Seven talking points for Arsenal v United
Matches between Arsenal and Manchester United rarely disappoint and don't need much in the way of an introduction.
The two clubs meet again on Friday night in the fourth round of the Emirates FA Cup for the latest instalment in a long-running saga. We’ve picked out some of the hot topics up for discussion ahead of the big game…
CAN OLE MAKE IT EIGHT FROM EIGHT?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking to continue the best-ever start by a United boss when we visit the Emirates Stadium; a good omen is that we won in north London just a fortnight ago when beating Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at Wembley Stadium. If the Norwegian can make it eight wins from his first eight games, it would give us even more confidence heading into further tough assignments – including Paris St-Germain in the Champions League and Liverpool in the Premier League. With the possibility of a burdensome replay if the game finishes in a draw, and the shared determination to go all the way in the competition, Solskjaer and his opposite number Unai Emery will undoubtedly be going all out for a victory.
IT'S TIGHT BETWEEN THE TEAMS
If our last meeting with the Gunners is anything to go by, we could be in for another fascinating evening. The Reds twice came from behind to draw 2-2 in a pulsating encounter in the league at Old Trafford in early December. Both teams are level on points and adjacent in the Premier League table, while we boast an even record from meetings at the Emirates Stadium since the ground opened in 2006/07 – with five wins apiece and three draws. We also have fond memories of our last visit 14 months ago, when some clinical finishing and heroic goalkeeping from David De Gea saw us emerge 3-1 winners. It’s the perfect way to kick start the fourth-round weekend under the lights in the capital – and, not forgetting, there’s VAR to throw into the mix too!
CHANCE TO CATCH ARSENAL ON WINNERS LIST
There’s a lot riding on the game, not least in historical terms as the two most successful clubs in the FA Cup do battle again. United have won the trophy 12 times, most recently when beating Crystal Palace in the 2016 final, while Arsenal have triumphed on a record 13 occasions. Of course, it’s also an opportunity to reach the fifth round and get one over a Premier League rival. Ole has already spoken passionately about how much he loved the FA Cup as a player and he would dearly love to add another success in the famous old competition as a manager.
DALOT TO PLAY AT LEFT-BACK AGAIN?
Diogo Dalot received a surprise late call-up to the XI against Brighton last weekend after Luke Shaw was taken ill in the warm-up and played his part in Marcus Rashford’s sublime goal with a fine assist. The Portuguese youngster, who has made 12 appearances for the Reds so far, has mainly operated at right-back but showed against the Seagulls he’s equally comfortable playing at left-back. His latest mature display received widespread praise among United fans on social media and Dalot, who started against Reading in the previous round of the FA Cup, has given Solskjaer another option to think about.
RASHFORD’S IN THE BEST FORM OF HIS CAREER
There’s one man every United fan is raving about at the moment - and rightly so. Marcus Rashford is currently in the best form of his burgeoning career so far. Seven goals in his last 10 games, a Man of the Match display on his 150th Reds appearance last time out against Brighton, netting in four successive league games for the first time – we could reel off so many stats which back up the 21-year-old’s irrepressible run of late. With memories of his brace against Arsenal on his Premier League debut in February 2016 to spur him on, he’ll no doubt have the Gunners in his sights again in his bid to add to the five goals he’s scored in the FA Cup to date.
ALEXIS SET FOR REUNION WITH GUNNERS
In the week of his first anniversary since joining United from Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez could make his first return to the Emirates, where he’ll be remembered as a cult hero. The Chilean scored 80 goals in 166 games during four seasons with the Gunners, winning the FA Cup twice and the Community Shield in 2014. He was also named Arsenal’s Player of the Season on two occasions. Our no.7 will be desperate to return to action having not featured in the last two games since coming off against Reading in the last round of the FA Cup with an injury. Solskjaer said last week that Alexis has shown a great attitude in training and he’s confident that the 30-year-old will be able to feature against his former club on Friday.
THAT FRIDAY FEELING IN THE AWAY END
Yes, it can be problematic for match-going fans, but there are so many things to love about a Friday-night game! There will be 5,223 supporters in the away end at the Emirates Stadium, which is terrific considering the timing and the long trip required for some supporters. It will be our first Friday fixture since the opening weekend of the league campaign, when we beat Leicester City 2-1 at Old Trafford. The Reds also had two games on this day of the week during our journey to last season’s FA Cup final – against Derby County at home in round three and Yeovil Town away in the fourth round when Alexis made his debut. But there’s nothing quite like beating one of your rivals away from home under the lights with millions watching around the world, so let’s hope we get the perfect start to the weekend by booking our place in the fifth round!
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