Robin van Persie scores the winner against Arsenal at home last season in the league
You may not have Brian McClair kicking lumps out of Nigel Winterburn. You may not have Eric Cantona and Dennis Bergkamp’s genius. You may not have a snarling Sir Alex Ferguson confronting the much taller Arsene Wenger – but you do have Manchester United vs. Arsenal, if the FA Cup quarter final for a place at Wembley. Arsenal, the current holders, haven’t beaten United at Old Trafford since the 2006/07 season when Emmanuel Adebayor scored in the last five minutes of the game.
Wenger will be looking to get one over van Gaal, following the 2-1 defeat at The Emirates last November, with David De Gea playing a blinder yet again. United are missing Jonny Evans (suspended) and Robin van Persie, who still has an ankle injury following the defeat to Swansea City.
1) What’s your most memorable FA Cup match between the two sides?
I think it has to be the 1999 game we lost. It’s stained on my mind. Such a horrible match. So many horrendous historic consequences. Ultimately, one of the best FA Cup games of all time. Just a shame we lost and the circumstances that surrounded the game.
I’d say that the revenge game was the 2005 final. I’ve never seen an Arsenal side take such a massive battering and come away with a victory. Beautiful way to see Patrick Vieira the winning penalty. I remember filming it on an old Samsung phone. A great memory, but a horrible game.
2) Had Dennis Bergkamp scored that penalty in 99, would United have won the league and European Cup OR would Arsenal have taken the initiative?
I have no idea. We had a pretty powerful team back then, so anything was possible. One our worst traits under Wenger is the total collapse of confidence when something went against us. We could have marched on, but it wasn’t to be.
3) Ten months on from your FA Cup victory against Hull City – what has changed at the club and are the majority of fans still behind Arsene Wenger?
It’s a real mixed bag with Arsenal supporters. We’re not the most ambitious lot in general. I think Arsene Wenger does such a good job convincing us that we should be grateful for qualification into a trophy we never win, we’re all petrified of change.
The summer looked pretty good to start with, we did quite of bit of business early on, but, as usual, we didn’t complete the job. We didn’t sign a world class keeper and we didn’t sign the holding midfielder we needed and we went into the season with 2 centre backs.
The season started the same way it usually does, with a glut of injuries because the manager is pretty clueless when it comes to the fitness side of things. We lost all our major names at the start of the season, now we’re in March, we have them back and we’re making a charge for 2nd in the league. Point is, whether we finish 2nd or 4th, we were never in with a chance. Wenger can’t build a squad capable of a sustained challenge on the league of Champions League. Elite purgatory…
4) Mesut Ozil gets a fair bit if stick in the press (I even read a piece on the form of Sanchez since Ozil’s return) – is it justified?
There are two camps, there are the football purists who lap up every movement like a work of art, then there’s the pragmatists who see him as a bit of a passenger when he’s not moving forward. I think the reality is the truth sits somewhere in the middle. He really is sublime going forward. He’s effortless, smart and rarely wastes a touch. Defending, well, he’s not particularly interested which is a problem in the Premier League. He’s not been much of a big game player this season… it’ll be really interesting to see what he has in store for the game tonight.
5) Six months on – who has been the better signing; Welbeck or Falcao? Do you think United will sign him permanently?
I think Welbeck looks the better signing, mainly because there wasn’t a lot of expectation around him. WELBZ is what he is. A trier. An athlete. Potentially something quite special. Trouble is, his finishing is very unnatural and his end product can be quite dodgy. He has a big smile though, so we all love him.
Falcao? Well, he was the world class striker we thought you’d landed. I feel for him a bit, I don’t think LVG is getting the best out of him, I think the supply line us a bit shoddy and I don’t think he recovered properly from that injury. He looks quite old as well. I think I’d have spent that £300k a week a bit smarter. Bad move from LVG, though hindsight is a beautiful thing.
6) United have been labelled boring and slow this season under van Gaal – agree?
I think United have flattered to deceive this season. You’ve fluke through a lot of games and the team hasn’t really clicked. It’s clear that the players hate playing under the manager. I think LVG is a absolute fraud of a manager. He’s selfish, I think his ideas are dated and I think it’ll unravel in the final months of the season. The frustrating part about LVG is he seems to take the counter intuitive decision as some sort of power play. Choices don’t make sense on paper and they don’t work on the pitch, but he doesn’t change anything. Blaming the training pitches earlier in the season for his injury pile up kind of summed him up…
The worst thing for United would be taking a top 4 position, because then you’ll have another year of LVG.
7) What was going through your head during the 2005 FA Cup final? Did you think you’d get a hammering or confident Arsenal would hold on?
F*CK F*CK F*CK! Was about the jist of that game. It was so bad, in the end, I knew if we got through to extra time we’d take the trophy. It was a sweet win, but one I felt a little dirty about. Thing is, we’d be robbed against Liverpool a few seasons before, so I didn’t feel too sorry for you guys.
Sad part about the game is that was the beginning of the end of the invincible and the start of ‘project survive’ which gave us some pretty tumultuous years as we moved stadium. We’re now through the worst of that and we can finally start to compete with the biggest teams in the world.
8) If you could sign two non attacking players who would strengthen your first xi, who would they be?
I think I’d be putting in a big bid for Hugo Lloris at Spurs. An electric keeper with fantastic passing skills and world class reflexes. We’re so desperate for a keeper, we have Ospina, who isn’t the full ticket and we have Szecseny who just doesn’t have the right mentality to be a world class keeper.
I’d also sign Schneiderlin. He’s the missing part in our midfield jigsaw. Power, pace, energy with great passing and drive. I imagine United might look at him in the summer as well, but i’m hoping the lure of London will be enough to see him start at the Emirates next year.
9) Has Arsene Wenger got another league title in him – or is the reality, with the dominance of Chelsea and City, domestic cup success?
Wenger is a habitual man (watch for his subs on 70mins regardless of what’s happening on the pitch). He’s not an innovator anymore and he hasn’t really shown much in the way of ceding power to those below him. He sits in a bubble at Arsenal and he doesn’t have any pressure on him to change. For me, he’s not an elite manager anymore. I don’t think he has another title in him, because at the very highest level, he lacks in so many areas. His approach to match preparation lets him down. If you’re not a details freak, you’re going to struggle. If you’re not willing to adapt, I don’t think you can expect major trophies.
The hope is he can sustain our top four level for another 2 season, then he’ll pass the baton to someone who can take us to the next level.
10) What is your all time Arsenal xi under Arsene Wenger? Including three subs!
Lauren Adams Campbell Cashley
Freddie Thierry Pires