Manchester United will come up against Unai Emery’s Arsenal at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Monday evening. This is a much-awaited clash but one which surely has a lack of confidence with United in poor form this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will need to have fight, desire, determination and a way of finding goals.
Since the opening match of the season where United beat Chelsea 4-0, Solskjaer’s side has not looked like scoring a second goal in any match they have played since. In the Premier League, they have kept clean sheets in the Chelsea match and a match against Leicester City a fortnight ago. This is not going to be great reading.
Solskjaer’s side has lost twice in the league, once against Crystal Palace and last week against West Ham. Then there are two 1-1 draws against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Southampton. United recently beat Astana 1-0 in the UEFA Europa League, drawing 1-1 with Rochdale in the Carabao Cup, winning 5-3 on penalties.
Talking about penalties, United have been awarded three in the league this season, two were scored by Marcus Rashford (Chelsea and Leicester City), two
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The Spanish goalkeeper was rested during the week in order to be fresh for this clash against Arsenal in the Premier League. It would seem that De Gea will play in the Premier League and Sergio Romero will play in both the UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup, which will be good for both players across the season, which will be tough.
De Gea conceded two goals in his last match, the 2-0 defeat to West Ham United, however, in the match before that one, he kept a clean sheet at home in the 1-0 victory over Leicester City. United will need to be at their best ahead of this game, which could help put them back into the thick of things in the top half of the table.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Axel Tuanzebe, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams
Injuries to Luke Shaw and Phil Jones will keep them out of this match. However, with Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Axel Tuanzebe all fit, the pressure is off in defence, for once. I would expect Tuanzebe to keep his place after his performance in the Carabao Cup, partnering Maguire in the centre of defence. Lindelof could be on the bench.
Wan-Bissaka will keep his place as the right-back and Brandon Williams should be given the chance to carve a name for himself in the left-back position. He did well against Rochdale on Wednesday after replacing Jones at half time with Marcis Rojo moving in from the left-back position into the centre of defence. United have some talented youth in the squad.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Fred
As Paul Pogba looks unlikely to be fit for this match after suffering from a swollen ankle after the Rochdale match, United will be back to using two of the other three central midfielders against Arsenal. Scott McTominay will win back his place after being rested during the week and Fred could partner him, although I fully expect Nemanja Matic to start.
Fred needs to be afforded time in the centre of midfield in order to find his feet and get himself in form. He was bought because of his form for Shakhtar Donetsk and if he does not play all that often, he is just going to become another flop brought in for a massive fee which the club will not get back – a similar problem from the past six years though.
Attacking Midfield: Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Daniel James
Solskjaer seems to trust the 4-2-3-1 formation more than anything else this season. Because of this, I would expect to see Daniel James, Angel Gomes, and Tahith Chong all playing behind the striker. Jesse Lingard may find himself in the team, as he has a history of scoring against Arsenal but having him on the bench to bring on late might be better.
Chong has played a few times this season already but has not yet proven himself at first-team level, leading to some writing him off already. Chong, Gomes and Mason Greenwood have played together in the various age groups in the academy, so if they can find an understanding on the pitch, it might pay off as a masterstroke for Solskjaer.
Striker: Mason Greenwood
The teenager will turn 18 on Tuesday and after scoring two goals in his last two matches, missing the West Ham defeat due to illness, which was unfortunate for United, who had little firepower to get anything from the game. Greenwood is a player who has been praised by Solskjaer time and time again and, at least in his last two appearances, has scored.
About three and a half years ago, Marcus Rashford came through from the academy, tasked with keeping United attacking against FC Midtjylland. He scored a brace in that game. Days later, United face Arsenal at Old Trafford, a game he scored a brace in too. If Greenwood could have the same impact against Arsenal, the mood might change.
Substitutes: Sergio Romero; Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo; Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic
Solskjaer will need to keep a contingency plan just in case Arsenal run riot against United. There is little point throwing all the experience into the game from the very start – keeping something in reserve is a good plan to have if needed. I don’t think Juan Mata will have the energy required to face Arsenal, so he may not be involved.
Sergio Romero will take a position on the bench as Lee Grant played for the U23s on Friday evening. Victor Lindelof will remain on the bench with Tuanzebe starting. Marcos Rojo could find a place on the bench too, along with Paul Pogba, if fit enough, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and Nemanja Matic. The experience, if needed, will be good for United.