The odds, according to one well-known bookmaker, are a little short of 100/1 that Manchester United and Arsenal will share nine goals between them this weekend. Surely cheap at a half the price if the past week is anything to go by. Four goals down at half-time against Reading in the Capital One Cup, the Gunners roared back to score seven at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night. Outdone in the scoring stakes, perhaps, but never out-entertained, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was on the wrong end of a nine-goal thriller at Stamford Bridge in the same competition on Wednesday.
On this perfunctory evidence neither Manchester United, nor Arsenal, can defend; the recipe for fun at Old Trafford this weekend, if not always the highest quality.
Football isn’t as a simple as that, of course, and there is little doubt both sides will change personnel and outlook significantly ahead of this weekend’s Premier League fixture at Old Trafford. But there is also a truism in the analysis: these old rivals have defended far from optimally over the past week, even if Arsene Wenger’s side has become noticeably tighter at the back in the Premier League this season. Just six goals conceded in nine games attest to that.
By contrast, United’s recklessness in conceding twice against SC Braga, Stoke City and then seven in two games against Chelsea cannot be underestimated; this is a side not set up to restrict the opposition, with little to no support for an ever-changing back-four coming from the Reds’ open midfield.
Roy Keane, Nicky Butt and Nobby Stiles turn away now, there is nothing for you to see here.
Still, entertainment should be the watchword at Old Trafford for the early kick off against the north Londoners. That is the case even if fixtures against Wenger’s men have lost the edge of a decade ago, with Arsenal no longer in contention for major honours at home or abroad.
“Every game against Arsenal is always a big one,” insists Ferguson, despite Arsenal failing to secure silverware since 2005.
“Since I’ve come down here, it’s always the most important ‘derby’ game in the sense that both teams have always been challenging for the league. It won’t be different tomorrow.
Still, United begin the tie as favourites even if there is little chance of Ferguson’s side repeating last season’s 8-2 thrashing of the Gunners. Weakened by injury and a Champions League tie the previous week, Wenger’s men capitulated under a barrage of United pressure. Part of the incentive, says Ferguson, for Arsenal’s more physical presence this season.
“They’re stronger physically if you look at the make-up of their team now,” adds the 70-year-old.
“They are a solid team. Podolski, Giroud, all these players they have brought in are more physical types of player than they have had in the past.”
Yet, with a plethora of forwards in outstanding form, including nine-goal former Arsenal favourite Robin van Persie, there seems little chance of United drawing a blank at Old Trafford for the first time in 53 games. Indeed, with both van Persie and Wayne Rooney in outstanding shape there is unlikely to be room in the starting line-up for Javier Hernández, whose season burst into life with three goals in two matches against Chelsea this week.
“You’ve got to think of Chicharito’s form as well and I’m trying to think of all sorts of ways I can utilise the three of them together and Danny Welbeck of course,” adds Ferguson
“Chicharito is in terrific form. He is improving all the time. The key to Chicha’s form is the decent rest he’s had in the summer. It’s difficult to work out how to utilise three of them – we did it at Newcastle but we won’t be able to do in every game. Nonetheless, it’s a fantastic problem for me.”
Whatever the Mexican’s merits, the focus will largely be on van Persie, who faces his former club for the first time. The Dutchman scored 132 goals in 277 games for the Londoners over nine seasons, before departing in a £24 million deal last summer.
Having settled into life at Old Trafford with such ease, and with the player overcoming the ‘injury-prone’ tag of old, van Persie has already become central to United’s hopes this season. The Dutchman is set to start as United’s lone forward, with Rooney in a deeper role.
“Robin van Persie has a great quality in the fraction of a second that he understands where to go – you can talk and talk and talk, but defenders have to read that at the same time,” says former manager Wenger.
“His speed of analysing those little pockets around the box are absolutely exceptional. The team know him as well because they have played against him in training. But in the game it is a question of timing – how quickly will they read it as well as he reads it?”
Elsewhere, Anderson may only make the bench, despite impressing against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup. Ferguson, trusting to experience, is likely to revert to Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick in central midfield, with Tom Cleverley dropping to the bench. Ashley Young, Antonio Valenica and Nani will compete for two spots in Ferguson’s side, but Shinji Kagawa misses out through injury.
Chris Smalling is close to fitness, although not ready to return to the first team squad, while David de Gea should take over in goal from Anders Lindegaard.
Meanwhile, Wenger’s team arrives seeking to erase memories of last season’s traumatic defeat at Old Trafford, where the Londoners lost both the game and, at times, their dignity. Wenger is likely to call on newly fit Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna, although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain faces a fitness test on a knee injury. Gervinho and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny are definitely out.
“They say a pessimist is a well-informed optimist – on the day, I was badly informed,” admits a rueful Wenger of last season’s thrashing.
“There is an emotional aspect in a defeat like that, but the football aspect, as a manager, has no real meaning. There is no mathematical consequence. We lost a game, that is all. It was easy to explain. You feel humiliated but after that, the next game, when you win, you don’t focus on that.”
Yet, it is hard to imagine last season’s result not coming factoring into the game at some point, not least because of United’s penchant for beating the Gunners in recent seasons. Eight of the past 10 meetings between these sides have gone United’s way.
It is hard to foresee anything other than a continuation of the pattern on Saturday; then this has been a week of odds-busting scorelines.
Manchester United v Arsenal – Premier League, Old Trafford – Saturday 3 November 2012, 12.45pm
United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Scholes, Carrick; Valencia, Rooney, Young; van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Wootton, Büttner, Giggs, Powell, Anderson, Cleverley, Fletcher, Nani, Hernández, Welbeck.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Mannone; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermalen, Santos; Wilshere, Arteta; Ramsey, Carzola, Podolski; Giroud. Subs from: Martínez, Djourou, Jenkinson, Yennaris, Squillaci, Frimpong, Koscielny, Coquelin, Walcott, Arshavin, Chamakh.
Referee: M Dean
Assistants: S Ledger, A Garratt
Fourth Official: P Dowd
Head to Head
Last 10: United 8, Arsenal 1, Draw 1
Overall: United 96, Arsenal 78, Draw 46
- van Persie remains joint top Premier League goalscorer, with Newcastle’s Demba Ba, having netted seven goals in nine appearance this season;
- The Dutchman’s goals have come from 23 shots, with 48 per cent on target – just over 30 per cent of striker’s shots have resulted in goals this season;
- Hernández’ return to form has brought two goals in the Premier League this season, with four shots on target from seven attempts;
- The highlight of Arsenal’s uneventful fixture against QPR last week was the return of Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta’s goal;
- Arteta’s strike was his first in the Premier League this season – Arteta has taken just eight shots at goal, with four on target so far this season;
- In contrast, no other midfielder in the league has taken more shots on goal than Santi Carzola – the Spaniard’s 33 shots have brought two goals, with 58 per cent of attempts on target;
- Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey put in a shift of 6.86 miles against QPR, the second highest distance covered by an Arsenal player in a single game this season – after the Welshman’s 7.01 miles against Manchester City;
- Arsenal has the most frugal defence in the league, having conceded just six goals in nine games;
- Per Mertesacker has been at the heart of Arsenal’s improvement – the German has lost out on just one of the 13 tackles he has attempted, the best return of any player to attempt ten or more tackles this season.
63 thoughts on “Preview: United v Arsenal”
I highly doubt we’ll see another 8-2, but at the same time, it would take a pretty poor performance on United’s part not to come away with victory. Arsenal have improved from last season, no doubt about that, but this still isn’t a team good enough to truly challenge.
Gary Lineker says Robin van Persie did not board United team bus.
United to win 2-1.
dont think we’ll win
Probably end up 0-0.
Gary Lineker shags sheep.
“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”
First gear, piece of piss so far
What a ball from Wayne..
We’ve had chances…..Lets finish a few of them again
Have become quite cagey..arsenal focusing on defense still. 8-2 in their minds?
Cleverly made a mess of that.
Wenger gets up to pressure the ref for the Carrick-Wilshire challenge
United fans sing “Are you Saville in disguise?”
That’s the momentum swing Arsenal needed
Fuck… we better not lose this now.
Yu are right Alfie!! We needed that insurance of a second goal.
totally dominated the half had a few decent chances but still 1-0 and hard to see arse playing as poorly second half.
Time to let RVP take the pens
FFS Rooney fook off and let RVP take the pens. 2-0 and the game is likely done and dusted. We’ll regret that miss.
I actuallly think we look fairly comfortable. However, with our calamitous defense 1-0 Is never enough….
Rooney has now missed seven of his 20 Premier League penalties
Time for Van Persie to take em
Arsenal are a fancy Europa League team, quality on the ball but shite at the back
fucksake! its going to come back and bite us in the arse
Honestly where would we be without the class of RVP this season. Valencia’s miss was a shocker.
we really need that second, arse are starting to look like they can create chances here
fucking hell why didn’t tony V have a go straight for goal
This won’t finish 11 v 11
We really need to hold on to Nani because Val is being shite
finally. We could have easily had last years score
Evra, you little beauty…
Another headed goal from Evra in the box
Whos the alien in Anderson’s body? Playing really well!
I can see another sending off yet…
Carrick has been shit… take him off for Powell…
This is why we lost Pogba… 2-0 up at home with an extra man, and Ferguson won’t make a youth sub.
pogba now a regular at juve but not good enough for us? He must be worth £10M already- seems daft doesn’t it?
brilliant move by utd shame it was off.
We need to keep going here, make the extra man count and get a third.
Roo has been terrific
Thought Carrick did well today. Rafael was out of position a lot of times and Carrick did well to cover for him
every tackle seems to result in a bloody yellow
I thought he was good at intercepting balls, but his passing was poor.
ffs we never keep a clean sheet- de gea is rightly furious. Have they learnt nothing from losing on goal dif?
Thank god it took us 94 minute to screw up. But well played anyway. We never had to get out of 2nd gear. Anderson was fantastic when he came on.
I was off by one goal…but it was much more comfortable than I envisioned…
Beat Arsenal at a canter, really
How they have fallen
Obviously not. We should have hammered a poor Arsenal side, esp. after Wilshere got sent off. We were comfortable today but it wasn’t a great performance. Goal difference will once again be crucial.
True that. They were a proper side even 3-4 years ago. Now they’ve lost the plot completely…that was VERY comfortable for us even with all the glaring misses….
I’d be worried if I were a Gooners fan right now. RVP’s class saw them through last season but they just look weak without him.
I wonder if Anderson’s last 2 performances may have just moved him ahead of Cleverley in the pecking order. Also, Nani may have been handed a lifeline as AV hasn’t been at his best either.
Rooney was excellent in his job to deny Arteta and then contributed going forward. After watching Valencia when henisnoff form – like he was today – then you can see why Nani is upset. Get the ball and cross properly!! Then you are put in on goal so why not have a crack you halfwit!!
Anyway, I have to say that Evans was very good defensively. Am happy.
Ando has been dangerous going forward
Played some class through balls that normally only Giggs tries
Valencia had a good 1st half – terrorized Santos. Had a bad 2nd half. However dont think his lace is in threat by Nani quite yet. Although he had the excuse of being a late substitute, he just didnt show up in the game at all. Compare that to arshavin, who I dont really rate, yet he still was invovled in the Arsenal goal…
Agree that Ando was great when he came on….wish he can do that every week…
Rooney was great..involved in everything good. RVP is definitely signing of season based on evidence so far….
The commentators comments on Wilshere’s two yellow cards were ridiculous – pure bias for a popular young English lionheart.
For the first one Five Live made him out to be a frustrated genius. They spun it into a comparison with Gascoigne FFS. And for the second one the knobheads on my game stream made him out to be the victim – like he was the one who was fouled. Then they bemoaned the tragedy of the situation.
Truth is the cunt went onto the pitch with a bad attitude and generally acted like a wanker.
Worth saying after Chelsea last week, Rio again started a move for a goal – this time the pass to Valencia. Really hope Anderson can stay fit.
I’d be surprised if Chelsea + City both win today. Chelsea missing Mata and 2 CBs vs. Swansea away and WHU have looked pretty good at home.
Swansea are shit hot. Technically brilliant in the opposition half. We’ll do well to win there.
United top of the league
Swansea looks better than Liverpool…
All London teams have dropped points. Spurs lost to Wigan. Excellent.
Just need West Ham to get something against City.
From the BBC: We have just seen some action down on the pitch involving Roberto Mancini and James Milner, with the manager ushering his player away from the warm-up and down the tunnel. The rumour is that Gareth Barry is coming into the side at Milner’s expense. Intriguing.
These little narratives follow City around
Andesron has now played well twice in a row! Looks sharp, dare I say.
Arsenal are going to get better… they lost the leagues top scorer… that’s going to hurt… but their problem over the past couple years has been shipping goals… they’re trying to fix that problem, and it’s costing them going forward… they’ll work it out, and when they do, they’ll be a very good side again… they’ve got some crackin talent in midfield… not sure about Giroud though, he might have to be sent back for a refund.
Gotta be happy though… 6 points from the Renties and Arsenal… two of our toughest games out of the way, top of the table, and we’re starting to find form. Now we’ve got 5 winnable games before we meet the Bitters.
The Bitters just drew against West Ham too. A very nice weekend for us.
Awful game n all
City were shit and flat, and West Ham just whacked balls forward without any thought
I have lots of time for Arsenal since Vieira (whom I hated) left….my brother in law is a manic Arsenal fan so I often watch their games.
And yes they surely will get better. But even with some imagination and optimism, the current Arsenal side is no longer a proper title contender, no longer even a top 3 side..Even Many arsenal fans see that
I would argue this atrophy has started Maybe 4-5 years ago but really accelerated when Fabregas left. This is why RVP left…he doesnt see them winning anything…
Yesterday they hardly creatd any chances, didnt control the game like they would have a few years back, were very bad defensively and just lacked any ideas and creativity
But agree with you, we should be very happy. Even with all our problems we sit ontop of the league!
Anderson cane to United as one of the best attacking midfielders in Brazil but for some strange reason, SAF tried to make him a defensive midfielder and thats why his game has been hot and cold. But now SAF is allowing him to play his own game and so now you are beginning to see the real Anderson and how good he is in going forward.
But we also need to get Powell more involved in the starting line-up. I really thought at the beginning of the season that Arsenal would be a threat but Wenger may find himself out the door. We can win this league but we must strengthen the team in the weak areas in the January transfer window to keep ahead and to progress in the Champions league. Smalling is coming back but Vidic is just about done so we still need a quality and experienced cenre back. SAF says he’s looking for a defensive midfielder but we seemed to be linked with attacking midfielders, strikers and wingers so I don’t know whats really going on. What we don’t want is for United to become a one man team, everything Van Persie. Need to get Rooney back up front to partner Van Persie cause Rooney is a goalscorer. Play Kagawa or Nani behind the two strikers. You can rotate Kagawa and Nani in that position, with Rooney and Van Persie up front and Hernandez as first change sub to come on for one of the strikers.