Manchester United this weekend welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford in a match which could have big ramifications on the hopes of both sides this season.
A victory for the visitors will see them move top of the league depending on other results, creating a nine point buffer on United, which could put the Red Devils’ season into jeopardy.
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In a match which carries many different subplots, Jose Mourinho is set to renew hostilities with Arsene Wenger for the first time as United manager, in a match he simply can’t afford to lose.
Key Battle- Paul Pogba vs Mesut Ozil
There is no doubting that both these players have the ability to change a game in an instant.
Pogba has been far from his best for United this season, but produced arguably his best showing of the season last time out against Swansea. Mourinho needs to find the Frenchman’s best position in order to help shape the team around him, before United fall too far behind in their quest to close the gap on the league leaders and top four.
Ozil meanwhile is his best form of his Arsenal career since joining the club in 2013. He has added more goals to his repertoire this season making him more dangerous than ever before. If he can bring the type of form he has displayed so far this season he will have a big say on the outcome of this match.
United have a number of injury and discipline concerns heading into the match with Zlatan Ibrahimovic set to miss through suspension having accumulated five yellow cards this season. Captain Wayne Rooney and Antonio Valencia both remain in some doubt but are expected to be available. Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling remain sidelined with knee and toe injuries respectively.
For the visitors Hector Bellerin is set to miss a month after picking up an ankle injury last time out in the North London derby. The fitness of Alexis Sanches remains questionable despite playing in Chile’s World Cup qualifier with a minor hamstring strain. Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker, Lucas Perez and Danny Welbeck will also miss the trip to Old Trafford.
Manchester United 4-2-3-1
De Gea; Darmian, Jones, Blind, Shaw; Carrick, Herrera; Mata, Pogba, Martial; Rashford
Cech; Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Xhaka, Coquelin; Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi; Sanchez
The historic rivals have come together on 223 occasions with United having the better of the Gunners across time. As of the most recent meeting last season, the record reads United with 94 wins, Arsenal with 80 and 49 draws between the pair.
On the managerial front Wenger has failed to beat a Jose Mourinho led side in 13 competitive matches.
Marcus Rashford announced his arrival on the Premier league scene when the two sides met in the latter stages of last season. A brace from the England international alongside Ander Herrera’s strike guided the Red Devils to a 3-2 win. Former United man Danny Welbeck and Mesut Ozil got on the scoresheet for the Gunners.
United will need to be up for the occasion, with so much on the line in the early stages of the season. With the home crowd behind them they will look to continue recent dominance at home over the Gunners. If Michael Carrick starts expect him to dictate play for the home side, as they look to dominate possession. No Ibrahimovic up front, may look gloomy , but expect Marcus Rashford to make the most of his opportunity if selected by Mourinho. The pace of Arsenal in the wide areas will cause trouble for United, but Mourinho will look to shut them down with a rigid defensive display.
Manchester United 2 Arsenal 1