Ahead of Arsenal’s showdown at Old Trafford, there is only really one question on my mind – is it more embarrassing for Arsenal to lose to this United side, or for United to lose to this Arsenal one?
The Battle of Old Trafford, Pizzagate, and the ending of Arsenal’s unbeaten run are just three examples that instantly spring to mind when you think about this fixture. Manchester United v Arsenal or vice versa used to be a monster of a tie, sure to deliver fireworks, goals, top football, and plenty of controversy.
Now, as we await the two fallen giants stepping into the ring in the last fixture of the weekend – a Monday night match in a European week, no less – we wonder not who will shine but which side will turn out to be the bigger set of idiots.
A reasonable person would look at this current Manchester United side, beaten at home in recent seasons by such footballing heavyweights as Crystal Palace, Derby, and Cardiff and think it’s primed perfectly for Unai Emery’s men.
Even Spurs scored three without reply up there last season.
Since April, United have managed to win just five of their 17 games in all competitions
They’ve won four matches this season but one of those required penalties to get past Rochdale while another was a tight 1-0 over FC Astana in the Europa League.
Even Arsenal’s form isn’t that bad, winning five of their eight this season and, since the start of April, 11 of their 19 games.
But none of that really matters. Form here is irrelevant when Arsenal travel to Manchester.
Arsenal could be sailing clear at the top of the table with United heading for relegation and Gooners would still expect to lose at Old Trafford.
Because that’s what Arsenal do.
They haven’t won there in the league since 2006 and have just one win in all competitions at Old Trafford in their last 16 attempts, with four draws and 11 defeats, conceding 33 goals while scoring only 14.
When Sir Alex Ferguson went and the cracks first started to appear, Arsenal fans thought ‘this is the year’. But it wasn’t. Maybe the next? Nope. Nope. Nope.
Arsenal fans don’t wonder that anymore. They never expect it to be ‘their year’ when they go to Old Trafford because the result of thinking positively only to be humiliated by a side featuring eight defenders or similar is too painful.
On that basis, it should be more embarrassing for United to lose to an Arsenal side with no faith in itself ahead of this game. I mean, if you can’t even beat Arsenal, WTF are you?
But, on the flip side, for Arsenal to lose again to United when Unai Emery is supposed to be fixing things isn’t something they’ll want to shout about from the rafters.
It’s a long time since United and Arsenal battled it out at the top for the league. Now embedded in the Europa League spots, these two broken behemoths are playing more for pride on Monday than points. The fixture may no longer determine who is top dog in England, but it still matters enough. A win for Arsenal, however, will mean more to their fans than to United’s who expect it.
On that basis alone, it must surely be more embarrassing for United to lose than for Arsenal.
But, really, is there anything here for either side to be proud of at the minute?
This article was first written for Paddy Power.