close-run thing. Arsenal are 2.20 to win, the Reds are 3.30 while the draw is 3.40. More temptingly, Antonio Valencia is priced at 15.00 to score the opening goal in an away win, as he did in United’s last victory on the Gunners’ home turf in January 2012.
Sub-plot: Van Persie has scored in all three meetings with his former club since his move in August 2012 – can the Dutchman make it four from four? He’s in prime form, having netted in each match since his return from injury, and another good display against the Gunners could have a profound effect on their title chances.
The manager: Arsene Wenger is far and away the longest-serving manager in English football, having succeeded Bruce Rioch in September 1996, but a lack of silverware in the last nine years is a thorn in the side of the urbane Frenchman.
Star man: French striker Olivier Giroud has ploughed a lone furrow at times up front for the Gunners this term, and is their leading scorer in all competitions. Mezut Ozil started the season well and while he has not quite hit those early heights of late, the German is sure to be a threat. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also likely to ask questions of United’s defence after recently returning from a lengthy absence with a knee injury.
Quote/unquote: “We have to react. We know we need to improve and face those games in a different manner because after 18 minutes we were 4-0 down and it was like a car crash. The manager was really upset at half-time because it wasn't good enough for this football club. It was the angriest I have seen him.” Mikel Arteta on how Arsenal