[Guest Post] Match Preview: Manchester United vs Arsenal

March 12, 2011

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.


Manchester United vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 12, 2011

I am over with the disappointment of not qualifying for the next round in Champions League as we travel to Old Trafford today for the important FA Cup quarter final clash. To be honest, I wasn’t that much bothered by the elimination, yet, I wanted to see Barcelona beaten. Barcelona got through; we failed, fairly or as some are pointing out through unfair means. The result is what matters at the end of the day and it won’t do us any good in blaming others. We have to move on from it and I hope the players will have moved on because today we need a response.

We are already out from two trophies; we cannot go out from FA Cup today as it will be detrimental to our morale. Please Arsenal, no more mistakes and no more half hearted attempts. If all the players believe so much while they talk off the pitch, it’s time now to do the talking and showing the belief on the pitch. Stuff like saying this game will define our season won’t help us much if we don’t perform. It is time to prove and I would be more than happy if the players give their all today.

Coming to the game, whose result  is vital to the rest of our remaining season. A win today and I see us taking the double. A loss, I still see us taking the Championship, although it will be very close and we will need to show massive character. However, we cannot think of anything but a win today.

Manchester will approach this game as they always do against us. They will flood the midfield and play a lone striker upfront. They will try to catch us on the counter, using the flanks and by delivering in crosses. They don’t have Nani, but they have players who can damage us very quickly. We will have to ensure that we don’t give them any chance.

The last time we played them at Old Trafford in December; we failed to impose ourselves on the game and eventually lost. In that game we failed to bring the ball out from defense and thus failed to create chances and United, despite playing poorly went on to win the game. I thought that we gave too much respect to United in that game and today I don’t want to see the same. If we control the midfield, they will have problems and with their defense not as good as it was in recent years, we can open them up. Nonetheless, everyone will have to put in a good shift.

Defensively we will get to deal with lots of crosses. After seeing us perform remarkably in defense against Barcelona, I believe that if we want to, we can deal with crosses too. We did well if I remember the last time.  Again alertness of the back four and support from midfield will be essential. And I hope we don’t miss Szczesny and Almunia has an excellent game. 

As far as the starting eleven is concerned, Arsene Wenger has said that he will put the strongest team.  So I expect only a couple changes from the Barcelona game.

Almunia of course will be in goal with the back four remaining same as they were against Barcelona.

In the middle we don’t have Fabregas and Song. I would have started with Wilshere in the free role but then the defensive role will go to Denilson, whom I don’t want to see start. We have the option of Ramsey but it will be too much to ask from him in such a game and in such a position. Nasri can play the free role, so can Diaby, so can Rosicky. However, considering all the option, I will start Wilshere, Diaby and Nasri, with Wilshere staying deep. And I hope Diaby has a good game today.

Upfront Van Persie will start along with Arshavin, who was missed dearly against Barcelona. On the right we have the option of starting with Rosicky, Eboue and Bendtner. I am thinking about putting Ramsey on right. If things aren’t going our way, we can shift Nasri to the right, Diaby in the free role with Ramsey taking his place. I know it’s not a game to check such a lineup and too much to ask from Ramsey but I believe he will be more than geared up to show that he is ready to start in big games.  And this can also be the perfect game for him to make his return. Otherwise, put in Bendtner on the right.

Probable starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Nasri, Diaby, Ramsey, RVP, Arshavin

So that’s it. We can win today’s game but so can United. It will be a race as to who puts up good show and take the initiative. I am gunning for Arsenal and as always expect us to win.

Keep the faith and keep your fingers crossed. Tonight we will get a clear picture of what’s left of this season.