Arsenal travel to Old Trafford on Sunday looking to reproduce their FA Cup result there earlier this year.
With both teams fighting it out for the automatic Champions League spot, Arsneal still hold their own destiny in their own hands.
So what can we expect from United?
|Manager||Louis van Gaal|
|Home Ground||Old Trafford (76,212)|
|Record Signing||Angel Di Maria (£60m in 2014)|
|Ex Gunners||Robin Van Persie|
|Top Scorer||Wayne Rooney (14)|
|Top Assister||Angel Di Maria (11)|
|Most Yellow Cards||Marcos Rojo (8)|
|Star Player||David De Gea|
|Biggest Liability||Ashley Young|
Style of play
Since our FA Cup victory over the Red Devils back in early March, not a lot has changed. Louis Van Gaal continues to tinker with his team (especially with regard to penalty takers – one imagines Juan Mata will remain the incumbent after actually scoring one last week!). Their top scorer, top assister and player with the most yellow cards remain the same, with all three having added to their count.
However, a significant number of injuries make this one a little simpler one to call on team selection at least. The major question mark is whether van Gaal will recall Angel Di Maria to face us after his nightmare evening last time out. Falcao continues to make noises of discontent about his situation, which surely means Robin van Persie is nailed on to face his former club after missing the cup exit.
Coquelin was a critical reason for the success up at Old Trafford in that game, marshalling Fellaini with vim and vigour, and rendering his impact on the game minimal. He will need another excellent game on Sunday as Arsenal traditionally have something of a weakness for reacting to knock downs.
Without Fellaini’s height, United continue to rely on a combination of Rooney’s individualism and a crossing game. Valencia is a strong attacking option at right back, but Alexis must be licking his lips at the prospect of turning him inside out again. It will be interesting to see if Van Gaal attempts to use the Ecuadorian in the same role on Sunday. If so, I’m having a bet on Alexis for first goalscorer…
Winning this game is ultimately much more important to United than Arsenal, as the difference between finishing second and third is negligible compared to the difference between finishing third and fourth.
Whatever the result, Arsenal will continue to hold their destiny in their own hands, but it would be a much more comfortable ride if they come home with another three points this weekend.
Season so far
Louis Van Gaal arrived at Old Trafford at the start of this season off the back of a World Cup campaign with the Netherlands where he was hailed as a genius for subbing goalkeeper Tim Krul onto the pitch for a penalty shootout. Over time, his decisions have been a little less successful, and shown that moment to be something closer to luck.
United’s form at the start of the season was fairly abysmal, with an opening day loss to Swansea followed by two rather uninspiring draws with Sunderland and Burnley. In between those two games, a side which prides itself on walloping lower league opposition under Fergie was unceremoniously dumped out of the Capital One Cup in a 4-0 mailing by MK Dons.
Results have improved somewhat since, if not the performances, and despite various unfavourable comparisons with David Moyes’ achievements the previous season, they continue to pick up points despite playing terribly.
Six back-to-back wins between November and December did wonders to get the club back in and around the top four, and since the new year they have racked up wins against the three promoted teams as well as Sunderland and Newcastle. The same sort of teams they were dropping points to in their early season travails.
With no European football and the early League Cup exit, Arsenal took away United’s final hope of a trophy with the 2-1 victory at Old Trafford back in March. Since then, Van Gaal’s team have been the very definition of inconsistent through a tough looking run of fixtures, defeating Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City, but losing to Chelsea and Everton. Victories over Aston Villa and Crystal Palace, while inevitable, have taken them to the brink of securing their place in the top four.
With Liverpool sitting six points behind, and just two games remaining, it would take an implosion of epic proportions for United to lose Champions League football. The only real thing left for them to play for is to avoid the qualifier come August, so this is their equivalent of a cup final, and even then it will remain out of their hands.
A win for Arsenal on the other hand will confirm a minimum of third place for the Gunners, and ensure United’s final game of the season has nothing riding on it.
Arsenal’s last 5 results against Manchester United: DLDLW
|FA Cup||09/03/2015||(A)||W 2-1||Arsenal: Monreal (26) Welbeck (61)
Man Utd: Rooney (29)
|League||22/11/2014||(H)||L 1-2||Arsenal: Giroud (90)
Man Utd: Gibbs OG (56) Rooney (85)
|League||12/02/2014||(H)||D 0-0||Arsenal: –
Man Utd: –
|League||10/11/2013||(A)||L 0-1||Arsenal: –
Man Utd: Van Persie (27)
|League||28/04/2013||(H)||D 1-1||Arsenal: Walcott (2)
Man Utd: Van Persie (44 pen)
Record for Manchester United v Arsenal:
Overall record between the two clubs:
Head to Head:
Manchester United’s last 5 results: WWLWW
|League||Crystal Palace||(A)||W 2-1||Mata, Fellaini|
|League||West Brom||(H)||L 0-1||–|
|League||Man City||(H)||W 4-2||Young, Fellaini, Mata, Smalling|