Manchester United host Arsenal at Old Trafford for the 187th league meeting between the two clubs. United come into this game following a league win and a league cup defeat to Chelsea, whilst Arsenal beat QPR last Saturday 1-0 and came back from 4-0 down to win an epic cup tie midweek against Reading. Robin van Persie will lineup for the first time against his old club, whilst the North Londoners will want to try and avenge the 8-2 defeat from last season. We welcome comments from both sets of fans.
A view from the opposition
First up, we spoke to Mark, an Arsenal season ticket holder who has been attending games at Highbury/The Emirates for over eighteen years. You can follow Mark on Twitter – Gilberto82
Arsenal’s season so far. How would you sum it up?
Uninspiring. Cazorla has looked fantastic and Mertesacker has looked a different player but we’re still carrying too many passengers. Andre Santos, Gervinho, Aaron Ramsey and Vito Mannone have all failed to impress and many fans question whether they are good enough for Arsenal. Then throw in the fact we still have Squilaci, Djourou, Chamakh, Bendtner and Denilson on huge salaries, and you can see the frustration. Arsenal have been really poor against Norwich and Schalke and were dire against QPR – we were lucky to get the win there. The Reading match, although really exciting, was a dismal affair when you consider we were 4-0 down to a team we should be comfortably dispatching. I could not get too excited by the fact we ended up winning 7-5. How bad are Reading when Chamakh can score two?!!
What are your expectations for the season?
A League Cup final appearance, hopefully a decent run in the FA Cup, quarter final of the Champions League and fourth in the Premier League.
What do you make of Arsenal’s new signings this season?
Giroud – needs more time. Great in the air, no pace but must be judged at end of the season. Header v Reading shows the threat he poses. Offers something different to what we have. Cazorla – every bit as good as Mata and Hazard. A snip at £12m. A total footballer. Podolski: Excellent workrate, good in one-on-one situations, would love to see him played up front rather than on the left of a three.
Any thoughts on how Robin van Persie has started at United?
Superb. But that’s what you get for £20m. He is an unbelievable player and with Rooney deployed in the Scholes role, the attacking threat of United is frightening.
Is Wenger still the right man to lead Arsenal forward? Does he need to win a trophy soon?
Yes he is. He has transformed the club and who else is out there, available and better than him to take over. Anyone who says Guardiola is a clown. He would never join Arsenal. We’re not big enough for him at the moment.
How do you think Arsenal will line up on Saturday?
4-3-3 with Mannone/Szczesny (if fit), Sagna, Santos, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Arteta, Wilshere, Cazorla, Walcott, Podolski and Giroud.
Who is the greatest ever Arsenal player you’ve seen?
Dennis Bergkamp. Made Wright, Anelka and Henry look even better than they were. Could play with anybody, had peerless technical ability, excellent vision, an eye for the great and simple goals and fighting spirit.
Which United player would you take and why?
Robin van Persie. We know he already fits into our system!!
Lastly, after the 8-2 defeat last season, what will the score be at the final whistle?
I think United will win by at least a couple of goals. We’re not playing well at all at present.
Manchester United lineup
Sir Alex Ferguson has demonstrated in his match selection how flexible United can be, switching from a diamond to a 4-4-2 against Braga, whilst starting with width in the Chelsea league win and then a 4-3-3 against the same opposition in the league cup. Sir Alex switched to a 4-3-3 formation in 2005 when playing Arsenal, restricting them to wide areas whilst operating deeper and hitting them on the break. The most glorious moment coming in the semi-final of the 2009 Champions League when Ronaldo scored a goal seven seconds after Arsenal had a corner.
Last season, Sir Alex opted to field a 4-4-1-1 – with Wayne Rooney operating off of Danny Welbeck. I believe Sir Alex will look to the same formation, but with Rooney off of Robin van Persie:
Valencia will no doubt look to push Andre Santos back, as he did so well against Ashley Cole on Sunday. The Brazilian will most probably have the experienced Podolski in front of him, to provide cover – however, it is Arsenal’s left hand side that United will look to exploit. Theo Walcott could lineup on the right hand side to take on Evra, who does struggle sometimes against players, like Aaron Lennon, with blistering pace.
Summer signing Santi Cazorla is without doubt the biggest danger to United, backed up by Arteta and the exceptionally talented Jack Wilshere. Carrick will operate the deepest, whilst Cleverley will look to put pressure on Carzola. Wayne Rooney will drop deep to try and influence play and, when out of possession, press the two deeper midfielders.
United’s bench will most probably consist of the in form Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Paul Scholes, Anderson – who was exceptional midweek – Anders Lindegaard, Giggs and a pick between Wooten (who, despite his mistakes midweek, was on the bench against Stoke City), Nani and Powell. Ferguson may take a gamble, as he did against Chelsea last Sunday, and not have any defensive cover. Arsenal are without Gervinho, who has an ankle injury.
Manchester United and Arsenal: previous, facts and potential outcome
Ten years ago, United and Arsenal were the two best teams in England. Arsenal were league champions, having beaten United at Old Trafford the previous May to win the title, and United were persistent challengers. The North Londoners imploded towards the end of the 2002/03 campaign, having squandered a two goal advantage against Bolton Wanders to draw 2-2, whilst United kept winning games to be crowned champions. Arsenal then went unbeaten the next season (2003/04), which would be the club’s last league Championship. United ended Arsenal’s unbeaten record in 2004/05, which was shrouded in controversy following a Wayne Rooney penalty, which many Arsenal fans felt should not have been given.
The 4-2 victory at Highbury in the February of 2005 was an exceptional performance and quite possibly, my favourite match against Arsenal over the years. There may not have been a sublime Lee Sharpe hattrick, nor a Cantona freekick or even a mazy Ryan Giggs dribble and goal – but the quality of football on show was different class and of course, there was that famous tunnel feud between Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira. Arsenal got their revenge, winning the 2005 FA Cup final against United on penalties in an extremely one sided affair where the holders were extremely wasteful in front of goal.
Since that 2005 final, the two clubs have met eighteen times. Arsenal have won four of the fixtures and United eleven. At Old Trafford, Arsenal last won in the September of 2006, when Emmanuel Adebayor scored a late winner. Arsenal did score two goals in the 8-2 defeat last season, but you’d have to go back to the February of 2003 in the FA Cup for the last time the Gunners hit more than a single goal. In the league, you’d have to go back to 1984-85 when Arsenal registerred two goals in a 4-2 defeat and the last time they won a match scoring more than a single goal was back in February 1979! So sense that the first goal in this game will be crucial.
Many have suggested that following the twenty one goals involved in the League Cup ties midweek, we’re in for a high scoring game. There is no doubt that United have been the better side against Arsenal in recent meetings, however there will be no repeat of the high scoring game from last season. United are the league’s top scorers with 24 goals, whilst Arsenal can boast the stingiest defence – only conceding six goals. United have let seven goals in at home and have fallen behind in most fixtures this season, only to bounce back. Sir Alex will be looking for a quick start and put pressure on Arsenal from the start, rather than a more cautious approach.
Prediction: 2-0 United win.