Manchester United head to the Emirates Stadium where they will face Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. United are the only team in the league to have beaten Arsenal this season, which combined with their current form, will give them a good chance against the Premier League leaders. The 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening was a blow to United’s confidence, conceding the equaliser in added time, which was a shame.
United should have been on a ten match winning run, which has now become a ten match unbeaten run. United still sit third in the Premier League, a point clear of Newcastle United, who will face Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon. United could have been second in the league had they beat Palace on Wednesday. Arsenal sit clear at the top of the league, which is not likely to change ahead of the match on Sunday. They will be seeking to keep their good form.
Erik ten Hag received a blow after Casemiro received his fifth yellow card of the Premier League season against Palace, meaning that he will be suspended for the visit to Arsenal, meaning Fred could come into the midfield or the Dutch manager could change everything playing Luke Shaw alongside Raphael Varane in the centre of the defence and possible including Lisandro Martinez in the defensive midfield position, which is unlikely but still an option.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-3-3
Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;
Fernandes, Fred, Eriksen;
Antony, Weghorst, Rashford
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea has been in great form this season and has worked hard to find his form and earn the trust of his teammates and the supporters of the club. In the past few matches he has made some great saves to deny goals being scored but a last-ditch free-kick by Palace beat him on Wednesday and stopped him earning his 178th clean sheet. As much as I would like to see Arsenal unable to score at the Emirates this weekend, I don’t think he will get number 178 here either.
De Gea does not have a great amount of competition in the goalkeeper ranks this season. He started the season with Martin Dubravka challenging him but his recall by Newcastle United saw United get Jack Butland on loan from Crystal Palace. This could be the first match that sees Butland’s involvement, albeit on the bench with the unlikely factor of him being utilised. That could come against Nottingham Forest next week in the first leg in the Carabao Cup.
Tom Heaton is also at United but he will play few minutes for the club, if he plays at all during the remainder of the season. De Gea is the mainstay in this team but the challenge from Butland could cause a battle between the goalkeepers which could also see both improve. United look likely to keep De Gea on a smaller contract this summer but will also be seeking a new long-term goalkeeper to blood in with De Gea still at the club, which will be good to see in the future.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw
United’s defence have been a credit to the club this season. There is a lot of improvement to see – for those that want to. The likes of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire are kind of resigned to the bench more often that not – which will give them more to do to convince the manager they are good enough to start in the bigger matches. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been a player that has inspired his teammates of late with good performances which has given him more time at United.
Luke Shaw is also a player that has inspired, playing in a central defensive position more than a few times since the restart after the FIFA World Cup, also playing in his more familiar left-back role – which is where I think he will play against Arsenal. Although, it has been the bigger matches that Ten Hag has tested him, with it working out well for United. However, with Lisandro Martinez back to full fitness, that may have to wait for the first Barcelona match.
Raphael Varane and Martinez were reunited in the centre of the defence against Palace and that looks to be the case against Arsenal. Martinez has added some steel to the United defence this season, despite the constant criticism of his height before he even made his debut for the club – which has not aged well. Varane and Martinez compliment each other with Varane overcoming some early injury worries this season and Martinez pushing for glory. A good combination.
Midfield: Fernandes, Fred, Eriksen
Recently, United’s midfield has been a two-man midfield but with Casemiro’s suspension, upping the numbers could be the best thing to help them challenge Arsenal. Casemiro was on the bench the last time United played Arsenal, spending ten minutes on the pitch with Scott McTominay starting ahead of him with Christian Eriksen. United still got the better of the North London club. I think Fred could get the nod ahead of McTominay though, which is a good thing.
Moving Bruno Fernandes into a three-man midfield could be good for him and United, giving him more room to find that pass and roam on the attack which could see him score again for United. He has five goals and four assists for United this season and he will be seeking to up those numbers as the season grows. Three years ago, he was the man for United and has recently added his 100th goal contribution for the club – in 157 appearances. Not bad to say the least.
Eriksen is a player that picks himself in this team. The majority of the time, he is a positive but his age will mean he needs some rest and cannot be expected to offer the same thing all of the time – there will be some off days and matches. The Danish International is a class act and got his ninth assist of the season against Palace and has scored twice so far this season. This midfield has all the ingredients to get the better of Arsenal and Ten Hag knows it.
Forwards: Antony, Weghorst, Rashford
United’s attacking line will need to do more against Arsenal than they did against Palace earlier in the week. United will need to score goals in this match as Arsenal will be seeking to score them too. Marcus Rashford has been the in form player for United over the last few matches but he failed to score against Palace. He has 16 goals and five assists so far this season and will be seeking to increase that as the season develops. He’s hey for United.
Antony is a player that has five goals so far this season, scoring against Arsenal at Old Trafford earlier in the season. Lately though, he’s not been all that great on the pitch and has let United down. When he has scored, he has dropped back and stopped seeking more goals but in the last few matches, he’s has not been on target and has ended up frustrated. He’s not the complete player yet and still need to adapt but I believe he will get there.
Wout Weghorst made his United debut against Palace on Wednesday and was a positive impact after only three training sessions ahead of the match. He is still likely to be learning ahead of this match but will be more up to speed with what is expected from Ten Hag at United. He is a decent striker and can score goals but his hold up play will be something that benefits United a bit more. I have a feeling that he could be on the score sheet for United against Arsenal.
Substitutes: Butland; Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia; Pellistri, McTominay, Mainoo; Elanga, Garnacho
Five substitutions cane be made from a maximum of nine players named on the bench in the Premier League. Against Crystal Palace earlier this week, Ten Hag only made three substitutions. Against Arsenal, United will need to make more substitutions to compensate for players tiring later in the match. I would expect to see Jack Butland make his first appearance on the bench for United in this match as he was not able to face his parent club earlier in the week.
In defence, unless Ten Hag has changed his system, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Tyrell Malacia could all be available to add some fresh legs in the defence later in the match should they be needed. It will also give the manager opportunities to change the system on the pitch for whatever happens in the match. United will be inspired to get a result at the Emirates having not won there since the 25 January 2019 – so United owe Arsenal one in their own backyard.
In the midfield, Scott McTominay and Kobbie Mainoo could be the only central midfielders on the bench with Casemiro suspended and Donny van de Beek injured. With the view of an attacking midfielder, Facundo Pellistri could find himself on the bench again with Ten Hag likely to give him more chances after he did well coming on against Charlton in the Carabao Cup. Anthony Elanga and Alejandro Garnacho will be the other attacking players on the bench.
Written by John Walker