Sunday, April 29 – 4:30p.m Local time – Old Trafford, Manchester, United Kingdom
Manchester United are set to return to Premier League action this weekend after missing out last week due to their commitment in the FA Cup. The Red devils welcome Arsenal to Old Trafford on Sunday in what is quite routinely one of the most anticipated Premier League matches of the football calendar year.
Jose Mourinho’s men will be hopeful of registering successive wins over North London clubs, having beaten Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final last weekend; a record equaling 20th FA Cup final for United whilst condemning Spurs to their eighth successive loss in the last four of the competition.
Even though Man United were awarded with the right to play as the home team, there was no challenging the fact that Wembley was very much Tottenham’s yard.
United began sluggishly in their proverbial home away from home while Spurs- as they have for much of the season- started as the sharper side, showing verve and intent against a Manchester United team they had galloped past on the same ground in January.
It didn’t take long for them to find their breakthrough, as Dele Alli ruptured the very foundations of the national stadium following celebrations after his opener in the eleventh minute. The hosts were caught sleeping when Davinson Sanchez stringed a long pass to Christian Eriksen, who delivered an inch-perfect cross for Alli to slide it in.
Man United yet again responded well to going behind, as Alexis Sanchez restored parity with a fine header, following a cross by Paul Pogba who won the ball from Mousa Dembele through a brilliant combination of both power and skill.
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Eric Dier could have restored the lead at the stroke of half time had he not been denied by the post, thus ending the engrossing first half in a one-all draw.
The second half nonetheless couldn’t be any more different than it was. Mourinho’s team talk at the break worked to full effect, as United gained a foothold in the game before turning the tie on its head with a goal just after the hour mark.
Wembley was stunned into silence when Ander Herrera, who was charging into the box, lashed the leather past Michel Vorm after Romelu Lukaku’s poor first touch sent the ball into his path.
From there on in it became a loft sided affair, as Manchester United played out their skins to put up a near-perfect second half performance that credited the score line.
Tottenham is without question a top brass side that is easy on the eye- with their slick passing and high tempo style of play- compared to Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. Even so, Spurs looked lost and deflated at the final whistle, scratching their heads in disbelief wondering what could have been.
Spurs spurned yet another chance of reaching a cup final and possibly securing a trophy, which now leaves them with a top four finish as their end game this season.
Whereas Mauricio Pochettino has failed to win a single trophy at Spurs in four years, Jose Mourinho has the chance of claiming his third major trophy and fourth overall title after just two seasons at Old Trafford.
A trophy will however not be on the line this weekend when United host the Gunners, seeing as Manchester City were long crowned Premier League champions.
The encounter will quite fittingly be Arsene Wenger’s last match against United as Arsenal manager, after the Frenchman announced he will be stepping down from the role at the end of the season; a position that he has held for the last 22 years.
Arsenal nonetheless look the more fallible side heading into the encounter, so much for their short recovery period as it is for their disappointing result on Thursday night.
The Gunners drew 1-1 at home with Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final, a result the Arsenal gaffer has since termed as the “worst possible result” for them ahead of next week’s reverse fixture in the Spanish capital.
Atletico played with ten men for nearly the entire length of the match after fullback Sime Vrsaljko was sent off in the opening ten minutes having received two yellow cards in quick succession.
Diego Simeone was soon afterwards sent to the stands following his animated protests over the red card, but Arsenal still had to wait until the 61st minute to find their breakthrough.
Alexandre Lacazette did justice to Jack Wilshere’s fine delivery into the area by nodding it home, but Arsenal’s laxity at the back saw them concede the dreaded away goal through Antoine Griezmann eight minutes from time.
Arsenal as such find themselves on the back foot ahead of the second leg, which will undoubtedly make them have a reserved approach in their game plan against Manchester United.
It doesn’t help that the Gunners have a lengthy injury list ahead of their visit to Manchester, in stark contrast to Jose Mourinho’s charges who are well rested and beaming with confidence.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan will have to wait a while longer for his first return to Old Trafford since making the switch to the Emirates in January, having gone down with a knee injury.
Mohamed Elneny’s season is surely over after the Egypt international was stretchered off at the break- for an ankle injury- during their recent 4-1 win over West Ham United, while Danny Welbeck is available for a return ‘home’.
Mesut Ozil could miss out on the trip due to illness while Jack Wilshere and Sead Kolasinac remain further doubts due to injury.
United on the other hand have a near-clean bill of health, with goalkeeper Sergio Romero being their only injury absentee.
Manchester United vs. Arsenal match prediction
Arsenal are currently sixth on the log with 57 points, 11 points behind Tottenham in fourth and a distant 17 behind United in second place with four games left to the end of the season.
The Gunners quite literally have nothing to play for in the match, which is why you would expect Jose to complete the season double over Arsenal.
Prediction: Man United to win – -250 on William Hill
Manchester United vs. Arsenal recent results
Arsenal 1-3 Man United (December 2, 2017)
Alexandre Lacazette 49′
Antonio Valencia 4′
Jesse Lingard 11′, 63′
Arsenal 2-0 Man United (May 7, 2017)
Granit Xhaka 54′
Danny Welbeck 57′
Man United 1-1 Arsenal (November 19, 2016)
Juan Mata 68′
Olivier Giroud 89′
Man United 3-2 Arsenal (November 19, 2016)
Marcus Rashford 29′, 32′
Ander Herrera 65′
Danny Welbeck 40′
Mesut Ozil 69′
Arsenal 3-0 Man United (October 4, 2015)
Alexis Sanchez 6′, 19′
Mesut Ozil 7′
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