Manchester United will face Arsenal at the Emirates in the Premier League on Saturday evening, needing a victory to get back on track after a poor 2-1 defeat at the hands of Sheffield United earlier in the week. The Blades, after 19 matches had been played this season, were the worst team in the history of the Premier League but will be happier with their cup final victory. Arsenal have struggled at times this season but in recent weeks have started to return to form, which will be a worry for United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be seeking to get back to winning ways, also overturning a 1-0 defeat inn this fixture at Old Trafford.
United have faced Arsenal 233 times in all competitions in the history of both clubs, winning 99 times, drawing 49 times and losing 85 times. United have won once in their last five matches against Arsenal, going back to the 25 January 2019, just over two years ago. It was a 3-1 victory for United at the Emirates in the FA Cup – the day that Jesse Lingard did the Milly Rock at Arsenal’s stadium. Not that it has done them much good since. In the past four matches since their last win, United have three defeats and one draw against the Gunners. United will need to get a victory on the board against the Gunners this season.
How United have faired against Arsenal in the Premier League.
United and the Arsenal have met 57 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 24 times, drawing 17 times and losing 16 times. United have scored a total of 78 goals, conceding 61 with United winning six penalties and scoring four with Arsenal winning four and scoring two. United have kept 16 clean sheets with Arsenal 18. United have received 116 yellow cards and five red cards. Arsenal have received 123 yellow cards and four red cards. This fixture is normally one that is very fired up and with United losing at Old Trafford earlier in the season, United will need to find a victory to get back to winning ways.
In the fixture at the Emirates last season, which was played on the 1 January 2020, United were beaten 2-0 with Nicolas Pepe opening the scoring in the eighth minute and Sokratis doubling the lead in the 42nd minute of the match. United started 2020 on a sour note, only for things to change with an uptick in form a month later. At Old Trafford earlier this season, it was another defeat for United after Paul Pogba gave away a penalty with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring it in the 69th minute of the match. It was a poor result for United with neither team looking able to win the match. Solskjaer will need a good result this time.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Arsenal in the Premier League at the Emirates on Saturday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
I worry about David De Gea’s form this season. Granted, he was fouled for the first goal for Sheffield United earlier in the week and the second goal was a deflection, but I cannot help wonder if De Gea still has what it takes to be the main goalkeeper at the club this season. There are times where he can be the best goalkeeper once again but others that put him on the demise. I’d hope we see the former against Arsenal. United will need to get back to winning ways, widening the gap amongst their rivals after Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea both dropped points earlier in the week. Beating Arsenal is necessary this season.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles
United’s defence needs to be strengthened and it will have to be something that is finalised in the summer with no new signings planned for the January transfer window. United had a shocker against Sheffield United earlier in the week and will need to show a flawless display against Arsenal this weekend. Aaron Wan-Bissaka will keep his place at right-back based on the fact he has no real competition at the club this season. Luke Shaw should be back in the starting XI along with Eric Bailly, who has now overcome a knock. Harry Maguire will keep his place in the centre of the defence, being one of the few ever-ready players at the club this season.
Midfield: Fred, Paul Pogba
The midfield is an area of the squad which has a whole host of talent this season. Donny van de Beek may miss out a lot of the time but he will understand that he needs to fit himself into the team and in time that will come. Against Arsenal, Fred and Paul Pogba should start in the two-man midfield. Whilst Nemanja Matic offers a lot defensively, against Sheffield United, I felt that United did not have the midfield ability to take on the Premier League strugglers, as that is what they still are. Beating United does not guarantee survival in the league and never will – unless it is the final match of the season and you need the three points on offer.
Attacking Midfield: Mason Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial
I say this quite often but this is the area that has provided a lot of the goals scored this season. Bruno Fernandes has 16 goals to his name, Marcus Rashford has 15 goals and Mason Greenwood has four goals – that adds up to 35 goals from three players just after the halfway point of the season. In addition to the goals scored, Fernandes and Rashford have nine assists each with Greenwood having four – which is an additional 22 goals, meaning this trio have produced a total of 57 goal contributions at this stage of the season, which is a great feat for these players. United will need to keep them fit to continue delivering for the club.
Forward: Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani is the better striker to lead the line with this season based on the poor showing of Anthony Martial thus far. United need to find a way to unlock the goals as they seem to have dried up this month, compared to December, which is not a good sign. However, it could well be a blip after another big month for the club. Cavani has the experience to drive United, unlocking more space for other players as he may become marked in and outside of the box. The same could happen to other players, which would free up some space for Cavani and from there, could find the goals United need to win the match.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Victor Lindelof, Alex Telles; Juan Mata, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay; Anthony Martial
All teams can name nine substitutes in matches in domestic competition, using just three of them during a match. This will give each manager two extra players which could help their teams from getting a much-needed result. In this match against Arsenal and the fact that players will be leaving the club on loan and permanently this month, United will have few options. Dean Henderson will remain on the bench for this match. Defensively, Victor Lindelof and Alex Telles will be available. Juan Mata, Daniel James, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay will be available, as will Anthony Martial. Amad Diallo could have been involved in this match but he will play for United’s U23’s against Liverpool in the Premier League 2.
Written by John Walker