Sunday 28th February – 14:05 – Old Trafford
It may Capital One Cup Final weekend, but in the Premier League the two most successful teams in the division’s history go head to head as Manchester United host Arsenal. Only one has a realistic chance of lifting the trophy this campaign, with the Red Devils currently sitting in fifth place and 12 points off top spot. They did advance in two other competitions this week though, beating Shrewsbury Town 3-0 in the FA Cup fifth round on Monday, before putting five past Danish side FC Midtjylland on Thursday to progress in the Europa League – they will meet rivals Liverpool in the next round. Arsenal’s European dreams look to be over after they lost 2-0 to Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, but it could help them in the long-term as they continue to fight for the league title. They are in third place, five points off leaders Leicester City, who they beat two weeks ago, but that gap would be reduced to just two points should the Gunners win at Old Trafford.
- The Red Devils will assess Anthony Martial, who missed Thursday’s win against Midtjylland with a tight hamstring.
- Injury-hit United, who were missing 14 players in midweek, will also monitor David De Gea and Chris Smalling.
- Here’s the list of players out (this could be tedious): Matteo Darmian (shoulder), Fellaini (muscle injury), Adnan Januzaj (hamstring), Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger (both knee), Luke Shaw (leg), Antonio Valencia (foot), Ashley Young (groin)
- The Gunners will be without Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who injured his knee against Barcelona.
- Gabriel, who is nearing a return from a hamstring problem, will be assessed.
- Santi Cazorla (knee), Tomas Rosicky (thigh) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) are their other absentees.
The Key Battle: Memphis Depay vs Hector Bellerin
Since signing from PSV for £25 million in the summer, Memphis Depay has failed to live up to that transfer fee and the huge praise he received whilst at the Dutch club.
But after a Man of the Match performance against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League, where he not only scored but also set up the first goal, earned his side two penalties and his cross led to an own goal, Louis van Gaal said it was a “turning point” for the winger. Was it a one off performance, or is this really when we start to see Depay at his very best?
Andre Romer, who played right-back against Depay on Thursday, said the 22 year old nearly reduced him to tears he was that good, but I don’t think we’ll be hearing the same from Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin, who has been the best in his position this season in the Premier League.
With his electric pace, the Spaniard has been a huge attacking influence in the Gunners’ squad, getting four assists in all competitions. After the defeat to Barcelona, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique were seen chatting to the 20 year old. Was it just friendly conversation, or were they proposing a return to the Nou Camp, which Bellerin left in 2011?
Manchester United wins = 95 / Arsenal wins = 81 / Draws = 46
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester United (4th October 2015)
Arsenal stunned Manchester United with three goals in the opening 20 minutes as the Gunners moved up to second in the Premier League table. United had no answer to Arsenal’s opening burst as Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil scored twice in 74 seconds. Sanchez added a third from 18 yards as the Gunners beat United for just the second time in 14 league meetings. United improved after the break but Arsenal substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the crossbar late on. [BBC]
Louis van Gaal: “There is a lot of criticism. The players have to use their tools to ignore it. It should not be an influencing subject. ”
Arsene Wenger: “It is the key period. We work the whole season for this period and that’s where you’re really tested but it’s where you have an opportunity to show quality, nerves and desire as well. Everybody drops points. It is unpredictable. We have rebuilt a good run in the Premier League and we need to continue that. We need to get over the disappointment of the result [against Barcelona] in the Premier League.”
The Referee – Craig Pawson
- Last Premier League game: Everton 3-0 Newcastle United (3rd February 2016) – 3 yellow cards, 1 red card
- Last Manchester United game: Leicester City 1-1 Manchester United (28th November 2016) – 1 yellow card, 0 red cards
- Last Arsenal game: Stoke City 0-0 Arsenal (17th January 2016) – 0 yellow cards, 0 red cards
2015-16 Record: Games = 28 / Yellow cards = 85 / Red cards = 3 / Penalties = 3
Infographic (courtesy of Sporticos)
All stats from Premier League only and correct up until 27/02/2016
Stat of the Match
Victory would see Manchester United become the first team to win 50 top-flight home games against Arsenal.
Where Can I Watch It?
Sky Sports 1 are showing the game live from 1pm on Sunday afternoon, with kick-off an hour and five minutes later. The highlights will then be on BBC One’s Match of the Day 2 at 10:30pm.
My Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal
With United’s long injury list and their title hopes almost gone, I’m expecting Arsenal to win this one with their chances of lifting the trophy still very high. Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott will give the Gunners a commanding lead, before Juan Mata scores only a consolation goal for the hosts to continue to fuel the #VanGaalOut brigade which is expanding each weekend.