An away trip to Old Trafford is never ideal straight after the international break, but Arsène Wenger’s side will travel to Manchester ahead of the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday with the belief that they can finally banish their hoodoo against José Mourinho.

Given the hosts’ inconsistent start to the league campaign, this represents Arsenal’s best opportunity to take all three points back to north London – something they haven’t done for 10 years. That in itself, is a depressing statistic to say the least, and although a lack of consistency has halted our title chances in previous seasons, you can only hope we don’t see the same again this time around.

Emmanuel Adebayor's goal was the one and only in a slender 1-0 victory at Old Trafford, back in September 2006. Since then, Arsenal haven't beaten United away from home in the league. (Picture source: The Independent)
Emmanuel Adebayor’s goal was the one and only in a slender 1-0 victory at Old Trafford, back in September 2006. Since then, Arsenal haven’t beaten United away from home in the league. (Picture source: The Independent)

Press conference

In the pre-match presser, Arsène Wenger issued a fitness update on a few key players, as well as discussing the team’s prospects ahead of another important fixture this weekend.

First choice right-back Hector Bellerín (ankle) is sidelined for four weeks, having sustained an injury after a “very strong tackle” by Danny Rose in the final few seconds of the north London derby against Tottenham before the break.

Santi Cazorla is described as “still out”, and isn’t yet out in training, which is a worrying sign for the Spaniard.

On who will start at right-back on Saturday, Wenger said: “The options are basically Jenkinson – because Debuchy will play his first game back on Friday with the under-23’s – and also Gabriel because he played a few times at left-back for Villarreal.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 25: Carl Jenkinson of Arsenal (R) is chased by Dominic Samuel of Reading (L) during the EFL Cup fourth round match between Arsenal and Reading at Emirates Stadium on October 25, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 25: Carl Jenkinson of Arsenal (R) is chased by Dominic Samuel of Reading (L) during the EFL Cup fourth round match between Arsenal and Reading at Emirates Stadium on October 25, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

One of the common themes in the presser was the Mourinho v Wenger rivalry, that continues to intensify on a regular basis ahead of meetings between the two managers.

When questioned about whether this is his best chance to beat a Mourinho side, Wenger replied: “You know, we didn’t always lose. We have beaten them [United] and there were many draws as well. I think I have won against every manager in the world during my 20 years here and I do not make of this game a competition between two managers.”

He elaborated, saying: “It’s between two clubs and two teams and I think I can understand that people want to create controversy, but it’s not that that makes the audience. What will make the audience is the quality of the game.”

Team news

Alexis Sánchez returned back to London on Thursday afternoon following his two-goal haul against Uruguay for Chile during their World Cup qualifier in midweek.

Chile's Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring against Uruguay during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football match in Santiago, on November 15, 2016. / AFP / Martin BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)
Chile’s Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring against Uruguay during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football match in Santiago, on November 15, 2016. (Picture source: AFP / Martin BERNETTI / Getty Images)

The talented forward, who was believed to have played through the pain barrier after sustaining a hamstring injury last week, is a doubt to start and complete the full 90 minutes but he’ll want to play regardless, as usual.

Other than that, the starting line-up is expected to be a similar one to that of previous weeks where Aaron Ramsey could potentially start on the right-hand side of midfield, ahead of Francis Coquelin and Granit Xhaka in a holding midfield base.

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Iwobi, Ramsey, Özil; Alexis.

The opposition

United stopped their winless run with a 3-1 away victory over Swansea just before the international break, and will be hoping to gradually continue their form as criticism of Mourinho continues to dominate headlines across England.

The Swans were generally poor on the afternoon and United will understandably be anticipating a tougher challenge this time around, especially given the recent history between the two sides.

Marouane Fellaini (calf), Antonio Valencia (arm), Eric Bailly (knee) are all absentees from United’s matchday squad, whilst Luke Shaw and Wayne Rooney are doubts but should start as expected on Saturday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is suspended, having picked up his 5th booking of the campaign against Bob Bradley’s side in south Wales, so Marcus Rashford could be in line for his 4th league start of the 2016/17 season.

Manchester United's Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C) and Manchester United's English midfielder Jesse Lingard applaud the fans following the English Premier League football match between Swansea City and Manchester United at The Liberty Stadium in Swansea, south Wales on November 6, 2016. Manchester United won the match 3-1. / AFP / GEOFF CADDICK / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)
Manchester United’s Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (C) and Manchester United’s English midfielder Jesse Lingard applaud the fans following the English Premier League football match between Swansea City and Manchester United at The Liberty Stadium in Swansea, south Wales on November 6, 2016. (Photo credit: Geoff Caddick / AFP / Getty Images)

Either way, Saturday’s fixture is set to be an intriguing watch but equally one that the visitors cannot afford to lose.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28: Marcus Rashford of Manchester United celebrates scoring his opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on February 28, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 28: Here’s to hoping we don’t see a repeat of this sort of thing come Saturday.. (Photo source: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Darmian, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Pogba; Mata, Martial, Rooney; Rashford.

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