Roy Keane vs. Patrick Vieira.
Ruud van Nistelrooy’s head vs. Martin Keown’s arm.
Sylvain Wiltord winning the league for Arsenal in Old Trafford.
Manchester United ending the Invincible’s 49-game unbeaten run.
THAT Henry goal!
THOSE eight United goals!
The Red Devils vs. the Gunners has given us a bit of everything down the years and this weekend has the potential to be a bit special once more.
There’s often talk of games being make or break, but for the red side of Manchester, this weekend’s match with Arsenal could set the tone for the remainder of their season.
Arsenal have dropped just two points in their last nine league games and are currently eight points clear of United, who sit eighth in the table.
The Gunners have silenced their doubters with each passing week and they will be flying high with confidence when they arrive at Old Trafford.
Gary Neville hit the nail on the head when he tweeted about Arsenal’s new-found resilience after their midweek victory over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
But one thing the Gunners have yet to do this season is come back from a goal down and win.
Now, it could be argued that’s because they keep taking the lead, but against Aston Villa on the opening day of the season, Chelsea in the Capital One Cup and Dortmund in the Champions League at the Emirates, they went down a goal and failed to respond.
If United can get them on the back foot from the off, then Arsenal’s resilience may be pushed to the max this Sunday.
Ray Parlour summed up the opinion of the majority of Arsenal fans when he tweeted:
Without stating the obvious, this Sunday’s game really could go either way.
Could Arsenal overrun United in the middle of the park? Yes.
Could Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey prove too creative for the static United midfield? Yes.
There are plenty of weaknesses in the United rearguard that the Gunners will be able to exploit, but here is why I think Manchester United will sneak the win.
One area of the pitch that Arsenal have yet to be challenged this season is out wide, and David Moyes has wingers at his disposal who could hurt Arsenal.
Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs have been relatively solid this season, but they’re not Dani Alves or Jordi Alba. They need protecting and so far this season they haven’t had much cover in front of them.
With Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain out injured, the North London outfit lack width. When they lose possession, the space in front of the wing-backs is left exposed, and Antonio Valencia on the right—and either Shinji Kagawa, Nani, Adnan Januzaj or Ashley Young on the left—have the pace and talent to exploit that space.
In Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Spurs in the North London derby, the space in this area was clearly evident, but their rivals failed to take advantage.
Valencia, and whoever lines up on the left, will be able to service both Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney up front. And when that pair get the ball in front of goal, there’s usually just one outcome.
If United can soak up Arsenal’s attacks and counter-attack efficiently, then they could come away with all three points.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-2 Arsenal
Robin van Persie
The Dutchman has rediscovered the form that lit up the Premier League last season.
In his previous three matches, van Persie has scored three and assisted two, but it’s been his touches and movement that have impressed the most.
If van Persie can get Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker—who, it must be said, looked immense midweek against Dortmund—out of their comfort zone, then he has the skills to go past them.
He will be gunning to make life difficult for his former teammates.
The majority of Arsenal’s good play this season has come through Ramsey. He really has looked a completely different player to the dispirited figure he cut last season.
He has scored eight in 14 appearances this season—per ESPN—and United will need to be wary of his threat going forward. The Welshman looks in complete control of the ball when in possession, and he has the ability to skip past players with his repertoire of skills.
United have struggled at times this season against attacking midfielders. They often leave too much of a space between the midfield and the back line, and this is the area Ramsey and Co. will look to exploit.
Giroud’s link-up play this season has been exquisite. He holds up the ball with ease under pressure, inviting his midfielders to get forward.
Whoever starts at the centre-back for United will need to be wary of limiting the Frenchman’s time on the ball.
He has seven goals and five assists for Arsenal this season—per ESPN—and if he gets time with the ball at his feet, he will find gaps.
Rooney and van Persie linked up well against Fulham, and if they can work in tandem once more this Sunday, then they will stretch Arsenal’s back four.
The Englishman has looked sharper and fitter this season, and his work rate has been second to none.
He has scored seven and assisted a further six goals in his 14 appearances for United this season—per ESPN.
If United do beat Arsenal on Sunday, then expect this man to be instrumental.