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Preview: Beating Arsenal is what we expect but it all depends on which Manchester United team turns up

Manchester United -v- Arsenal

Premier League

Old Trafford, Manchester

Wednesday 5 December 2018; KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Andre Marriner

Manchester United have had a tough time of late and it can only get tougher. On Wednesday evening, Jose Mourinho’s side will welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford. Fresh from a 2-2 draw with Southampton, which resulted in the sacking of Mark Hughes, United will need to find a way back from their troublesome time, aiming to get a result against the North London side, who themselves beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 in the North London derby on Sunday.

Arsenal are currently on a 12-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, 19 matches in all competitions this season. United are not in that kind of form, although they are unbeaten in their last three matches, drawing 0-0 with Crystal Palace, winning 1-0 against Young Boys and drawing 2-2 with Southampton. It could be the continuation of a tough week for Mourinho and his side, or it could be the start of something. Which is wishful thinking!

It has been reported that Mourinho suggested that Paul Pogba was a virus after his poor performance against Southampton with the Frenchman losing possession 25 times. There are supporters sticking up for the World Cup winner though, suggesting that it is all Mourinho’s fault. Player power is rife and that in itself brings supporters to stick by a certain player, which is starting to become incredulous. Pogba has also, reportedly, thrown it back at Mourinho, suggesting that his tactics are the cause of these problems.

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Pre-Match Thoughts: The Arsenal match could not come at a worse time. There is either going to be a show of power or another reason to start again!

This season, United are a terrible team. The defence is shocking, the midfield lacks the ability to take on the teams the club would have once overpowered and the attack seem incapable of stringing a pass together to cause problems to the opposition, and that is when the main striker does not trip over the ball. If this season was looked at by the It’ll be Alright on the Night team, they would have lots of material to show how football should not be played.

The tactics have been dull and archaic and not the way Manchester United should be playing. That is on the manager. However, the lack of respect from the players for the manager shows that this team feel they have the power to overcome such a manager, who on his day is a very successful one. Supporters have suggested that Mourinho is past it and has nothing left to take on the best with calls for a young and progressive manager to replace the Portuguese.

The players could have formed their own tactics which would allow them to express themselves. Surely going against the manager and winning, in style, would be better for the club that to hang another one out to dry. Some say all the players are against the manager. If that was right, why are they not doing their own thing and ignoring the manager? That suggests to me that one a few players are against the manager if it is that many. Therefore, if the board backs the manager, it could be them who leave first.

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Team News: Mourinho suggests that he has a selection challenge ahead of the Arsenal game. Is it Mourinho mind games though?

Manchester United have players out of action through injury and suspension. Victor Lindelof and Alexis Sanchez are ruled out for some time and Luke Shaw is to be assessed after hobbling off at Southampton on Saturday. There are also doubts over the fitness of Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian. Ashley Young is suspended for the match after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season on Saturday. United could have nine players missing for this match.

Arsenal manager Unai Emery will have players missing through injury and suspension with Granit Xhaka out through suspension. Danny Welbeck and Dinos Mavropanos are both definitely out of the game. However, Mesut Ozil, Nacho Monreal, and Laurent Koscielny all being assessed ahead of the match on Wednesday. Arsenal seems to have a capable squad which will ask some questions of this United side, who seem anything but united.

Speaking in his press conference, which was held on Tuesday morning, United manager Jose Mourinho, as reported by the official Manchester United website, said:

“We are going to be in difficulties again to build the team. We are again going to have to make adaptations and compensations to try to give some balance to the team. But then I believe we are again going to have the spirit to fight and to try to win the match.”

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Predicted Starting XI: Right now, you have to question whether Manchester United have a team, with injuries and incapable players all over the place

It would seem that Mourinho will have some problems to assemble a team capable to deal with the attacking threat of Arsenal. With Victor Lindelof on the sidelines already and seemingly joins by Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly, it leaves an unfit Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones as the experienced central defenders. Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian could be out of action too, leaving just one fullback fit to play, Diogo Dalot.

I think Luke Shaw will be fit for the match as there are not many options. However, if he is not fit, it is possible that Darmian could be fit enough to face Arsenal. Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo could occupy the central defensive area with Nemanja Matic in the holding midfield role, although he looks knackered right now, which could see Andreas Pereira, who I think could start in midfield, drop back a little further. Fred and Pogba could complete the midfield, with the Frenchman further forward.

In attack, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku, who suffered a late injury against Southampton could be preferred up top with Marcus Rashford seemingly injured. It could give United enough to try and take on this Arsenal side, however, the team would need to be united and give their opposition a go. United sit in seventh place in the league, which could change ahead of the match on Wednesday with four matches being played on Tuesday evening.

Match Prediction: A draw would be a lucky result for Manchester United but there is a big chance Arsenal will leave Old Trafford victorious

Manchester United have a long way to go before they can become that team capable of getting themselves back into the top four. Jose Mourinho said weeks ago that his side would be in the top for before the end of the year. Not it is the top six. United lack something most teams have this season and that is desire, ambition and capability. United seem devoid of desire, heavily lacking in ambition and they don’t seem to have the capability to do much, on or off the field. A lucky draw might be on the cards.

I would love United to pull it all together and get a shock victory over Arsenal. If that happened, would it really achieve much? I think Mourinho is unable to turn this poor run around but would like to be proven wrong. Sacking another manager would be bad for United as there is nobody out there who seems to want the job. Who would blame them. They would be working for club owners who only like one thing, money. Success in the boardroom is all that is needed as the team has been hung out to dry.

Manchester United 2-2 Arsenal

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