Manchester United host Arsenal in Saturday’s early kick-off in one of the classic fixtures of the Premier League era.
It’s fair to say that Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal haven’t endured a great deal of league success against Jose Mourinho or at Old Trafford, so travelling to the theatre of dreams to go head-to-head with the Special One can’t be a favourite fixture on any Gunner’s calendar. However, the sides have had contrasting fortunes over the last couple of months. United have endured a relatively poor start to the domestic season; sitting 6th in the table following a string of lethargic performances and subsequently average results. Whereas Arsenal have impressed and find themselves in the thick of the lead pack, only two points off of leaders Liverpool. It does feel as though there are more than six points separating the two teams ahead of this encounter.
Mourinho has been left with a defensive headache with the usual back four of Valencia, Smalling, Bailly and Shaw (doubtful) ruled out through injury. We should expect to see a Phil Jones and Michael Carrick partnership as we did at Swansea a fortnight ago, with Darmian and Rojo the likely candidates for the full back positions. Aside from the defensive woes, the Reds will also be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic after he received his fifth yellow card of the season in the 3-1 win in Wales. Marcus Rashford could start upfront for the first time this campaign, hoping to replicate his performance in this fixture last year in which he netted twice on his domestic debut.
Arsenal seem to have survived an Alexis Sanchez injury scare, the winger featured for Chile in midweek despite having a minor thigh problem. They do, however, travel without the ever-impressive Hector Bellerin, this could leave Arsenal fairly exposed in the right-back position.
If form is anything to go by, this game should go Arsenal’s way, but Wenger’s men have an irritating (for them) history of underperforming in big games. Man United will be looking to capitalise on the visitor’s lack of confidence in this type of game. Having not won a Premier League game at Old Trafford in over 10 years and typically struggling against Jose Mourinho, I sense an air of inevitability around an away win in this one, I’m going for Man United 1 – Arsenal.