Manchester United v Arsenal: Five key Old Trafford battles
Throughout Premier League history, Manchester United and Arsenal have always been doing battle, with many high-profile encounters occurring down the years of top-flight action, and the two clubs will once again collide at Old Trafford.
Despite the Red Devils having won 13 Premier League titles and the Gunners holding three triumphs in their prestigious histories, this season’s encounter on the red half of Manchester will be a clash which will determine Champions League places, rather than the fate of silverware.
Ahead of the match-up, here are five key battles that are set to take place across the pitch.
David De Gea v Alexis Sanchez
Arsene Wenger will hope his clinical Chile international forward can inspire an Arsenal victory at Old Trafford, with the ferocious frontman having so far failed to net against the Red Devils in his Gunners career, but he did create space leading up to Danny Welbeck’s eventual winning strike in their FA Cup quarter-final meeting.
Sublime Sanchez regularly tested De Gea in that cup clash earlier this year, but the South American attacker was continuously thwarted, with his Spanish opposition having been at his usual sublime best since that encounter, and is 15/4 with Coral to inspire his side to victory again with a clean sheet.
With Real Madrid overlooking every De Gea involvement this term, the future Spain number one will be keen to showcase his talents further for a potential summer switch, or prove his credentials and determination to remain in Manchester with his spectacular shot stopping abilities.
Chris Smalling v Olivier Giroud
United’s towering defensive unit has come to fore when his side needed it most towards the end of this current campaign, having previously been the target of much criticism for his earlier under-par performances.
Although, dominant centre back Smalling has become Van Gaal’s most reliable member of the rearguard, but he will face a tough task of contesting with Arsenal’s in-form Frenchman Giroud, who has netted an impressive 18 times in all competitions and is (13/2 to score first).
Marouane Fellaini v Aaron Ramsey
Van Gaal has utilised Belgium international target man in his best position this season, and it has worked wonders, with Fellaini striking 10 vital goals, including the winner over Crystal palace last time out.
Welsh wizard Ramsey will need to channel the form he showed last term in order to fire his side to victory but, with his dominant opposition in fine form and possessing astute aerial abilities, it could be a genuinely intriguing midfield match-up. Both players have endured many battles before during Fellaini’s Everton days and when Belgium clashed with Wales last year, so expect a feisty confrontation at Old Trafford.
Mezut Ozil v Daley Blind
Playmaker Ozil has had an indifferent season, coming under fire for performances earlier in the campaign when he drifted in and out of proceedings, but more recently has received high praise for showcasing supreme creative qualities in the number 10 role.
Dutchman Blind has shone this term from a left back position but in the holding midfield role, when deputising in the absence of Michael Carrick, the Netherlands international has been questioned. Arsenal’s key creative spark may enjoy himself at Old Trafford with Carrick still out injured and is 7/2 to net anytime.
Per Mertesacker v Robin van Persie
Another interesting battle will be between these former Emirates teammates, with United’s deadly Dutchman aiming to secure his side’s place in the Champions League next season.
With three goals to his name against past employers Arsenal, Red Devil’s returning striker Van Persie will be confident of again getting the better of World Cup wining defender Mertesacker, having headed home the winner at Old Trafford last season and netted a goal in each fixture in a triumphant 2012/13 campaign when Mertesacker started both games.