Manchester United will host Arsenal in the FA Cup quarter finals.
It’s almost like I invited it, isn’t it?
In my “Five Moments that helped win Arsenal the FA Cup” I mentioned how often we seemed to have run into Manchester United in the FA Cup during the early years of the 21st century.
In fairness, bearing in mind this was a time when the two teams were the dominant ones in the country, it probably wasn’t that surprising.
Of course, since those days, we have made the trip to Manchester twice for FA Cup purposes, once in 2008 and once in 2011.
On both occasions, we have returned to London with our tails between our legs.
In 2008, Arsene tried to protect what was then a table topping side by sending out a “B” team in Manchester.
The move backfired spectacularly and we were drubbed 4-0 and it was the beginning of the end of that season.
Three years later, despite fielding seven defenders in his starting line up, Alex Ferguson masterminded a game which cast Arsenal as the very definition of “sterile domination“. We had all of the ball, United all of the goals and they won 2-0.
So, we hope this time will be different; a little less 2011 and a little more 2003.
The prize on offer is a return to Wembley and, for Arsenal, a chance to extend Manchester United’s trophyless run another year.
How long do you think that will last before anyone mentions it? I think it’d be nice to find out.
This time, I actually think we might.
Okay, if you asked most of the writers around here, they’d all tell you the same – we’re Arsenal, we expect to be able to beat almost anybody, okay- everybody – but I don’t look at this Manchester United team as one to be scared of.
How can we be scared of this team, when the truculent Dutchman doesn’t know what his best XI is?
So our record against them stinks. We all know that. We know that the three-metre diving prospect, Wayne Rooney, loves scoring goals against us.
But we also know that, for years, United’s gameplan has been to wait until we do something stupid and then pounce and, given the state their side is in right now, it’s not like they’re going to try anything different by blasting us off the Old Trafford pitch.
That really would be stupid.
But here’s the thing.
We’re not going to do anything stupid in this quarter-final match.
We’re just not.
I know, I can’t be certain of that.
However, I look at our squad and think that it’s in a much different place to where we were when we last met in the league.
For the first time in a long time, as Le Boss said at the weekend, we now have two quality players in each position. I don’t see these guys repeating the mistakes we made at our place.
In any case, as frustrating as that game was, the frustration was more to do with a superb first half display not getting the rewards it deserved (hard stare at Jack Wilshere here) than the boys not turning up.
I think it’s our time, I think we’re ready and I really do think that United will be scared of this Arsenal side.
When you think about trying to stop Alexis, that’s enough for anyone to worry about, but Alexis and Özil?
Alexis, Özil and Cazorla?
I could go on, but simply reciting the amount of quality players we have available to us might, I think, alienate you pretty quickly. I just believe that we will have too much for a United team who give every impression, despite the huge summer investment, of treading water.
Clearly, there is the obvious concern of having a referee making decisions based on the desires of 70,000 Surrey boys (sorry, I mean Mancunians) rather than the evidence of his own eyes but I reckon this Arsenal team has more than enough to overcome what we might call ‘Mike Riley Syndrome’.
The list of teams that have won at Old Trafford since our last victory there (we haven’t won there since our first season at the new stadium, for God’s sake) should be a source of embarrassment to everyone connected with Arsenal Football Club.
With Wembley beckoning, it’s time we ended that embarrassment.