott is also close to returning to full fitness, but the winger is unlikely to take part in this game. There are also doubts about the fitness of Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini, but Arsene Wenger has confirmed that the Frenchman will be available for this game.
Arsenal are coming into this game after a big midweek clash against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, which meant Arsene Wenger didn’t have the chance to rest any of his key players. But the return of Flamini will be a huge boost for his side. The Frenchman has been in brilliant form since his arrival this season and will provide added steel to the midfield ahead of this big clash. His return means Arsene Wenger will make only one change to the line-up he fielded against Dortmund. Tomas Rosicky will drop back to the bench as Flamini partners Arteta in the pivot. This means Ramsey will return to the right wing, although the Welshman is totally comfortable in playing down that side, his current form makes him the first name on the team sheet.
Olivier Giroud has been a pivotal figure in Arsenal’s attack this season. The Frenchman’s ability to hold up the ball and help in build-up play is crucial for the Gunners. It will be a physical battle between him and Vidic at the back, and Giroud’s success in that battle could play a major role in deciding the final outcome of this fixture. Cazorla would also look to exploit the defensive vulnerability of Smalling and Gibbs will have to provide the width in order to stretch the defence. The other question that Arsenal will face is how effective Ramsey will be down the right. During the match though Ozil is likely to drift wide to the right wing with Ramsey moving to a more central role, the movement of the attacking trio behind Giroud will be crucial in this tight game.
Possible Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Szczesny (GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Flamini; Cazorla, Ozil, Ramsey; Giroud
- Manchester United have lost only one of their last nine encounters with Arsenal in the Barclays Premier League (W6 D2).
- Arsenal have won at Old Trafford three times in the Barclays Premier League era and have won the title in two of those seasons (97-98 & 01-02).
- Robin van Persie has scored in the last four Barclays Premier League encounters between these two sides (two for each club).
- Arsenal are the only side to have scored in all 10 of their Barclays Premier League games this season.
- Wayne Rooney has scored 10 Barclays Premier League goals versus Arsenal; against no side has he netted more.
Player To Watch Out For
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
It is hard to look beyond Wayne Rooney in a match against Arsenal. The former Everton man has a wonderful record against the Gunners and has achieved some amazing milestones against them. The England international scored his first Premier League goal against them, stopped their famous unbeaten run and also scored his 100th Premier League goal against Arsenal back in 2010. He is also the joint holder of the record of number of goals scored by a single player against Arsenal in the league. It is fair to say that Arsenal will have to find a way to keep him quite in this game in order to harbour any hope of a positive result from this match. Rooney has undoubtedly been United’s most consistent player this season and has already scored five goals and provided three assists in eight starts in the league so far.
Manchester United 2-2 Arsenal
Arsenal have a poor record at the Old Trafford against Manchester United and they would want to change that in this game. Based on performances so far, Arsenal are certainly expected to get a positive result in this game. But Manchester United will be up for the occasion and in clashes like this, form goes out of the window. This will be a close game, but one which will have goals in it. Robin van Persie to score a later equaliser as both team will share the spoils in an entertaining fixture.