Manchester United: Picking a Starting XI to Beat Arsenal in Upcoming EPL Clash

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IINovember 1, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 28:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United celebrates scoring the second goal with Ashley Young during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on October 28, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester United will take on Premier League rivals Arsenal at Old Trafford Saturday—a match that surely will turn out to be just as big as it sounds.

The Red Devils picked up a controversial 3-2 victory over league leaders Chelsea last weekend to sit just one point behind them on the league ladder, but then lost an incredible 5-4 match against the Blues in the Capital One Cup during the week.

They know that victory could send them to the top of the table whilst a loss could see them fall a full win behind the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League—thus picking up three points at home is crucial for Sir Alex Ferguson's men.

Arsenal, too, had a high-scoring Capital One Cup match during the week—coming from 4-0 down against Reading to finish with a 7-5 victory in extra time. That result no doubt gave the Gunners plenty of confidence and self-belief that they will look to take to Old Trafford this weekend.

Two big-name clubs meeting in the Premier League always provides for excellent viewing, and considering that last time these two sides met in Manchester the result finished in a phenomenal 8-2 victory for the home side, who knows just what we should expect in this one.

Can the Red Devils get home against the North London club?

Let's take a look at a starting side that Manchester United could use to beat Arsenal this Saturday in the English Premier League.


Manchester Untied in the Capital One Cup

Before we have a look ahead, it's important that we take a look back at the starting side that United fielded Wednesday against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup—in particular, looking at the players who were rested from the match.

Sir Alex Ferguson obviously understands the significance of their upcoming match against the Gunners and would have specifically rested players in light of his side's next fixture. 

According to WhoScored, United lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation without several of their big-name players, including David de Gea, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

And whilst not all may make the Red Devils' starting side this weekend, the large majority of that group will, having been given time off to properly recuperate.


What formation will Manchester United use against Arsenal?

As we try to piece together what starting side United will use against the North London Gunners, we must also first consider what formation Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to use against Arsene Wenger's 4-2-3-1 formation that he will most probably employ.

United have had great success this season in the 4-1-2-1-2 or "midfield diamond" formation this season, but this seems unlikely to be repeated again here due to the injury to Shinji Kagawa and the fact that Javier Hernandez played the full 120 minutes against Chelsea.

What we could see is the 4-2-3-1 formation that being used more and more in the Europe these days—particularly in England, Germany and Spain.

Sir Alex Ferguson has used it at United seven times in the Premier League so far this year (according to WhoScored)—winning six of the seven fixtures in which it was employed—and I think we're likely to see it again against Arsenal.

It allows them good attacking options throughout the middle of the pitch, keeps their width and allows their world-class wingers good space to attack—all without sacrificing anything in terms of defensive midfield and bringing the ball out of their back four.


Predicting a starting XI in the 4-2-3-1 formation

The inclusion of Lindegaard midweek lends itself to the suggest that David de Gea will assume the goalkeeper responsibilities in this one—particularly given the fact that the Danish international Lindegaard just had five goals put past him by Chelsea.

I'd also expect the Red Devils back four to remain the same as it has done since the injury to captain Nemanja Vidic, with Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand and Rafael da Silva taking up their posts in United's defense.

There is talk that Chris Smalling has completely recovered from his injury and could be available for selection for this match, which does provide an interesting option—particularly for Rafael da Silva, who hasn't really had any sort of time off this season.

The Brazilian youngster could make way for Smalling, who could be paired with Evans in the middle of the pitch, but I can't see Sir Alex Ferguson rushing back an injured player like Smalling for a match with the significance of playing Arsenal at Old Trafford.

It seems more likely that this will happen during the week when United take on Sporting Braga in the UEFA Champions League.

As far as the two holding midfielders in the middle for the Red Devils, don't expect Ferguson to throw too many curveballs here. Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick have been a good combination and should start for the Red Devils in this one.

Again, there is probably an argument to be made for the inclusion of Paul Scholes given the lack of playing time given to the veteran midfielder, but I'm not sure that Scholes is what United want in a big-game situation like this one where there is bound to be plenty of attacking prowess.

Arsenal have the likes of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Lukas Podolski in their starting side—plenty of attacking options on hand—and United need to focus on shutting them down early, which is something that Cleverley does better than Scholes to an extent.

He isn't going to give away the big foul or rash tackle that Scholes could, particularly against the slick dribblers that exist in the Gunners' squad.

Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia should both start and probably both receive 90 minutes here, with their only real threats having played 120 minutes in the Red Devils' recent Capital One Cup clash with Chelsea.

Nani has already been heavily reprimanded by Ferguson, so I can't see him starting ahead of two international players and world-class wingers.

Wayne Rooney is my pick here to play in the attacking midfielder or playmaker role known as a trequartista due to the injury to Shinji Kagawa. The England international has superb creative skills and has the proven attacking success to cause havoc for Arsenal's defense given the depth of talent that will be around him on the pitch.

And up front, there can be no other player by Robin van Persie.

The former Arsenal striker will be playing his former club for the first time since he walked out on them for United over the summer transfer window and no doubt be ready to show them why he left for Old Trafford instead of remaining at the Emirates.

Van Persie has netted seven goals through his Premier League career at United so far and has been arguably the best striker in the league; Sir Alex Ferguson would be an absolute fool not to play the Dutch international at the top of United's attack in this one.

And seeing we know he isn't, expect van Persie to start and to be the best attacking weapon for Manchester United against Arsenal this weekend.


Who do you think will start for Manchester United vs. Arsenal?

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