Arsenal travel to Old Trafford for the first time since their harrowing 8-2 defeat at Manchester United last August and have the added spice of facing ex Gunner Robin van Persie.
van Persie will probably dominate conversation and most of the chants too, but the fact is that it’s a game Arsenal need to win to realistically call themselves a genuine title challenger.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has (probably forlornly) urged travelling supporters to forget about Robin van Persie when they visit Manchester this weekend.
‘We cannot promote respect and then say ‘look it is respectful on Saturday’,’ Wenger said.
‘I hope it (reception) is a respectful one because he has played for us for eight years, and he has done very well for us.
‘We campaign against discrimination, it was still the case last week so why should it not be the case this week?’
Meanwhile, his Manchester United counterpart Alex Ferguson has, probably wilfully, rather misinterpreted the sort of reception van Persie will get, ‘ “I think Arsène has laid his seed for his supporters in terms of respecting him,” said Ferguson.
“If you think about all the former players who come back to Old Trafford, they always get a warm applause.
“I don`t think that will be a problem tomorrow, I think the fans will recognise the eight years he gave them and that will be nice.”
Manchester United Team News:
The game comes too soon for Chris Smalling, who is training again following a broken foot. Phil Jones (knee), Shinji Kagawa (knee) and Nemanja Vidic (knee) are unavailable.
Manchester United (from); de Gea, Lindegaard; Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Buttner, Valencia, Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Scholes, Cleverley, Fletcher, Carrick, Young, Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck, Van Persie.
Player to watch: Robin van Persie
The away fans will chant about him being a rapist. He’ll score. He’ll probably let us know about it. Then everyone will whip themselves into a rage in apparent disbelief that a man could take umbrage about being called a rapist. Depressingly inevitable.
Arsenal Team News:
Wojciech Szczesny (ankle) and Kieran Gibbs (thigh) are training again, but not considered fit enough to play. Jack Wilshere is in line to start having been rested against Reading.
Abou Diaby (thigh), Tomas Rosicky (achilles), Lukasz Fabianski (ankle) are out, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain (ankle) faces a fitness test, Gervinho (ankle) is out for three weeks.
Arsenal (from): Mannone, Martinez; Jenkinson, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Djourou, A.Santos, Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Coquelin, Frimpong, Cazorla, Walcott, Chamberlain, Arshavin, Podolski, Giroud, Chamakh.
Player to watch: Santi Cazorla
Tom Cleverley had a pass completion rate of 65% against Chelsea on Wednesday night. If Arsenal have any chance of winning the game, you’d identify Cazorla, Wilshere and Arteta as being capable of getting a grip on the midfield.
United’s defence can be got at and if Arsenal are to do that, Cazorla is going to have to produce. Whether he creates an opportunity for himself or a teammate. When a chance comes along, we are going to have to take it.
Match Facts & Stats
Arsenal have not won at Old Trafford since September 2006, when Emmanuel Adebayor’s goal gave them a 1-0 victory.
United have 13 goals in their 4 home games in the league this season. An average of 3.25 per game.
The sides have met 193 times. Arsenal have won 67 times, United 84.
United have gone behind in each of their last three home games.
This is the 48th time Wenger and Ferguson have locked horns, with Ferguson leading by 21 victories to Arsene’s 15.
Arsenal have fewer goals scored in the first 30 minutes of games than any Premiership side this season so far.
The referee will be Mike Dean. Cripes.
I’m afraid I can’t see anything other than a United win. I think 2-0 and I think van Persie will score at least one of them.
Arsenal play Schalke in Germany on Tuesday night, Manchester United go to Portugal to face Braga on Wednesday.