Note: This guest post is written by Hamza, a friend of mine, who is a Manchester United fan through and through. Here is how he sees today’s FA Cup game against us.
It’s that time of the year again where the best of English football comes into action. Within the span of three weeks, Manchester United finds themselves against another top rival. The last two encounters have certainly not gone according to the plan resulting in media blackout. So definitely, the Red Devils would be eager to end their losing streak after a breathtaking start to the season.
Today promises to be a fighting encounter as the FA Cup is at stake here. With Chelsea and Liverpool out already, today’s winner would be heavy favorites to lift the cup (though Man City might be favoring their chances as well). Going by the records, Man United have still won their last eight games at home and have not lost to Arsenal at Old Trafford since 2006. The last encounter between the sides saw Manchester United prevail 1-0 at home courtesy Ji-Sung Park strike.
Coming into the match, Manchester United would surely be a little low but the gunners aren’t well off either. Although they have played quite an attractive football of any season, their recent blows in Carling Cup and Champions League states that they have failed to come to terms in the off-league games. Arsenal’s captain (Cesc Fabregas) is out which means Rob Van Persie would lead the side. Arsenal would also be without its first choice of keeper, Szczesny, leaving Almunia to wear the gloves. He has not had much of a game practice this season, playing hardly 10 games altogether. Theo Walcott and Alex Song are also on the injured list. Not that I am much concerned about them, but its (rival worries) always an added advantage one should keep in mind.
Manchester United comes into this match following an unconvincing 1-0 win over Crawley Town. It was another forgettable encounter with the Red Devils failing to show their dominance over a non-league side. Injuries further add to the agony of the team with Nani tearing a tendon on his left leg in the game versus Liverpool. Ji-Sung Park still remains on the bench but on the positive side Antonio Valencia is back in the side after almost 6 months and is likely to get a nod today. Captain Nemanja Vidic would also be back after the suspension period, Darren Fletcher is expected to return to the side and Rio Ferdinand is also on the comeback trail, though it might still be too early to play him against Gunners. All these rejoining would be a huge boost to Sir Alex Ferguson, who might play it a little cautious considering the upcoming second leg against Marseille in Champion League, having settled for a nil-nil draw previously. So don’t be surprised if some unexpected members get a go today.
Following the injuries, Manchester united are likely to come up with a different set of formation and if Antonio Valencia is kept back for later stages of the game, we might find Darren Fletcher playing the role of right-hand side midfielder. As Arsenal is keen to play on the wings, John’O Shea and Patrick Evra would most likely be retained at the back. The central midfield would probably be occupied by Michael Carrick and Darren Gibson as Anderson’s inclusion remains a question mark following a knee injury. Upfront we might see Javier Hernandez in place of Rooney after scoring the only United goal against Liverpool.
The game is also being viewed as a curtain raiser to the Premier League title race with both teams marginally separated. Hopefully for Man United, this is a glorious chance to shrug off their poor form and overturn the plunge. Along with the home advantage and decent record we are surely the favorites to nail this one. And if we play as per the start of the season, take our chances and make the most of Arsenal’s negligence, then there is no doubt we’d emerge victorious. Good luck Reds, here is hoping you bring the trophy home.