5 Reasons Why Man Utd Should Still Be Favourites to Beat Arsenal
Let us travel back 12 months in time.
If you had grabbed an Arsenal fan by their stylish lapel and told them that they will sign the genius of Mesut Ozil, be the most lauded team in Europe and show the form from a past glorious generation, they would have looked at you through teary eyes.
If you had grasped the wrist of a United fan and told them that this was to be the end of the Sir Alex Ferguson era and Everton's David Moyes will be the man that will take you forward, that fan might have wept like an emotional nuclear bomb that just exploded.
Many things have changed in English football over these past few months. United are still the champions, but Arsenal are now the team to beat.
The belief in Moyes and his team is at an all-time low, with the press and bookies all but writing off the possibility of a back-to-back Premier League triumph. With Arsenal's impressive win against Dortmund this week, they go to Old Trafford as firm favorites looking to dent United's recently improving form.
However, should the London team be favourites at the home of the biggest club side in England?
Here are five reasons why they might just come undone.
The Genius of Adnan Januzaj
It feels so wrong to pin the hopes and dreams of one of the world's great clubs on the shoulders of one so young. However, Adnan Januzaj is no normal teenage footballer.
These are still early days in the potentially explosive career of the young man from Belgium. His performances this season have been a wonder to behold, as he ghosts past opponents with the swagger of a young Kaka.
United's pre-season tour may well have been the first glimpse of the player for many, but the more informed knew what was coming next from the boy. The expectations of a breakthrough this season were high and he has not failed to deliver so far.
Januzaj's great strength is his fearless attitude toward attacking football. He is uninhibited with the ball at his feet. He is direct, without being petulant or reckless. He can see a pass like he is a 32-year-old Brazilian who has been playing them his whole career.
If Moyes opts to play Shinji Kagawa or Ashley Young ahead of Nani, it is likely that Januzaj will be up against Kieran Gibbs on the right-hand side.
He might well give the young England international the fright of his life. It is unlikely that Januzaj will show him any mercy.
The Resurgence of Shinji Kagawa
It feels like we have been waiting for the Kagawa circus to roll into town for so long, full of its glorious rides and thrill-seeking moments. Well, we have waited over a year now and the false dawns have come in multiples.
After what seemed like a non-start from the Japanese international this season, finally there are signs that the former Dortmund starlet might be on the cusp of something good at United.
With his fitness now attained and some games under his belt, Shinji Kagawa is looking for his moment in a Manchester United shirt. What could be greater for him than to slay the team that just beat his former club in their German fortress?
Moyes seems to be working out what to do with Kagawa. Whereas Sir Alex Ferguson would stick the player wide on the left and hugging the touchline like a traditional winger, forcing him to cover Patrice Evra's runs, Moyes is allowing Kagawa to drift inside and have the freedom his game demands.
The work rate still needs to be there when defending, but offensively Kagawa is being afforded the space to create.
You can see Kagawa slowly edging towards a happy medium. He feels he can be involved without killing his instinct to attack. We all know that the player's best position is behind the striker, but with a fit and buoyant Wayne Rooney in the side, this simply will not happen.
However, he is now in a tactical scenario that lets him play his game, and that might be a disaster for an Arsenal team who will leave space in behind their midfield.
A Tactical Blueprint to Beat Arsene Wenger
Over the years, Sir Alex Ferguson had Arsene Wenger's number.
He found a way of taking Wenger's tactics and using them against him. The blueprint for Arsenal's passing football has never changed, from the glory days of The Invincibles right through these past eight seasons without a trophy to their name.
Ferguson abandoned his traditional 4-4-2 when setting up against Wenger and favoured a 4-3-3 that allowed his team to exploit Arsenal's biggest weakness—their paper-thin defence.
It is true to say that Arsenal's defensive record has greatly improved over the previous year, but given Per Mertesacker's lack of pace and Laurent Koscielny's regular habit of producing a rash tackle, United will feel their attacking talent can exploit this facet.
If Moyes uses the Ferguson playbook, he can flood Arsenal's midfield and cut the supply line off to Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey. With a predatory Robin van Persie playing as a lone striker, the likes of Rooney, Kagawa and Januzaj would be allowed to counterattack, exploiting Wenger's natural tactics of a high line.
As great as Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla are, tracking back is not in their skill set. The discipline of Mikel Arteta will be a key on the day for the North London club.
The Burgeoning Partnership of Rooney and Van Persie
It might seem like the most obvious of points highlighted here, but Rooney and Van Persie are finally finding some cohesion.
With their individual talents, they have never really shown they are a true partnership. However, there are signs this is changing. Last season, Van Persie was electrifying, leading United to a historic championship title in Sir Alex Ferguson's last year. United fans rejoiced, but Rooney sulked in the corner.
It seemed the Liverpudlian was on his way out of Old Trafford, with his thunder stolen by the amazing Dutch goal machine.
With Ferguson's departure, Wayne Rooney has been reborn. The smile is back and the swagger has been attained. Moyes has managed to motivate Rooney again by making him his primary footballer, even giving him the captain's armband on occasions. Rooney has thrived and his form has benefited.
In contrast, Van Persie has struggled with his general form after a handful of minor injuries. Nevertheless, with nine goals in 12 games, the alpha male in the United squad is starting to perform.
With Rooney joining from deep, the deadliest partnership in world football might be about to occur. If Moyes can find a way to continue this trend and allow his two best players to blend in a dynamic way, Arsenal may well be steamrolled in short time.
Lady Luck Smiling on David Moyes?
It is the one thing you need to be a winner.
The preparation is always there, the application is usually there, but the luck you need to win matches sometimes deserts you completely.
Moyes has had no luck so far as manager of Manchester United.
It was always going to be a hard start for the former Everton manager. The fixture list was cruel, and with key players having protracted early-season fitness, it was difficult to hit the ground running. I suspect Moyes always knew he would lose games early on, but now with it being the countdown to Christmas, points need to be won.
Arsenal have not faced any of the traditional top four yet and have cruised through their opening fixtures, as many predicted they would. The addition of Ozil and the extraordinary form of Ramsey have allowed Arsenal to play with confidence and style.
They passed their biggest test yet in Germany this week, but Lady Luck served them well. Dortmund were unable to convert on any of their 13 goalscoring opportunities or 26 crosses.
Arsenal had two shots on target and won the match.
United's luck needs to change soon, and there is a feeling this time might be just around the corner. As good as Arsenal have been this season, if the pendulum of luck swings from Wenger to Moyes, then Manchester United's season may well be kick-started into glorious action.