Premier League fans eagerly await one of the most highly prolific matches in the country as Manchester United host Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday. This season’s second encounter between the two though, unlike many, is not a title decider. Not for one of the clubs at least as United are placed 5th, with a massive 12 point gap between them and the top. Arsenal on the other hand are just 2 points behind leaders Leicester City, but looking at recent history, they will be vary of calling themselves favorites yet.
While Arsenal will be disappointed with the 0-2 home defeat at hands of Barcelona, they will be hungry and desperate to put that loss behind them and beating United will do just that. United on the other hand will be looking to continue where they left off in the last game against Midtjylland, a game which saw them score 5 goals for the first time under Louis van Gaal.
Though Arsenal are the ones who usually suffer from injuries, United are by far the most affected of the two going into this tie with the Red Devils having a ridiculous injury list of 13 players, which will definitely work in Arsene Wenger’s favor. Here is United’s injury list:
|David de Gea||Knee||N/A|
|Cameron Borthwick-Jackson||Illness||February 22|
|Wayne Rooney||Knee||April 2|
|Adnan Januzaj||Hamstring||February 28|
|Guillermo Varela||Knock||February 28|
|Phil Jones||Knock||February 28|
|Marcos Rojo||Shoulder||March 6|
|Antonio Valencia||Ankle/foot||March 6|
|Luke Shaw||Broken leg||May|
Arsenal on the other hand have four injuries for this match, with Gabriel and Chamberlain missing out as well as Wilshere and Cazorla.
When the two sides met earlier this season, United were in form and on top of the table. But it was Arsene Wenger’s side who completely dismantled Louis van Gaal’s men at the Emirates. With Mesut Ozil and Alexis Shanchez in full flow, Arsenal won 3-0, with all the three goals coming inside first 20 minutes. And it won’t be surprising if we see something similar this weekend too, with Arsenal beating league leaders Leicester City in their last league match and United losing out to the 19th placed Sundrerland.
But a match like this is known for unpredictable results. And it would be a shame to see a Premier League classic failing to entertain football fans around the globe. Here, we take a look at the key players of both teams:
- Anthony Martial
The biggest positive this season for Manchester United has been, without a shadow of a doubt, Anthony Martial. The Frenchman has been very impressive and has been a live wire in attack for United. Playing almost every match, United fans will hope he doesn’t show signs of fatigue because in the absence of Wayne Rooney, he will have to lead the line.
- Juan Mata
The Spaniard who was once touted as the best midfielder in the league has been struggling for form in recent weeks. The ex-Chelsea man started the season brightly but has since struggled to make the kind of impact expected of him. But great players perform in big matches and Mata is nothing short of world class. And with no proper playmaker in the team other than him, his role will be vital in defining United’s success.
- Chris Smalling
Another of the very few positives of Manchester United’s shambolic season has been the transformation of Chris Smalling. With a reputation of being an irresponsible, mistake prone defender, he has been solid this season. And with a make shift centre back Daley Blind as his partner, Smalling will once again hold the responsibility of keeping the Arsenal attack at bay.
- Alexis Sanchez
With the kind of performance he produced against United last time these sides met, Louis van Gaal may even deploy two of his men to mark Alexis Sanchez. Yes, he was that good. Though the Chilean has been struggling for fitness, a player like him can do anything on his day. Watch out United!
- Mesut Ozil
“Ozil is incredible, he has a ton of assists,” Thierry Henry told Barca’s official website. “He is playing very, very, very well, as he used to at Madrid. After two very difficult seasons he’s doing very well.
“If you can stop Ozil, Arsenal are practically dead.”
Though speaking about the Barcelona tie, those words are enough to describe the impact that Ozil has on Arsenal, and he will without doubt be a major threat United need to be vary of, or else, it will be a repeat of the reverse fixture.
- Hector Bellerin
Anthony Martial is quick and likes to come inside from the left hand side. And Arsenal might have the best man to keep him at bay in Hector Bellerin. With one of the quickest players off the ball, Bellerin vs Martial should be an interesting battle, and Arsenal fans will be hoping that the right back will come out on top.
Though Arsenal are clear favourites, United have home advantage and they will be counting on the fact that Arsenal players will be fatigued after playing Barcelona in the mid-week.
A win is significant for both the teams. For United it will be a major boost for a turnaround and possibly for some hope to get a Champions League spot. On the other hand, a win for Arsenal will further strengthen their title challenge and might see them on top of the table depending on other results.
As Premier League fans, we hope it will be a classic, just like so many of these fixtures have turned out to be.
Pursuing Computer Science Engineering from Bangalore Institute of Technology. Avid sports fan, specially football. A lifelong United supporter.