Manchester United -v- Arsenal
Ole Trafford, Manchester
Thursday 2 December 2021, KO 20:15 GMT
Referee: Martin Atkinson Assistants: Lee Betts, Richard West
Fourth Official: Craig Pawson
VAR: Andre Marriner Assistant VAR: Matthew Wilkes
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.
Manchester United – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: DWLLDW
Chelsea 1-1 D, Villarreal 2-0 W, Watford 4-1 L, Manchester City 2-0 L, Atalanta 2-2 D, Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 W
Goals: 10 – Cristiano Ronaldo, 4 – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, 3 – Marcus Rashford, 2 – Jesse Lingard, Jadon Sancho, 1 – Edinson Cavani, Fred, Anthony Martial, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek
Assists: 9 – Bruno Fernandes, 7 – Paul Pogba, 2 – Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luke Shaw, 1 – Mason Greenwood, Jesse Lingard, Raphael Varane
Arsenal – Recent Form, Goals Scored and Assists: WLWWWW
Newcastle United 2-0 W, Liverpool 4-0 L, Watford 1-0 W, Leicester City 2-0 W, Leeds United 2-0 W, Aston Villa 3-1 W
Goals: 7 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 5 – Emile Smith Rowe, 3 – Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka, 2 – Eddie Nketiah, 1 – Calum Chambers, Gabriel Magalhães, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Ødegaard, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pépé
Assists: 3 – Nicolas Pépé, 2 – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, 1 – Alexandre Lacazette, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Martin Ødegaard, Cédric Soares, Nuno Tavares, Takehiro Tomiyasu
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.
Team News: Paul Pogba and Raphaël Varane to miss Arsenal match? Harry Maguire eligible to feature and the club will be sweating on the fitness of Luke Shaw and Edinson Cavani ahead of the match.
Paul Pogba (Thigh) and Raphael Varane (Thigh) have been ruled out of the clash with Arsenal at Old Trafford on Thursday evening. The former could be out until the New Year with the latter expected to be fit around the time United face Crystal Palace on Sunday, so there could be a chance that he returns against Arsenal, although with what happened last time he was injured, I would not like to see him come back too soon. Harry Maguire was suspended against Chelsea and will be back in action against Arsenal. Luke Shaw also missed the match and is expected to be eligible to face Arsenal once again. Edinson Cavani could still be out with a Tendon injury.
Sead Kolasinac (Ankle/Foot) and Granit Xhaka (Knee) have both been ruled out of the trip to the Theatre of Dreams to face United through injury. Arsenal have made do without the duo so far this season so will continue without them for the foreseeable future. Bukayo Saka has a 25% chance to feature against United after coming off in the second half with some kind of injury. He scored the opening goal for Arsenal and will be a blow if he does miss Thursday’s fixture as he is considered as one of the clubs better players. That said, they have ample players to field if he does not make it but I reckon he will.
Predicted Starting XI: Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes to lead the attack against Arsenal? Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay in midfield?
Carrick has set United up positively in the past two matches following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, winning one match and drawing to the Premier League leaders, which was a positive result at Stamford Bridge. United have Ralf Rangnick announced as the new manager and it is expected that he will assume his role soon but Carrick will be the manager for a third match at least. It is imperative that United find their feet and kick on because the new era under Rangnick will be a tough one for many as there are passengers in this squad this season and that should not be the case. Each player should be hungry to achieve something at this club.
I expect David De Gea to keep his place in goal, especially after his performance against Chelsea on Sunday. The back four should consist of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who will be seeking improvement to impress the new manager, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, who returns from suspension and Luke Shaw, who should be fit following his head injury against Watford. If not, Alex Telles will take his place again. In midfield, in a 4-3-3 formation, which will change during the match, Scott McTominay, Donny van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes should all start with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho flanking Cristiano Ronaldo.
Match Prediction: Beating Arsenal will be a big confidence boost for United but a management change will not change much overnight. It will take some time for things to be perfected and change for the good.
Last season, United failed to beat Arsenal, losing 1-0 at Old Trafford and drawing 0-0 at the Emirates. This season, things will need to improve as Arsenal are currently above United in the Premier League table, sitting in fifth place, which will change ahead of kick off on Thursday evening as this fixture is the last of ten to be played with two matches on Tuesday, six on Wednesday and the final two matches on Thursday evening. United 1-1 draw with Chelsea on Sunday saw United amass 18 points in the league this season, five adrift of Arsenal (23) which shows the improvement that United will need to make to get back up there with the teams at the top.
United can play positive football. Against both Villarreal and Chelsea, there were periods of poor football but United stopped conceding poor goals, which had come in the matches prior to those. With a better quality of coaching and some better tactics, United will play a better brand of football overall but it will not happen overnight. It is likely that it will take a period of weeks for the players to learn new tactics and perfect them – not all players will be like this – some will pick it up pretty quickly. United will eventually turn that corner and be much better for it. The only way is up from here and that is the only direction United need to travel.
Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
Written by John Walker