Manchester United welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford in the Premier League on Thursday evening, their seventh home match in the league this season. Of the previous six, United have won two, drawn once and lost three times. Winning matches at home again will be a must for United, who need to start turning their season around. A 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday saw United rise from the ashes after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and they will be on another new path under Ralf Rangnick this week, which will separate the men from the boys in this team. United finally need to lock on and show some improvement on their new road to success.
Arsenal are a team in good form at this time, winning five of their last six matches, losing the other. It is much better form than United are in with two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six matches. In this match last season, Paul Pogba gave away a penalty which saw Arsenal leave the Theatre of Dreams with three points before the 0-0 draw at the Emirates, which saw Arsenal gain four points and United just one in the two matches. Beating Arsenal will be important for United as they start a busy December to try and edge their way back into contention for the Premier League title, with the Champions League knockouts in the bag.
Previous meetings with Arsenal and their connections with Manchester United.
United and Arsenal have met a total of 58 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 24 times, drawn 18 times with the Gunners winning the remaining 16 matches. United have scored 78 goals, winning six penalties and scoring four of them. Arsenal have scored 61 goals, winning four penalties and scoring two of them. United have kept a total of 17 clean sheets with Arsenal keeping 19. United players have been shown a total of 119 yellow cards and five red cards in this fixture with Arsenal players shown a total of 124 yellow cards and four red cards. United will be needing this to be a good game for them.
A total of 16 players have played for both United and Arsenal. Paddy Sloan, David Herd, Ian Ure, George Graham, Jimmy Rimmer, Brian Kidd, Frank Stapleton, Viv Anderson, Jim Leighton, David Platt, Andy Cole, Mikael Silvestre, Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Henrikh Mkhitarayan and Alexis Sanchez. The most successful of these is Van Persie who signed for United in the summer of 2012 and helped United to their last Premier League title victory in the final season of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign of the club. The Dutchman made 105 appearances for United, scoring 58 goals and 21 assists, winning the trophy that evaded him at Arsenal.
Here is my predicted starting XI to face Arsenal in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Thursday evening…
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea is crucial for United this season. The form he is in at the moment is why United have not been embarrassed as much as they could have been. The defence has been a joke and the captain of the club has let the club down time and time again – but that is for him to worry about with a new manager impending. De Gea has saved United’s blushes in the last two fixtures with United undefeated and conceding just one goal, compared to the four conceded in one game against Watford, which was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s final match as manager of the club. De Gea will be seeking to kick on this season but Dean Henderson could be a problem.
Henderson played well last season, playing a different goalkeeping role to De Gea and Rangnick will want to test both keepers as soon as he can to find out which one suits the formation and playing style that he will implement at the club. De Gea is experienced but Henderson is the keeper for the future who will be determined to show his good attributes to the new manager, seeking to take his place as the number one goalkeeper for the club. It is early days yet as we do not know what Rangnick will implement at the club, we can only go on his playing style from his management past. That said, it is a positive appointment for the club.
Defenders: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw
United’s defence seem to have improved in the last two matches but there is still along way to go before they can be considered an actual improvement. It seems clear that players have let the club down this season which saw the end of Solskjaer. Against Arsenal, it seems imperative that United should try and keep a clean sheet and the defence will need to be strong as they pose a massive threat. Aaron Wan-Bissaka should play in the right-back position but he will need to find some form as he has been terrible at times. With the January transfer window a month away, he could get some competition if Rangnick feels it is needed.
Luke Shaw should return to his left-back role, if he is fit enough to do so. Alex Telles will fill in if he is not. I feel that Shaw’s form needs improvement and he will need to be playing in the team to achieve that. It may not be perfect from the start but we know what he is capable of and he could find his feet again, as he did last season. In the centre of the defence, Victor Lindelof should keep his place, he was a positive influence against Chelsea, after that initial mistake. Harry Maguire is eligible to feature for United after his one-match suspension for his red card against Watford and he owes the United supporters a good performance – over to you, Harry.
Midfield: Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes
United’s midfield needs an injection and Rangnick will be the best person to determine what is needed. With Paul Pogba out of contract in the summer the club will need to bring in a positive replacement – one that could fill-in with defensive work in the midfield and offer some creativity. That said, Carrick will need to pick from the players he has right now and with Pogba injured, he will need to select the right balance of players to offer something against Arsenal. I believe that Scott McTominay could offer something, possibly in the defensive area, which he has played in at times and always seems to provide energy and determination.
Donny van de Beek should also start, despite tailing off from his form against Watford in the victory over Villarreal. He came on late against Chelsea and should have perhaps played more minutes in the match, but he might have been saved for the Arsenal match with rotation key in December with a number of matches on the horizon. Bruno Fernandes will keep his place, playing in the advanced role, which he could balance with Van de Beek, who offers a threat in the advanced areas himself and will be seeking to earn his place under the new United manager, despite him being linked with a move away from the club in January.
Forward: Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford
United’s attacking line has a lot of potential and talent but it needs to be delved into with a precise way of playing to guarantee creativity, supply and more importantly, the goals needed to win matches. Jadon Sancho has scored two goals in his last two matches for the club, which has started his career at the club after a seemingly slow start, loss of form and some kind of inability to win matches for the club as a whole. A corner could have been turned in that respect. His confidence will be a lot higher now that it was a month or so ago, which is a good sign for the new era under Rangnick. He should start against Arsenal.
Marcus Rashford should also start and with Sancho, the duo could flank Cristiano Ronaldo, who should be the main striker in the team. If Edinson Cavani is close to fitness, perhaps a two-man strike force could be attained, but I don’t think it will be something that happens in this match as the Uruguayan will not be fit enough to get involved but for the remainder of the month, there is something to build on, even if it is just for the remainder of the season. Ronaldo has scored ten goals since returning to the club, Rashford has three so far this season with Sancho’s two. Mason Greenwood has four goals but his fitness will be lacking after his covid spell.
Substitutes: Dean Henderson; Eric Bailly, Alex Telles; Jesse Lingard, Fred, Nemanja Matic; Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Edinson Cavani
Carrick will be able to name nine substitutes in the Premier League, using three of them. The substitutes will need to provide something that United were short of in the match, so there will need to be an array of talent on the bench. I would expect Dean Henderson to be the goalkeeper on the bench, ready to step in should he be given the opportunity to show his worth in this team, which will come at some point once Rangnick gets started as the interim manager of the club. In defence, I would expect to see both Eric Bailly and Alex Telles, who will be ready to get involved should the defence need some strengthening at any point in the match.
In the midfield, Jesse Lingard, Fred and Nemanja Matic could all offer something at some point in the match. The former needs to start living up to his expectations and show some worth as a starting player before he’s given the chance again, despite his contract expiring in the summer and him being likely to leave the club. Fred has shown some improvement, apart from that late lob on the goalkeeper against Chelsea. Matic still has something to offer. In attack, Anthony Martial, who needs to raise his game and find some form, Mason Greenwood, who just needs to reach optimum fitness and Edinson Cavani could all be available.
Written by John Walker