Manchester United vs Arsenal – Match Preview

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arsenal

Turns out you can win things with kids…can it continue?

United host Arsenal early Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford with Arsenal strong favourites with the bookmakers. The price of 23/20 is the shortest they have been at Old Trafford in my lifetime, but it says more about the shortcomings of Manchester United rather than the quality of the Arsenal squad.

The injury hit Manchester United squad took another big blow in the pre match warm up on Thursday when Anthony Martial pulled out of the starting line-up when he felt tightness in his hamstring. What seemed like bad news at first was commended by Louis Van Gaal, saying he had prevented a long time out on the sidelines by removing himself from the situation before it was too late, preventing what he called a ‘muscle injury’.

The teenage French starlet was replaced in the side by U18 sensation Marcus Rashford. He scored a brace on his full first team debut to help secure progress in Europe and has staked a large claim to start against Arsenal, especially if Martial isn’t ready in time.

Thursday evening saw the Reds put 5 past the Danish minnows, which is the first time they have scored 5 in a competitive game under LVG, and while people may point to the opposition, there were clear positives from the performance. Riley and Varela at full back were sensational, while Memphis put in his best performance by far in a United shirt, almost reducing their right back to tears by his own admission. The last week was a big one for Louis Van Gaal, with him progressing in both cup competitions to keep the season alive and being rewarded with a massive draw against Liverpool in the Europa League. He will be very much hoping that he can carry this confidence in to Sunday’s game bringing a positive result.

Standing in their way is an Arsenal side with their best chance of winning the league in a decade. Ex United man Danny Wellbeck secured a last gasp winner against league leaders Leicester to close the gap and continue their title charge, the irony being it could well be a goal that contributes to Spurs winning the league. Well beaten in midweek by the best team in world football brought no shame and should have no bearing on confidence levels coming in to this game. In the corresponding fixture earlier this season at the Emirates, Arsenal completely dominated and killed the game off in the first half an hour, taking an early 3-0 lead and never let United in with a sniff.

Arsenal have injury problems of their own but have been aided by the return of Sanchez and Coquelin, both of which will be crucial if they are to get a result at Old Trafford. Their main man up top, Olivier Giroud is going through a goal drought, without a goal in eight games, but they do have goals from midfield, and in Mesut Ozil they have the most creative player in the league, who should cause trouble for United.

United themselves come in to the game confident. Everyone seems to be putting performance down to the opponents on Thursday and this team isn’t good enough to get a result against Arsenal. People have very short memories and forget that a team with a midfield of Anderson and Cleverley beat Arsenal 8-2 at Old Trafford not so long ago. The academy at Manchester United has been thriving for as long as can be remembered, and with the quality of people coming through I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get a result on Sunday.

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Tonight it has emerged that Timothy Fosu-Mensah was at the Lowry which is where the first team squad stay before a game, spreading speculation he will be in the squad tomorrow. This is long overdue, as it was with Rashford. Both got called up to the U21 squad from the U18s and have been stand-out players in both. He shows glimpses of a young Paul Pogba, a controlling presence in midfield, with both power and skill and I’d love to see him given a chance.

Form

Man Utd: WWLLDW
Arsenal: LDWWDW

Key players

Memphis Depay – After putting in the performance of his season on Thursday I expect his confidence to be high and for him to want to prove a point against league contenders.

Mesut Ozil – Even though he can go missing in certain games there is no doubting his quality and he can win any game in a matter of seconds, United can’t afford him time and space on the ball if they want to win this game.

Prediction: An open attacking game ending with the spoils shared, 2-2.

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