Finally, the International Break is over and we can look forward to the Premier League and what a comeback it is going to be. Manchester United and Arsenal have shared a few famous rivalries over the years but things have mellowed down a bit for the past couple of years. Well, things seem to be different this time around though and it cannot get any better than this. As good as the “Pep vs Jose” build up was, Jose Mourinho reserves a special place in his heart for Arsene Wenger when it comes to rivalries.
With a new club and new team, Mourinho will be keen to keep up with his good record against Wenger. When you look at the things as they are right now, Arsenal are in a much better position, not just with respect to the league standings but also the team setup. Mourinho on the other hand is coming to this game on the back of a dominant footballing display, but against a hugely weakened Swansea City team. With a few players out of contention for this game, it is going to be interesting to see how the Portuguese manager sets up his Red Devils.
Starting XI Prediction:
With the players available at his disposal, it might be a 4-2-3-1 for United on Saturday.
Goalkeeper – David De Gea
The Spanish Dave had absolutely nothing to do in the first half of the last game but could not churn out a clean sheet. He will be facing much more incoming traffic against Arsenal and will be hoping to be at his best while handling it.
Defenders – Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind
This is probably United’s weakest defense on paper considering the ones in the squad. But injuries and a few other factors would mean that the manager would like to go ahead with the same back four, but for one. Young was excellent against Swansea when it came to defending but did not offer much going forward. With Antonio Valencia being sidelined due to injury, Young might be the one who will be trusted with the responsibility at right back, ahead of Matteo Darmian. Jones and Rojo did well but then the attack that they will face on Saturday will be much tougher than the one they faced a couple of weeks back. Blind, who was probably rested last game would be expected to take his left back role.
Midfield – Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera
One of the reasons why Jones and Rojo were so comfortable and did their job so well was the cushion they got from Carrick covering them. The United veteran has been exceptional whenever played this season and with the international break helping, Carrick might start, for the first time, two consecutive games this season. United will also receive a big boost with the return of Herrera to the team, who was sidelined in the last game due to his Red card against Burnley.
Wingers – Juan Mata, Anthony Martial
Mata has been another player who has been at his best this season. With all the talk about Mourinho wanting him gone, it was good to see the player stand up and deliver some outstanding performances. He was not exceptional against Swansea but did his bit. He is one of the few creative attackers in the team, in addition to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but considering the recent events it might be a long shot to expect Mkhitaryan to start. The left-wing might be occupied by Martial, who was snubbed by his national team. This will be a good and important opportunity for the Frenchman to impress the boss as he has been unable to do it so far this season.
Number 10 – Paul Pogba
Pogba is coming to terms with his life in Premier League. The performances are slowly getting there and so are the goals. He hasn’t scored a lot in the league but he is a midfielder and no one expects him to score 20+ goals in a season. Irrespective of the number of goals he is involved in, the former United academy player is growing in confidence and that is reflected in his performances on field. He seems to favor the role in the midfield when he has the game played in front of him but with Wayne Rooney a doubt for the game, he might be played in the number 10 role, where he has been deployed on a few occasions already.
Striker – Marcus Rashford
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic out of the game due to his five yellows so far in the season, Rashford will most probably be the one to lead the line against the Arsenal defense. He had a memorable league debut against this very team last season scoring a brace and would like to do something similar this time around too. With no Rooney and Ibrahimovic in the side the frontline is devoid of a lot of experience, with Mata being the only “senior” one. Hopefully the youngsters will hold their own and get United through.
With Arsenal leading United by six points, this can be the match that turns United’s season around. A win here will take them only a couple of points adrift from Arsenal and the fourth spot. Getting in the top four should be the first target for the team and then take it from there on. 19th November cannot come any sooner and Mourinho with his team will be waiting for it; and so are we!