One of the most anticipated FA Cup ties of the fourth round comes our way on Friday night, when Premier League giants Arsenal and Manchester United lock horns.
Arsenal will welcome bitter rivals Manchester United to the Emirates Stadium on Friday night, for their FA Cup fourth round contest.
The Gunners made it to this stage after defeating lower league outfit Blackpool 0-3 in the previous round, courtesy of a double from youngster Joe Willock and an Alex Iwobi strike. Unai Emery’s men head into Friday’s game high on morale, after they defeated fellow London outfit Chelsea 2-0 at home in the Premier League last weekend.
Manchester United are also riding on a high, having picked up seven victories in seven matches since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed the interim manager last month. The Red Devils got the better of Championship side Reading in the third round and head into the game after beating Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 in the league last weekend.
Arsenal and Manchester United have already clashed once this season in the Premier League back in December, with the game ending in a 2-2 stalemate at Old Trafford. With the FA Cup offering the most realistic chance to end the season with silverware for either teams, Friday’s encounter at the Emirates promises to be a blockbuster.
Team News & Tactics
Former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck is a long-term absentee for Arsenal along with Rob Holding. The duo have now been joined by Hector Bellerin, after the Spaniard ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament against Chelsea.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is back in training, but is unlikely to be rushed back into action, while Konstantinos Mavropanos is expected to miss out too. Having fielded a much-changed side in the previous round, Emery is expected to go into Friday’s match with a strong starting XI.
Goalkeeping legend Petr Cech, who will be retiring at the end of the season, will start in goal ahead of Bernd Leno. With Bellerin ruled out, Ainsley Maitland-Niles could get a run out at right-back ahead of Stephan Lichtsteiner, while Sead Kolasinac is expected to keep Nacho Monreal out at left-back. Laurent Koscielny and Sokratis Papastathopoulos will man the heart of the defence.
Emery is likely to stick with the midfield diamond he used last time out against Chelsea, with Granit Xhaka starting at the base and Aaron Ramsey at the tip ahead of Mesut Ozil once again, while Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira line up in between.
Upfront, the partnership of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette is set to be retained against the Red Devils, meaning the goalscorers from the previous round, Iwobi and Willock, both miss out.
Probable Lineup (4-1-2-1-2): Cech; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Kolasinac; Xhaka; Torreira, Guendouzi; Ramsey; Lacazette, Aubameyang
The visitors will be without the services of defender Marcos Rojo and midfielder Marouane Fellaini as they recover from their injury problems. Chris Smalling has returned to training, but is unlikely to be involved on Friday. No. 1 goalkeeper David de Gea has not travelled to London with the rest of the squad.
With de Gea not part of the travelling party, Sergio Romero is expected to start in the cup tie. Luke Shaw has recovered from his illness and should replace Diogo Dalot at left-back. The rest of the defence should remain intact, with Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof and Phil Jones all likely to start.
No changes are expected in the middle of the park either from Solskjaer, with Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba all likely to feature from the get-go for Manchester United, meaning no place for the likes of Fred and Scott McTominay.
Upfront, Marcus Rashford has been in belligerent form and should spearhead the attack once again for Manchester United ahead of Romelu Lukaku, who started and scored in the last cup tie against Reading.
Jesse Lingard is likely to start out on the right wing on Friday night, but a change is on the cards on the left flank, with Alexis Sanchez set to get the nod against his former club in place of Anthony Martial.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Romero; Young, Lindelof, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Alexis
- There have been 14 previous FA Cup ties between Arsenal and Manchester United, eliminating each other seven times apiece (including final victories). Neither side have been knocked out by another more often in the competition’s history.
- Manchester United have won all seven matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, scoring 19 and conceding just four.
- The Gunners have gone on to win the FA Cup in the previous three seasons they’ve knocked out Manchester United – in 2002-03, 2004-05 and 2014-15.
- Manchester United have only lost one of their last 14 FA Cup fourth round ties, having been beaten by Liverpool in 2011-12.
- With nine goals and nine assists, Alexis Sanchez has been directly involved in 18 goals in 19 FA Cup appearances during his time at Arsenal and Manchester United.
Player to Watch
It was approximately an year ago that Manchester United secured the signing of the Chilean attacker from Arsenal amid much fanfare, in a deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan move the other way. A year later, it would be fair to say that things have hardly gone the way United and Alexis would have expected when they joined hands.
Since moving to Old Trafford, Sanchez, who earns a whopping £400,000-a-week, has netted just four goals in 32 appearances and has struggled to live up to the expectations that came with his signing last January.
Having found things extremely difficult under former manager Jose Mourinho, the 30-year-old is set to find a new lease on life under Solskjaer and Friday night’s match against Arsenal – his first return to the Emirates since joining United – offers him the perfect opportunity to finally kickstart his Manchester United career.
Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United
Arsenal will be beaming with confidence following their 2-0 win over Chelsea last weekend. They have had a mixed record against the rest of the big six clubs this term. While the Gunners have managed to hold Liverpool to a draw and beat Tottenham at home, they were also beaten by Spurs in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals at the Emirates, while Manchester City also defeated them.
Manchester United, on the other hand, are on a fine run of form, having picked up seven victories in a row under Solskjaer. The Norwegian has brought the feel-good factor back at the club and also showed his tactical nous in the league win over Tottenham earlier this month.
Both managers are expected to field a strong starting lineup on Friday night and there is very little to choose between the two teams currently. It promises to a tightly-contested match, but we, at The Hard Tackle, expect Manchester United to just about clinch it at the Emirates.