Manchester United v Arsenal FC: Sunday, March 13, 4:15am (AEST) at Old Trafford, Manchester
Manchester United and Arsenal, the two sides battling for supremacy atop the English Premier League, face-off in the FA Cup this weekend with the winner earning semi-final birth. Separated by just three points in the Premier League, recording a victory against their title rivals would definitely spur on the winning side down the home stretch.
United come into the match in desperate need to recover from back-to-back defeats suffered at the hands of Chelsea and Liverpool. A loss to Arsenal would mean United would have lost against all the other members of English Football’s traditional “Big Three” in the space of three weeks.
Meanwhile Arsenal will be aiming to avoid a third successive failure in Cup Competition, after its Carling Cup final loss to Birmingham and its heart breaking elimination at the hands of Barcelona in the Champions League.
When the two sides met at Old Trafford in the Premier League earlier in the season, United narrowly edged out Arsenal 1-0, in an uninspiring encounter. Yet as these two giants of European Football prepare to once again square off, let’s look ahead to some of the key elements that will determine who comes out on top.
United will again be limited by injuries when they make their selections for this one. With Nani picking up a nasty injury against Liverpool last week, he joins the walking wounded list, alongside Rio Ferdinand, Owen Hargreaves, Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia, Park Ji-Sung and Anderson. Returning captain Nemanja Vidic will undoubtedly be a massive boost for United, especially after the manner in which their defense was torn to shreds at Anfield last weekend. United will also have one eye on the upcoming second-leg of their Champions League encounter against Marseille, desperate to do one better than Arsenal and progress to the last eight in the tournament.
Arsenal is also battling with their share of injuries. Alex Song, Theo Walcott, Thomas Vermaelen, Lukasz Fabianski and Wojciech Szczensy all appear to be ruled out of the contest. The drought between silverware continues to haunt the Gunners. After Six years without a trophy, Arsenal should’ve ended their baron run against Birmingham in the Carling Cup Final, but fumbled away the opportunity. A loss to Manchester United on Sunday would guarantee the drought stretched until at least May, and the pressure on Arsenal would continue to grow. A win against United is vital – it would go a long way towards easing the ever-growing pressure and expectations weighing down this Arsenal side.
– Manchester United have won 11 of their past 13 matches played at Old Trafford this season
– The last time the two sides met in the FA Cup at Old Trafford in 2008, United prevailed 4-0
– Arsenal haven’t conceded a goal in their last three Premier League matches
– After being knocked out of the Champions League by Barcelona last season, they followed up with a win in their next encounter.
After watching Liverpool dance through the holes in the Manchester United defense last weekend, Arsenal would have to fancy their chances here. They’ll especially be looking to restart their campaign after another stumble against Barcelona in the Champions League. Expect a tight, hard-fought affair, with United looking to contain Arsenal, as the Gunners attempt to play their usual brand of “Total Football.”
Manchester United 0 – Arsenal 2