Arsenal and Manchester United will clash this Sunday in the early kick off on another bumper weekend of Bank Holiday football. Over the years this match has provided some of the most memorable moments of the Premier League. Whether your memory jumps to Martin Keown jumping all over Ruud Van Nistelrooy after missing a penalty or to Roy Keane and Patrick Viera clashing in the tunnel before the game, it will remind you how exhiliarating this fixture has been in the past.
In this sense, Sunday will be a bit deflated as Arsenal are already out of the Premier League race but on the other hand, it will make this affair even more important to Arsenal. After a promising first half of the campaign many thought that Arsenal could end 6 year run without silverware but after crashing out of the FA Cup, the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League race within the space of 3 weeks, Arsenal now stare another empty year straight in the face. This, however, will only rile Arsenal and they will relish the chance of being a speedbump on United’s chase for a record 19th title. Patrice Evra noted this in an interview with ESPN Soccernet today and did not want complacency to damage United:
“You have to fear the wounded animal. It is all or nothing for Arsenal so that is a danger. They will want to show us they can still win the title.”
Going into the game, Manchester United will be overflowing with confidence. United are 9 points clear of Arsenal atop the table and the midweek game against Schalke brought the absolute best out of our team. I couldn’t believe I was watching the same team who had struggled in previous weeks against the likes of Blackpool. We absolutely dominated a Schalke team everybody, including me, believed posed a genuine attacking threat but our control and sublime composure throughout the whole 90 minutes gave United another chance to make a Champions League final. What happened the last time United walked out into the European final at Wembley? We came away with the European Cup after an extra time victory against Portugese outfit Benfica thanks to Bobby Charlton’s brace. United will be looking to continue their fine run of form that has seen them open up a 6 point gap over their closest rivals Chelsea.
The Danger Men
Without a shadow of a doubt Robin Van Persie poses the greatest threat to the United defence in this game. Having scored 16 goals in his last 16 appearances in what is his longest run without injury, he is showing the touch and class that a lot of us forgot he ever had. Something we can take solace in however is the form of the rest of the Arsenal team. Fabregas is showing more and more signs that he will hang up his Arsenal shirt and take the quick trip back home to the Nou Camp this summer and who can blame him? If he decided to take the train up North and plonk a seat in the Home changing room at Old Trafford, I know I would welcome him. Arsenal’s home record as well as the form of their players is proving its inconsistency having lost 3 times at home this season, with Everton being the only other team in the top 7 to have lost 3. Arsenal have managed to score more goals away from home as well this season, 36 away to 31 at home and the Emirates is not the fortress that Old Trafford is. A win is something that United have done here before and something we will be looking to do again on Sunday.
Who is United’s danger man on Sunday? With everyone coming into cracking form it is hard to give it to one player but I think Wayne Rooney will turn up on Sunday like he always seems to do in the big games for United. We have all seen the type of form and performances from Rooney that remind us why we were so hurt by his comments in October about United’s lack of ambition. To give Wayne credit, he must of changed his PR team as his press release in which he openly admitted his mistake at questioning United’s ambition was a sign of real maturity. All United fans are willing Wayne to continue his fine run of form and put to bed the doubts that he does have a loyalty to the club that has helped him so much.
Although I feel sorry for Dimitar Berbatov, I would not be able to drop Hernandez from the starting XI. He is a revelation. His running and movement throughout the game give Wayne Rooney a permanent target who is always avaliable for a pass and this has allowed Rooney to dictate more than ever the attacking game of United. Let’s hope that this game on Sunday will live up to its predecessors and provide United with a victory which will all but secure our 19th title. Come on the Reds!
Prediction: Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United