There was a time, from around 1997-2004, that Sunday’s fixture was the most important clash in the country.
It was the title decider. This year both clubs are looking at the top spot again after a number of seasons which would have left fans disappointed, so what exactly lies in store?
The outcome of the game certainly won’t decide who wins the league, nor will the 90 minutes be as fiery as they once were. This season, the games between Arsenal and Manchester United will probably only decide which of the two teams can mount and sustain a title challenge.
Friday’s press conference from Arsène Wenger was unusual. The manager, insulted and appalled by the line of question, threatened to walk out. Once the focus was back on the game, he was his usual intelligent self.
“It is a special fixture because usually Man United are always fighting at the top,” Wenger said. “It has an even bigger meaning now because there are three points between the teams, and we play at home in a big game.”
The Frenchman also spoke about the title race, and how the league can’t be judged just yet with very little separating the teams near the top.
Sunday could paint a clearer picture, with Arsenal and Manchester United both playing for three crucial points.
Arsenal are without Laurent Koscielny after he suffered an injury in midweek. He joins Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini on the injury table with muscle issues, while Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck and Tomas Rosicky remain a long way from returning.
Petr Čech will be reinstated after David Ospina’s horror mistake against Olympiacos, and the ‘normal’ defence should start in front of him but with Gabriel in the place of Koscielny.
Aaron Ramsey is likely to play wide with Santi Cazorla pairing up with Francis Coquelin, while Theo Walcott will probably be selected ahead of Olivier Giroud again. The French striker was banned in midweek but will return to the squad on Sunday.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Ramsey, Özil, Alexis; Walcott.
Manchester United have won four in a row in all competitions and their last three in the Premier League; Sunday is no easy task.
The Red Devils have rediscovered their irritating ability to grind out a result without playing well, while the players are finally getting to grips with Louis van Gaal’s philosophies of keeping the ball and applying pressure without it. However, he is happy to pile the pressure on Arsenal instead of his own players.
“I think Arsenal are one of the best teams in the league, in a technical and tactical sense – maybe the best. I like the way they play,” the Dutchman told MUTV. Isn’t that nice?
Michael Carrick is available for selection again but Ander Herrera is doubtful. Plenty of eyes will be on young striker Anthony Martial, who has scored three goals and assisted another in three Premier League appearances since his big money move from AS Monaco.
Possible XI: De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Blind; Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger; Mata, Rooney, Depay; Martial.
You may have heard of the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign. All weekend, Premier League fans will be uniting to support the campaign and criticise the prices away fans are charged for tickets.
Twenty also happens to be the number of top flight titles Manchester United have won. They sit atop the Premier League heading into the weekend, three points clear of the Gunners.
Hopefully fans can send a message off the pitch before Arsenal send one on it on Sunday. We don’t want to see United winning the title again anytime soon. Twenty’s plenty.