Manchester United have hit the ground running in their opening Premier League fixtures this season picking up a maximum six points from their two matches so far and will be looking to make it nine from nine as Arsenal travel to Old Trafford this weekend. The Gunners however will be hot off the heels of their Champions League qualification triumph over Udinese and will be hoping to pick up their first Premier League victory of the 2011/12 season.
Arsenal have managed only one draw and seven defeats from their last eight visits to Old Trafford and United will be looking to compound Wenger’s misery even more as the Frenchman waved goodbye to Samir Nasri earlier this week. Nasri opted to sign a ‘treble-your-wages’ deal with Manchester City and this comes fresh off the back of Cesc Fabregas jumping ship to Barcelona, dealing a blow that will only draw more criticism towards Wenger and his Gunners from the media, commentators and fans alike. Many will agree that Arsenal have had a forgettable start to the season, misfiring in the Premier League, surviving a scare in Champions League Qualification and losing two key players, all in the space of a month. Not only that, but the squad has been depleted by injury and suspension so early on in the season and this is no doubt putting Wenger under a whole lot of unnecessary pressure.
The only way for Wenger to fire back at his critics is for his Arsenal side to rally and show why their manager believes so strongly in his current crop of players. Wenger spoke following the team’s triumph over Udinese about the dire situation the team has been in so early on in the campaign.
“We have been a little bit under pressure and for us not to play the Champions League and with the players who left, that pressure would’ve increased, understandably. Since the beginning of the season, I feel a very strong, determined attitude within the team.”
For this team to triumph over Manchester United this weekend, Wenger’s men must show this strong and determined attitude and rejuvenate their season – and it’s not as though they don’t have the personnel to do so. Should the likes of captain Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin find their feet on the day, United may find they have a lot to be wary of. Arsenal will also be dangerous on the counter attack, with the pace of Walcott sure to test the United’s makeshift back four. Young Aaron Ramsey will be burdened with Arsenal’s midfield creativity and will be hoping to improve on his performance in the loss to Liverpool.
Arsenal will be without a number of players through either injury or suspension. Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Sebastian Squilacci and Abou Diaby are all out with various injuries while Alexandre Song, Emmanuel Frimpong and Gervinho are all suspended for the match. This means that the Gunners will require even more determination to overcome a United side in form. Arsenal have a habit however, of pulling a rabbit out of the hat when it comes to big matches and will no doubt be itching to prove the bookmakers wrong and trump Sir Alex on his own turf.
Manchester United on the other hand have made a surprisingly positive start to the season and sit joint top of the table following two successive victories. Often labeled as slow starters, Sir Alex and his men have set an early pace for the new season, and have already brushed aside West Brom and comprehensively outplayed Tottenham last weekend to record a 3-0 victory in what looks to be the dawn of a new era at Old Trafford. United fans will be aware that the Red Devil’s won 18 of their 19 games at home last season and are never in any mood to surrender points at The Theatre of Dreams.
United are a team playing with confidence and their football reflects that. The early season form of Wayne Rooney have been a joy to behold for fans, with the 25 year old starring in much of the sides free-flowing football so far. Arsenal must be wary of the threat posed by Rooney who is looking repay the faith placed in his by fans following last seasons off-field dramas. Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley are two very exciting young players who, along with Phil Jones and David De Gea have injected youth to the United starting XI and despite some shaky moments in goal from De Gea, all have made fantastic starts to the campaign. Tom Cleverley in particular has shown he has the potential to be the man to replace Paul Scholes in the middle of the park for United and has formed a strong partnership with Anderson.
Never short on attacking options, United have boast the ability to carve out opportunities from all over the park. Out wide, the likes of Ashley Young and Nani always look dangerous on their respective flanks, while Rooney is always looking to drop into the hole between midfield and defense and create chances for himself and others around him. The pass and move football adopted by Cleverley and Anderson will be key in the middle of the pitch, and United will undoubtedly be looking at these two players to control much of the passing in the match. The only concerns for United lie in their backline, although despite injuries to Ferdinand and Vidic, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are all capable deputies in the heart of the United defense. Arsenal may look to use their experience up-front to exploit United’s makeshift back four however Sir Alex will have full faith in his youngsters.
While Arsenal have the chance of causing an upset and Manchester United need to be wary of a rejuvenated side following their Champions League Qualification over Udinese, Ferguson and his men should have too much firepower all over the park for the Gunners to handle.
Manchester United 2 – 0 Arsenal