Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has welcomed being drawn away to Arsenal in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round because he wants his Manchester United players to be tested by top opponents.
The Reds' reward for beating Reading 2-0 at Old Trafford is a visit to the Emirates Stadium for a contest that will evoke many memories of past meetings with the Gunners in the competition, as well as providing a number of talking points for this latest encounter, including Alexis Sanchez facing his former employers.
While United could have been handed a less taxing tie, with a home clash usually the desired option, the caretaker manager only has positive thoughts on facing a club he has so much history with from his playing days under Sir Alex Ferguson.
When asked by MUTV for his reaction to the pairing with the Gunners, he replied:
“Fantastic. We need these games. These players need the big games to be challenged.Of course, everyone says we’ve won the last five games but [they have] not been [against] big opposition. But you can only beat the teams you play and, for us to get tested and go to the next level, you need those games. And if you want to win the FA Cup, you have to beat everybody.
United drew 2-2 with Arsenal at Old Trafford last month, with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard on the scoresheet for the Reds, and it promises to be another tight battle against Unai Emery's side.
Indeed, the club's overall head-to-head record in the FA Cup is incredibly close with the Reds claiming seven wins to the Gunners' six and two other meetings resulting in draws. Both sides have scored a total of 19 goals in those 15 games.
The 1999 semi-final replay with Arsene Wenger's Arsenal team will always be remembered as a pivotal match in United's Treble-winning campaign, 20 years ago. Ole certainly thinks that was the case.
“Maybe one of the best FA Cup memories was against Arsenal at Villa Park when Peter [Schmeichel] saved that penalty towards the end and Giggsy’s dribble [for the winner],” added Solskjaer.
“If they’d have beaten us, if Peter hadn’t saved the penalty, I think they probably would have gone on to win the Double and pipped us to the league. So I think that save of Peter’s was the catalyst for the Treble.”
First-team coach Michael Carrick was also asked by MUTV for his view on the undisputed tie of the round.
“It’s a typically nice draw, just when you want a nice little home game!” he laughed.
“But if you want to get to the final or win these competitions, you’ve got to play and beat [the best teams] and we’ll look forward to going down there.”
MUTV will show interviews with Solskjaer and Carrick in a special United in Dubai programme at 18:00 GMT today (Tuesday).
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