Friday, 27 April 2018

Match preview: United v Arsenal

Arsene Wenger will lead out our old rivals Arsenal at Old Trafford for the last time in United's penultimate home tie of the campaign. Despite the subplot of the Frenchman finally stepping down after 22 years in the job, this is a contest that has a classic end of season feel about it with neither side having much to play for.

The visitors find themselves in a similar situation as we did at the same stage last season, with this tie sandwiched between their Europa League double header with Atletico Madrid, with the contest finely poised at 1-1 after the first leg. Red minds were firmly on that competition when we travelled to the Emirates last May, and Arsenal ran out comfortable winners. With Arsenal in sixth place in the Premier League and Burnley snapping at their heels, Europe's second - tier tournament has taken on huge significance as the north London side look to send their legendary and long - serving manager out on a high. In his 60th - and probably final game against United as a manager - Wenger is likely to shuffle his pack for this one with the return in the Spanish capital looming large on Thursday.
That competition remains their only realistic route back into Europe's elite for next season. Only a win here, which would be the first at OT since 2006, would give the Gunners the slightest mathematical chance of returning to the coveted top four position.

United, meanwhile sit safely in second - three points above Liverpool with a game in hand - and with an FA Cup final to look forward to on 19 May. Both clubs have bigger fish to fry before the season is out with both focused on season - defining cup ties. Sunday's game is likely to be a special one for Alexis Sanchez, however, as he faces his former side for the first time since joining us in January. Henrikh Mkhitaryan moved the other way as part of that deal but is set to miss out on with a knee injury. Mohamed Elneny (ankle) is also doubtful, but Santi Cazorla - who has not played for over two years - was seen running on the pitch at the Emirates before that draw with Atletico. United boss Jose Mourinho has a fully fit squad to pick from, with the exception of injured keeper Sergio Romero. Antonio Valencia is expected to feature having been forced off with a knock against Spurs.

On Arsenal and opposite number Wenger, Jose said "I always feel that our biggest rivals are also our biggest friends, everyone knows of the rivalry between Manchester United and Arsenal for a decade. It was between Sir Alex and Mr Wenger, these great teams they fight shoulder to shoulder and I think they made Manchester United better, there is respect there now and I hope they have that feeling. For us, this season is better than last season, we finished sixth, this season I believe and I hope that we can finish second and win the FA Cup too. We have more points, more goals, less goals conceded, so overall there has been a clear evolution in the team and next season we look to do better again."

Form guide: United W W W L W W Arsenal W W D L W D
Match odds: United 4/9 Draw 15/4 Arsenal 7/1
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)



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