Preview: Beating Arsenal is not just necessary, it needs to happen to keep United on the right road and Arsenal further on the decline

Arsenal -v- Manchester United

Premier League

Emirates Stadium, London

Wednesday 1 January 2020, KO 20:00 GMT

Referee: Chris Kavanagh Assistants: Sian Massey-Ellis; Constantine Hatzidakis Fourth official: Craig Pawson

VAR: Paul Tierney Assistant VAR: Stephen Child

Manchester United will travel to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal in the Premier League on New Year’s Day. It is the first match of 2020 and a big one at that. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has led his team into two victories over the Festive period beating Newcastle United 4-1 at Old Trafford and Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor, which came after their 2-0 defeat to Watford at Vicarage Road before Christmas.

Arsenal have continued to be Arsenal despite Mikel Arteta becoming the new manager of the club, replacing Freddie Ljungberg as the interim manager following the sacking of Uni Emery back in November. United have risen back up to fifth in the Premier League table following their victories over Newcastle and Burnley and with Chelsea beating Arsenal on Sunday, just four points separate the two teams.

Arsenal have fallen into twelfth position, seven points adrift of United which could turn into ten points with another victory for United at the Emirates. Jesse Lingard doing the moonwalk again would be so fitting and it would frustrate the Arsenal faithful to no end. I am looking forward to this match, it is going to be a good game and one that should keep United on track to finishing inside the top four this season.

Form: One win in the last six matches for Arsenal, drawing three and losing twice; United have one defeat in their last six, winning four and drawing once.

Manchester United: WWLWDW

Burnley 2-0 W, Newcastle United 4-1 W, Watford 2-0 L, Colchester United 3-0 W, Everton 1-1 D, AZ Alkmaar 4-0 W

Arsenal: LDDLDW

Chelsea 2-1 L, Bournemouth 1-1 D, Everton 0-0 D, Manchester City 3-0 L, Standard Liege 2-2 D, West Ham United 3-1 W

Top Scorers: Marcus Rashford has 16 goals in all competitions this season with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang scoring 15 goals this season.

Manchester United Goals: 16 – Marcus Rashford, 10 – Anthony Martial, 8 – Mason Greenwood, 3 – Daniel James, Scott McTominay, 2 – Own Goal, 1 – Victor Lindelof, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira, Brandon Williams, Ashley Young

United have seemingly turned another corner this season after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Watford before Christmas. Their 4-1 victory over Newcastle United followed by a 2-0 victory over Burnley has propelled the team into fifth place in the Premier League this season. Chelsea’s victory over Arsenal on Sunday leaves a four point gap between United and Chelsea – a challenge for United to break into the top four.

Arsenal Goals: 15 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 8 – Gabriel Martinelli, 6 – Alexandre Lacazette, 4 – Nicolas Pépé, Joseph Willock, 2 – David Luiz, Bukayo Saka, Lucas Torreira, 1 – Dani Ceballos, Calum Chambers, Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Shkodran Mustafi, Reiss Nelson, Sokratis

Arsenal have been Arsenal this season. The 1-1 draw between United and Arsenal earlier in the season will make the side look good heading into the first big match of 2020 for the pair. United are clearly the team in much better form and they do raise their game against bigger teams, of which Arsenal is still one despite their fall into 12th in the league this season. This will not be an easy match for either team.

Team News: Eric Bailly back in training, perhaps too soon to face Arsenal. Scott McTominay likely to be out of action for a month. Paul Pogba could return in first big match of 2020.

Solskjaer will have been boosted with the return of Eric Bailly to training on Monday morning, however, he is not likely to be fit to face Arsenal although he could be included on the bench, if need be. I reckon he could be included in the FA Cup clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday. Ashley Young, Axel Tuanzebe, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba were all absent from training, although that doesn’t mean all are out.

McTominay is likely to be out until the end of January with a knee injury and it was expected that he would have a scan at the weekend, although nothing has yet been confirmed. Tuanzebe had a thigh injury and has been absent for the last few matches. Marcos Rojo is out of action and could return as early as the weekend. Tim Fosu-Mensah-Mensah is still recovering from his knee injury although has been training.

Arsenal look set to be without Calum Chambers, Sead Kolasinac, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and Kieran Tierney for the visit of United but have other players who are considered doubts for the match, such as; Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Martinelli, Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, and Rob Holding. If Arsenal have nine players out of action for the match it could be problematic for them, but it is Arsenal at the end of the day.

Predicted Starting XI: Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Daniel James to lead the attack against Arsenal? Paul Pogba to return to midfield alongside Fred?

I do not envisage many changes for this match. I believe Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Daniel James, Fred, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Brandon Williams and David De Gea should all keep their places in the team. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard should all be recalled into the starting XI. I would like to see Mason Greenwood given a chance but he could come off the bench later on during the game.

Match Prediction: 99 wins against Arsenal for United – can Solskjaer make it 100 in their second meeting this season?

United and Arsenal have played a total of 231 matches in this history of both clubs with the first match being played in 1894. United have won 99 times, drawn 49 times and lost 83 times. The last defeat to Arsenal came in the Premier League back in March 2019, a 2-0 defeat at the Emirates with Granit Xhaka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring the goals to win the match. It was also the start of a poor run for United last season.

At Old Trafford earlier this season it was a 1-1 draw with Scott McTominay scoring the first goal of the game and Aubameyang finding the equaliser to level the game and share the points. Prior to the last defeat in March 2019, United had been on a four match unbeaten run against Arsenal, winning three times and drawing once. Solskjaer will be seeking to keep United winning starting the new year and decade in style.

Arsenal 0-2 Manchester United

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I support Manchester United, the greatest English football team to have ever existed. Bruno Fernandes is the latest in a long line of players with great ability to play for the club. I idolised Bryan Robson, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and Eric Cantona growing up.