Manchester United take on Arsenal tomorrow in a hotly anticipated match which is likely to be perceived as the acid test for the Gunners after a fabulous start to the season.
Arsenal have been the early pace setters having recovered from an opening day loss to Aston Villa to win eight of their last nine league games which has left them five points clear at the top and eight ahead of Manchester United.
Despite this , critics have pointed to a somewhat easy start to the season in the Premier League with Spurs the only other team in the top eight that Arsenal have faced in the so far.
Arsene Wenger’s side go into the game high on confidence after an impressive 1-0 win away against Borussia Dortmund that demonstrated their new-found defensive solidarity and Arsenal have been fabulous away from home since the turn of the year, winning 14 from their last 15 away from the Emirates. Meanwhile, United are unbeaten in eight in all competitions and come in to the encounter off the back of a 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad on Tuesday.
David Moyes remains hopeful over the availability of Michael Carrick, Jonny Evans and Rafael who were all absent against Sociedad but ruled out the prospect of a return for Danny Welbeck in his Friday press conference. Robin van Persie and October’s Player of the Month Adnan Januzaj, both rested in midweek, are likely to return to the starting XI.
Jack Wilshere is likely to be missing for the Gunners after sitting out their last two fixtures against Liverpool and Dortmund through injury. Wenger was more optimistic about Mathieu Flamini and Theo Walcott’s chances. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski are both likely to be absent from the squad.
United beat a below par Arsenal side 2-1 in the corresponding fixture last season and it took until stoppage time for Santi Cazorla to register his side’s first shot on target. The reverse fixture ended in a 1-1 draw with a Robin van Persie penalty against his former club cancelling out Theo Walcott’s early opener in a game in which United and van Persie received a guard of honour from the home side.
Wayne Rooney and Aaron Ramsey have both started the season in impressive fashion with the Welshman. Ramsey has scored 11 times in 17 appearances this season, a superb tally for a midfielder including two in his last two games, while Rooney has netted seven and assisted a further nine and relishes playing against Arsenal.
Tomorrow should be a tense encounter with both sides in good form prior to the contest. Arsenal’s vast array of midfield talent could cause problems for United’s often sub-par midfield with Phil Jones likely to be selected to beef up the engine room but with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney on the pitch, United are always a threat going forward so expect there to be goals.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal