Manchester United will be aiming to get back to winning ways in the Premier League when they host arch-rivals Arsenal at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
Matchday 14 of the 2021/22 Premier League will come to a halt on Thursday with a blockbuster encounter at Old Trafford as bitter rivals Manchester United and Arsenal square off against each other in pursuit of a victory.
Manchester United have won just one of their last eight Premier League games and are without a victory in each of their last three, most recently playing out a 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Heading into the midweek round of fixtures, they were twelve points off the top of the table and five below fourth-placed West Ham United, with that gap likely to increase by the time they take the field on Thursday.
Michael Carrick will stay in charge for the Arsenal clash as newly-appointed interim manager Ralf Rangnick’s arrival has been slightly delayed by administrative issues. And the club legend will be hoping to lead the team to a much-needed win and put them back in contention for the Champions League qualifying spots.
On the other hand, Arsenal are just outside the top four and will be hoping to keep the pressure on West Ham United with another positive result in the midweek. The Gunners head into the contest against Old Trafford on the back of a comfortable 2-0 victory over Newcastle United, bouncing back quickly from the hammering that they had received from Liverpool a week before.
Mikel Arteta & co. will be hoping to build crucial momentum heading into a busy festive period with a victory over their eternal rivals as they look to solidify their position in the top six. The north Londoners had bagged a 1-0 win over the Red Devils in the corresponding fixture last season and will be gunning for a similar outcome on Thursday.
Ahead of this blockbuster encounter coming our way from Old Trafford, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 1, 2021
Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane continue to be sidelined with injuries, but Manchester United could welcome back Luke Shaw and Edinson Cavani to the roster when Arsenal come visiting. Captain Harry Maguire is back in contention after missing the Chelsea clash due to suspension.
Carrick has made a couple of huge calls in the last two games, dropping the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo, and might decide to keep Maguire on the bench on Thursday. Instead, he could stick with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly at the heart of the defence while Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Alex Telles continue as the full-backs, with Shaw likely to be eased back into action. David de Gea will continue to man the goal.
A diamond midfield formation was utilised in the draw against Chelsea, but we could see United revert to their usual 4-2-3-1 setup against Arsenal with Fred and Scott McTominay forming the double pivot while Nemanja Matic drops out of the lineup.
Despite an underwhelming display last time out, Bruno Fernandes ought to get the nod as the No. 10. Ronaldo should return to the lineup on Thursday night. Jadon Sancho, who has scored two goals in two games, should hold onto his spot in the starting XI, moving out to the right flank while Marcus Rashford starts on the left.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Bailly, Telles; McTominay, Fred; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is sweating over the fitness of Bukayo Saka, who came off injured against Newcastle. Given the quick turnaround between games, the England international might not be risked at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Sead Kolasinac and Granit Xhaka are ruled out.
The Gunners will set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation at Old Trafford and look to take the game to their hosts. Aaron Ramsdale, who has been in top form since joining Arsenal in the summer, is a certain starter in goal. No changes are expected in defence with Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes and Nuno Tavares all starting, which means Kieran Tierney will have to suffice with a place on the bench again.
Moving into the middle of the park, Albert Sambi Lokonga has established himself as a certain starter and will look to dictate play with his impressive range of distribution. He will have Thomas Partey for company in the pivot, with the Ghanaian tasked with disrupting the hosts’ rhythm and forcing turnovers.
With Saka likely to be held back, Gabriel Martinelli could get the nod on the right flank while Emile Smith Rowe continues out on the left. Along with Martin Odegaard, the duo will carry the creative threat for the visitors and look to engineer chances for the main striker and club captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tavares; Partey, Lokonga; Martinelli, Odegaard, Smith Rowe; Aubameyang
- Manchester United are without a victory in their last six Premier League games against Arsenal. They have never gone seven league games without a win against the Gunners before.
- Following their 1-0 win at Old Trafford last season, Arsenal are looking to win consecutive away league games against Manchester United for the first time since February 1979.
- Manchester United have won just once in eight Premier League matches (D2, L5). The tally of five points collected during this period is the Red Devils’ fewest over an eight-game spell since bagging just four points between December 1989 and February 1990.
- Arsenal have won seven of their past ten Premier League games (D2, L1).
- Manchester United have failed to keep a clean sheet in their previous 14 home games in all competitions.
Player to Watch
◎ Jadon Sancho under Ole Gunnar Solskjær: 14 games, 0 goals
◉ Jadon Sancho under Michael Carrick: 2 games, 2 goals
He's burst into life. 💥 pic.twitter.com/rkMelrjzLl
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 28, 2021
After a very slow start to life at Old Trafford following his high-profile transfer from Borussia Dortmund in the summer, Jadon Sancho is starting to show his true potential and quality. The England international has scored two vital goals in the last couple of matches for Manchester United, showcasing the impact that he can make once he gets going at full speed.
On Thursday, he will be coming up against Nuno Tavares, who can be suspect defensively, as was seen in the Gunners’ heavy defeat at the hands of Liverpool. Sancho has the pace and the ball-carrying ability to cause problems to the Portuguese full-back and could hold the key to Manchester United’s chances against Arsenal.
Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal
Manchester United have looked like a much more solid team over the last couple of matches than they did in the recent past. That, coupled with Arsenal’s goal-shy nature and the potential absence of Bukayo Saka, could point towards the Red Devils keeping things tight at the back again on Thursday.
However, Arsenal themselves have been hard to break down of late, barring the defeat to Liverpool last month. With the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford not performing at their best, the hosts might find it hard to create many opportunities either. As a result, The Hard Tackle predicts this encounter to end in a 1-1 draw, as United’s search for a Premier League victory continues.