The Premier League’s greatest ever rivalry renews in as Unai Emery’s Arsenal travel to play Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United on Monday night. A fixture that once decided titles, propelled the Premier League to the greatest in the world and the likes of Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Ruud Van Nistelrooy face of against Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell is now merely a battle between two sides for a spot within the top four, or even top six.
Coming into the match, Arsenal start the match in marginally better form having lost only once – at Anfield – and a win could take them to third but having thrown away a lead at Watford in their last away game and stumbling to a win against Aston Villa last week the signs are not good for Unai Emery’s team.
Meanwhile in Manchester, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is struggling to get any consistency in his unbalanced side as injuries, contract drama and a general sense of ennui engulf a once-great club. United’s poor loss to West Ham last week was followed by a penalty shoot-out win against Rochdale in the Cup and with two wins, two draws and two losses United are currently languishing behind in midtable.
Solskjaer goes into the game without star midfielder Paul Pogba who appears to have been rushed back to early against Rochdale, but at least can now negotiate a pay rise to the half-million pound a week rate if reports are to be believed. In addition, strikers Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are also out as are defenders Luke Shaw, Eric Bailly, Diogo Dalot and Phil Jones.Embed from Getty Images
Arsenal are only missing French steiker Alexandre Lacazette – a man whose big-game record would have been perfect for this game –and could welcome back centre-backs Rob Holding and Calum Chambers and full-back Kieran Tierney into a revamped defence, whilst Ainsley Maitland Niles served a one-match suspension in the League Cup win against Nottingham Forest.
Arsenal have struggled defensively and are without a clean sheet since the opening day win at Newcastle, while they have also failed to create a coherent attacking philosophy and much of their success so far has been based on feeding star striker and club talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and letting the Gabonese forward work his magic. With winners against Newcastle, Burnley, Aston Villa; an equaliser against Spurs and both goals in the two-two draw at Watford, Aubameyang has firmly carried Emery’s team so far this season.
Aubameyang will be a striker for Mason Greenwood to aspire to and the young Manchester United striker is likely to lead the line on his second league start on Monday. Greenwood turns 18 on Tuesday and on his last day as a 17-year-old he will likely be asked to lead the line alone. Greenwood scored against Rochdale and Astana in the last week and is a rare bright spot so far in what has been a dissapoitning start to the season for United
Given both side’s lack of midfield ability, the game could swing on which striker can exploit the defence most. Arsenal have been dreadful at the back with Granit Xhaka providing little defensive protection to Sokratis and new signing David Luiz. At the other end of the field, Aubameyang will look to improve his big-game record against an inconsistent Maguire and Lindelof partnership and given his form and United’s injury woes, Arsenal really should look to win at a ground they have traditionally struggled at.
Predicted Starting XIs
Manchester United: (4-2-3-1)De Gea; Wan Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Young; Matic, Mctominay; James, Mata, Lingard; Greenwood.
Arsenal: (4-3-3) Leno; Maitland Niles, Sokratis, Luiz, Tierney; Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira; Cebellos, Pepe, Aubameyang.
Prediction: Manchester United 1 Arsenal 2
Altheough they have only ever won three times at Old Trafford in the league and are winless at the stadium in league games since 2006, Arsenal should prove to have to much firepower for a defensively struggling United side. The likes of Aubameyang and winger Nicolas Pepe will certainly be fancying their chances against a shaky United rearguard as Unai Emery’s side look to claim what could prove three invaluable points at Old Trafford.