Manchester United gunning for home rule over top four rivals Arsenal
Both Manchester United and Arsenal have gone through heated encounters which have decided the fate of the Premier League trophy in previous seasons but, with Chelsea having stormed to a title triumph, this time Old Trafford will be the setting for Champions League position battle.
Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils were toppled by the Gunners in their FA Cup quarter-final clash earlier in the campaign, but they rallied to a narrow league triumph at the Emirates and are 15/4 to win to nil on home soil.
As far as domestic rivalry goes, these two teams have collided in some of the most ferocious top-flight fixtures down the years, but recently tensions have eased with both sides having dropped of the domestic silverware chase. Both teams will be without key strikers and England internationals, though, as Wayne Rooney has been ruled out with a dead leg and Danny Welbeck is unfit to face his boyhood club.
Arsene Wenger’s relationship with former United boss Sir Alex Ferguson eventually mellowed before the Scot retired, and Arsenal’s French manager has been surprisingly full of praise for his new opposite number in this fixture.
“He [Van Gaal] is a top quality manager,” Wenger said. “He first had to learn to know his squad and then of course to restore belief in the team.
“To me he has done that well. He has shown he has the personality to be at a club of that size which is very important. Overall he is in a good way.”
A win for the Gunners (2/1) would solidify their position in the top three and, with a game in hand over their rivals, would almost make sure of an automatic Champions League spot. Although, United have been a dominant force at home this season and could potentially spoil Wenger’s hopes of third place.
Both side’s come into the Old Trafford meeting on the back of an indifferent run of form, with United ending a three-match losing streak by toppling Crystal Palace and Arsenal have drawn, won and lost their last three outings.
Luke Shaw hasn’t recovered on time from a knock sustained at Palace, and Rooney is out injured, while Angel Di Maria and Marcos Rojo are also doubts. Welbeck will be unable to fire his new club to glory over his past employers again, as he is sidelined with a knee problem.
Belgian bruiser Marouane Fellaini struck the winner in the Palace triumph and has been an integral part of Van Gaal’s side this season, with the towering targetman available at 10/3 to net anytime.
United skipper Rooney has an impressive 14 career goals over Arsenal, and struck in both the reverse fixture and cup clash this term, but without the captain in their ranks, Robin van Persie will hope to make an impact. The former Gunners frontman is a 6/1 chance to open proceedings, having struck three times for United against his past employers before.
Meanwhile, in-form Frenchman Olivier Giroud is 13/2 to net last, having struck a 90th minute consolation goal at the Emirates last November, with Alexis Sanchez 15/8 to fire in his first ever strike against United since arriving in London last summer.
The hosts will be confident of earning back-to-back home victories and they hold a superior domestic record over their top four rivals, having gone seven league meetings unbeaten and were only overcome once in the previous 12 clashes.
Betting tip: Van Persie to score first @ 6/1