MANCHESTER UNITED v/s ARSENAL
BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
VENUE – Old Trafford
KO – 1245 GMT
‘He scores when he wants’ was the chant that Arsenal fans used to sing for Robin van Persie. In the summer he surprised everyone associated with Arsenal when he stated ‘The club lacked Ambition’. He eventually transferred to Manchester United where he has been in top form. This will be the first meeting between the fierce rivals after his move from London. He is an experienced campaigner and will not allow his emotions get in the way. Ferguson will be hoping to his star striker for inspiration against his former club. Arsenal and Manchester United in the recent past have slugged it out for the league title till the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City came along. The Keane-Vieira days will never be forgotten. This match is more than 3 points with both sets of fans trying to get an edge over the other. Even the managers have been locking horns for more than 10 years now. With utmost respect to each other Ferguson and Wenger are fierce competitors. This fixture always has a lot of drama attached it and surely this one will be no different.
After the controversy filled match at Stamford Bridge last weekend, United were pegged back by Chelsea in the League cup in midweek. Defensive errors seem to popping up here and there at alarming frequency. Wooton and Keane, an inexperience duo started in midweek and their mistakes can be excused. The problem though doesn’t go away with the first teamers too. United have been leaking goals with just as much ease as they have been scoring them. The team has hardly kept a clean sheet this season and the absence of Vidic is definitely one of the reasons that the defensive door is not properly shut. Evra’s form has improved in the past month but still has frailties in him. Nani’s has been outcast at United and even though he performed well in midweek his inability to hold the ball led to the Chelsea penalty. Unusually Ferguson went in the media to criticize the Portuguese which definitely is a signal that he is on his way out. Young and Valencia might get the nod on the wings if Ferguson deploys the 4-4-2 formation which worked brilliantly for half an hour against Chelsea. Arsenal is well known for their incisive play and the central midfield partnership will be the key for United. Carrick/Scholes or Cleverly/Anderson will need to be on their heels for most of the match. Robin van Persie playing against his old club, will be looking to justify his move to Manchester partnering Wayne Rooney, who has been in superb form off late.
Arsenal has had a mixed start to the season. Losing their star striker did not help but the additions of Carzola and Podolski has definitely helped ease the burden. Carzola in particular has been sensational since arriving from Malaga. He has been a revelation in the centre of midfield. His partnership with Arteta has been very good. Recent injuries to Ramsey and Wilshere have hampered the progress this season. Wenger’s team has always been ones to play exciting football and his philosophy hardly changes. The seven year drought is hanging on Wenger’s head and fans will be hoping to see a turnaround in fortunes this season. Arsenal have lost one and drawn on against last season’s top four and Manchester united perhaps pose the biggest challenge yet. Defensively the London club has been much better than United. In the league the Arsenal goal has been breached only 6 times to United’s 13. Vermalen and Mertesacker have been solid this season. Walcott who still has contract disputes with the club scored a hattrick in midweek in the League Cup and fans will hope for him to perform against the Red Devils and cement his new contract to stay with the club. Podolski may start alone upfront as Gervinho is inured and Giroud is not having the best of times for his new club.
Manchester United – Defensive problems do not seem to go away for the club. After they conceded two against Chelsea in the premier league, they conceded 5 against the same opposition in midweek. Even though the defense was a bit inexperienced but shipping in so many goals is not a very good sign. Ferdinand and Evans will be the duo to takeover in the centre of defense on Saturday against the Gunners. Rafael who has been on non duty for the last month will be expected to slot in at the right back position while Evra will replace Buttner who started in midweek. Smalling and Jones are very close to return which will give Rafael a well deserved rest but this match is definitely too early for both of them. In midfield Valencia will a definite starter after a stellar performance last weekend. The central midfield partnership is perplexing. Carrick and Scholes is the preferred partnership but Cleverly and Anderson have staked a claim. Arsenal plays a fast and incisive brand of football, which is why the midfield will need to be on guard. Rooney and Persie might be the striking partnership with Ferguson looking to Persie to be in inspired form against his old side.
Arsenal – Arsene Wenger’s teams always have fun to watch. The always deploy an attacking formation. The 4-2-4 formation which has been in place ensures that the team is intent on attack while keeping it tight at the back. With Gervinho out injured the formation may be adjusted a little. Walcott, who was in prime form in midweek, might replace him at the wings. Giroud who usually leads the attack might just drop to the bench with Wenger looking to shore up defense against the home team. Vermalen and Mertesacker will be definite starters at the back with Gibbs and the young talented Jenkinson in the full back positions. Mannone has been good in goal and has kept the likes of Szcenczy and Fabianski out of the team. Diaby and Arteta is the linkup chord between attack and defense. Wilshere is close to a return to the first team but Wenger would not risk him for the big game. Ramsey, who was stripped of the Wales captaincy last month, could start in place of Arteta depending upon Wenger’s plans.
Manchester United – Robin van Persie – The Dutch striker will be facing his former side, whom he left in pretty acrimonious conditions and will be looking to perform at his best. He has been in great form for Manchester United and has scored 9 goals already. He will be looking to prove a point to the Arsenal fans and manager.
Arsenal – Santiago Carzola– The Spaniard has been brilliant since joining Arsenal from Malaga in the summer. He has been by far the best player for Arsenal and has inspired the team. His creativity and vision has helped ease the loss of Robin Van Persie and the goals are just as handy. United need to be aware of the danger he possesses especially the brilliant link up play.
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