Two of the Premier League’s biggest sides renew their rivalry on Sunday as Manchester United play host to Arsenal in another top four clash. Tickets to Arsenal’s away games are rarely in high demand at this stage of the season with little left to play for, but this is Old Trafford and you will need to move quickly if you still want to secure a visit.
Victory for Arsenal would wrap up a top three finish, a draw would likely be enough, and even if the Gunners lose they’re still in command of their own destiny. Three points would also put them level with Manchester City, battling for the runners-up spot.
Opponents Manchester United were able to end their three-game losing streak by taking three points away from Selhurst Park last Saturday. Victory pretty much ensures Louis van Gaal’s side have qualified for UEFA Champions League football next season.
However, they were not convincing in beating Crystal Palace and have not looked convincing at all in recent weeks. In fact, they had gone over five hours without a goal before Juan Mata converted a soft penalty in southeast London.
Marouane Fellaini’s winner came courtesy of some bad goalkeeping and defending by three Crystal Palace players trying to cut off Ashley Young’s cross. Arsenal have been defending much better than that of late.
Opponent’s Form: WLLLW
Louis van Gaal has done what has been asked of him in bringing Champions League football back to Old Trafford. At least in terms of a qualification place. The Red Devils have looked anything but dominant this season though and a number of fans have been underwhelmed by more than their fair share of performances.
Defensively, David de Gea has won United numerous points alone. The Spaniard has failed to keep a clean sheet in any of his last seven games though, conceding 10 goals during that run. Marcos Rojo and Michael Carrick’s absentees are a huge loss for this weekend’s game, whilst Antonio Valencia playing at right-back has been one of their weak points this season.
In attack, Ashley Young had a hand in both goals last weekend, but despite putting in some good performances down the left wing last weekend, he has rarely been amongst the goals this season. On the right, Juan Mata’s form has dipped over recent weeks, as if the summer break is already on his mind. Robin van Persie could return to face his former club, but hasn’t played much at all of late due to injury.
Michael Carrick (injured)
Marcos Rojo (doubt)
Mathieu Debuchy (doubt)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (injured)
Louis van Gaal has the same back four that faced Crystal Palace last weekend. They were only breached by a deflected free kick from Jason Puncheon. They did rely on David de Gea to make a wonder save to deny a late Glenn Murray strike. Michael Carrick’s absence in front of the back four will be a massive blow for United once again as Daley Blind doesn’t look half the player right now, but we can’t see anyone else sitting in front of the defence. The same wingers continue, whilst we see Wayne Rooney dropping back into midfield at the expense of Ander Herrera. Robin van Persie has scored in this fixture for each of the last three seasons.
It’s hard to see Arsène Wenger make any changes from the same team he has put out for the past five games now. Possible inclusions would be either Danny Welbeck or Theo Walcott getting a start down the right wing, or Jack Wilshere getting a start after his lively return on Monday. Can’t see a reason for the manager to drop either Santi Cazorla or Francis Coquelin though. Rotations should take place in the final two games after this one, ahead of the FA Cup final at the end of the month.
Mesut Özil: Antonio Valencia is the obvious weakness for Manchester United, having to face Arsenal’s player of the season in Alexis Sánchez as the left winger, but Arsenal have the opportunity to control this game in the middle of the park. As the number 10, Mesut Özil should be marked by Daley Blind. United’s performances haven’t been great when the Dutch international plays the holding midfield role. He slows the game down, doesn’t get stuck in with the challenges as much as his opposite number, Francis Coquelin. And he does go missing from his position at times. That means the German World Cup winner, supported by Santi Cazorla, should be looking to be the key players for the Gunners on Sunday. They really have the ability to win this match for the visitors, provided Wayne Rooney doesn’t put in a man of the match performance running around in midfield.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal
We know about Arsenal’s poor record of late versus Manchester United, but March’s victory at Old Trafford in the FA Cup could be a turning point for Wenger’s men. The North London club are in much the better form of these two sides, with performances to match. We expect Wenger’s men to win the midfield battle in this match and use that as the catalyst in picking up all three points.