6 Things Manchester United Must Get Right to Beat Arsenal
Statistics don't lie and if past encounters are anything to go by, Arsenal should be a very worried team as they head to Old Trafford this weekend.
I don't expect a repeat of last season's 8-2 scoreline, but it did mark United's third consecutive win in the fixture.
In fact, United have only lost once in the last decade and with the form and fitness of key players certainly siding in the Red Devils' favour, it takes a brave man to predict anything other than a home win.
However, Arsenal are certainly no pushovers and showed what they're made of with a stunning comeback in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday at Reading.
The world will be watching as Robin van Persie lines up against the club that made him a star.
Will he come back to haunt Arsene Wenger? Sir Alex will be hoping Halloween extends for a little longer come 12: 45 p.m. on Saturday.
Here's six things United must get right if they are to win...
6) Be Disciplined
It's easy to say but difficult to do, especially in a game that has so many headlines surrounding it. I do think there is a mutual respect between the two sides, but that is not to say the game will not be aggressive.
United have had plenty of problems in the past, and Arsenal will be aware of certain players, including a Dutchman who will be feeling just a little anxious before the meeting.
Sometimes players can snap from nowhere—just a rogue comment here and there, an innocuous off-the-ball incident.
But Fergie will have his players well drilled and will not want to give the visitors any advantage whatsoever.
Hard but fair will be the emphasis, but the likes of Paul Scholes, who is one booking away from a suspension despite only completing two games this season, must keep his aggression under control.
5) Attack, Attack, Attack
United need to be aggressive and stamp their authority on the game from the first minute. To do that, they must use the pace they have down the flanks in Antonio Valencia and Ashely Young.
They have to dictate the tempo, especially with Arsenal playing 120 minutes of gruelling football in midweek. Yes, United did the same; however, only Rafael was used from the expected starting 11 that will take to the field on Saturday.
Theo Walcott will be running on low, as will Olivier Giroud, and with Gervinho ruled out, Wenger will be looking to these two along with Santi Cazorla to create the openings.
If United retain the ball well and get these guys chasing shadows, I really feel they will have a lot of joy in the second half against a tiring Arsenal team.
Also, there is the Arsenal full-back situation: Andre Santos has only just come into the team to replace Kieran Gibbs while Bacary Sagna played his first game of the season last weekend.
There is bound to be some rustiness, and I think United will get a lot of joy down the flanks.
4) David De Gea Must Stand Up
There have been rumours he is homesick, that he may be on the verge of a move to Real Madrid, that Anders Lindegaard is a better option—David de Gea must stand up and be counted.
It will be the most-watched soccer game in the world this weekend and for someone like the 21-year-old, it represents a time to shine in what has been an incredibly difficult start to his United career.
It was not his fault the price tag was so crazy; people forget this kid could only buy alcohol in the U.S. for the last 11 months.
The quality is there for all to see, but so are the mistakes and naivety. It's a blessing and a curse to be in the public eye, but the Spanish international will be richer for the experience.
Does his future lie at Old Trafford? Absolutely! And this is the type of game where a strong performance can bring renewed confidence and set a tone for the rest of the season.
3) Super-Subs Are a Real Weapon
There is nothing more deadly than a frustrated player who wants to prove a point to his manger.
The difference between the two teams could very well be the impact the subs make from the bench in the last 30 minutes, and in Hernandez, Nani and Danny Welbeck, United have three legitimate match winners.
Hernandez has only made one league start this season, a game in which he scored one and assisted the other. Magnificent in the Champions League last week, he is a man who just wants to be on that pitch.
Nani proved in midweek that he is still the player he was two years ago. With the emergence of Valencia and Young, Nani has had to take a backseat in proceedings after enduring an untimely dip in form.
However, the signs are there that the Portuguese international is getting back to his best with a series of positive attacking showings when given the opportunity.
He doesn't shy away from the ball; he wants as many touches as possible and isn't afraid to make mistakes. Managers love that, and Nani could have a huge part to play.
Danny Welbeck is still learning his trade, yet he would probably make the starting lineup in at least 17 other EPL clubs, including that of Arsenal. Stunning last season, he will be ready and willing when called upon.
2) Right-Hand Side Must Stand Firm
We all know about the attacking exploits of Rafael; he is without doubt one of the best attacking full-backs in the EPL. However, defensively there are still obvious flaws.
He has improved considerably already and will continue to do so. Fergie has liked what he has seen thus far and has given him an extended run in the side; however, there are still times where he is dire positionally.
What he does have to his advantage is searing pace that allows him to track back when caught out high up the pitch, plus he's playing at home.
But 120 minutes of football in midweek might have been a good thing to rein in the marauding runs of the Brazilian this weekend.
I'm sure he will be used, but Fergie would far rather have a tight back line and allow Valencia and Young to do their thing.
Sometimes Rafael gets a bad wrap, especially since Valencia isn't one to track back and help out on certain occasions. But with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones very close to returns, the Brazilian will be determined to be faultless...and he will need to be, especially with Lukas Podolski threatening in that area.
1) Van the Man Must Keep His Head in the Game
It's going to be a day of mixed emotions for the Dutch superstar but van Perise must keep his head in the game and do what he has been doing.
The temptation will be to try just that bit too hard and that's sometimes where frustration sets in and performances become too emotional.
Sir Alex says the 29-year-old should be given respect from the Arsenal players and fans but whether that happens is open to debate.
However he is playing within the sanctuary of Old Trafford, not at the Emirates so the cheers will obviously outnumber the boos on this occasion.
He doesn't need to do anything different, just let his ability speak for itself. Seven goals and four assists to date with the ominous early signs of a partnership with Wayne Rooney should be too much for Arsenal on this occasion.
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