Saturday, 9 March 2019

Match preview: Arsenal v Man Utd

Manchester United look to end this historic week with a 15th win in 18 remarkable games under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Peter Pan of football has taken the club from looking like lost boys to a magical land of endless possibility. To be in the last eight of the Champions League is a terrific achievement. Now we need to make sure we're in the competition again next season. Having done what seemed impossible by snatching a late, late away goals victory against all odds at the Parc des Princes, United - still technically unbeaten under Solskjaer - locks horns with the Gunners for the 231st time. A storied, historical and at times fierce rivalry played out in front of the watching world once again.

There is a joy and togetherness in United's football. In contrast, Arsenal remain inconsistent as they lurch from the brilliant to the bizarre. This looks a hugely significant tussle in the three-way battle for the Champions League places. United currently sit in the coveted fourth spot but would move joint third and level on points with a Tottenham side faltering fast. Such is the congested, thrilling battle for the top four, Solskjaer's side could drop to sixth should Arsenal inflict his first league defeat and Chelsea prevail over Wolves. You could throw the proverbial blanket over the four teams with the race set to go all the way to the wire.

Prior to Thursday's 3-1 first-leg defeat at Rennes in the Europa League, the Gunners were showing signs of recovery from an indifferent winter period. They have brought themselves back into top-four contention after taking ten points from the last twelve on offer, only dropping two in last weekend's entertaining North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur. After that 1-1 draw at Wembley and the Reds' subsequent win over Southampton, Unai Emery’s men are fifth in the table and one point behind United. We're on a club record high of nine successive away wins whilst Arsenal have notched up eight consecutive victories at the Emirates. Something has to give here.

Arsenal's Lucas Torreira begins a three-game ban after losing an appeal against his dismissal in the north London derby.
Striker Alexandre Lacazette returns after missing Thursday's Europa League defeat in Rennes through suspension. Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding (both knee) and ex Red Danny Welbeck (ankle) are long term absentees for Emery's team.  Stephan Lichtsteiner is back in full training and could return. 
Speaking of which, Anthony Martial is available after a groin injury for  United, who were without ten players against Paris St-Germain in midweek. Eric Bailly has recovered from a heavy challenge in that game, while Nemanja Matic (ankle) and Ander Herrera (hamstring) could be fit.
Paul Pogba is available and will play having served a European suspension.

 United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on his future: "I love managing these boys, I love working here. As I said so many times, I am just doing the best I can every single day, and if and when... if it comes to a decision to be made, we've got to think about that.
"I am not here to get excited or carried away, I am here to do my job. I am contracted to Man United until the end of June. After that, we can sit down together with the board and have the discussions. Until then, I will keep working hard - I am enjoying every minute of this job."

Form guide: Arsenal L W W W D L Man Utd L W D W W W
Match odds: Arsenal 13/10 Draw 5/2 Man Utd 12/4
Referee: Jonathan Moss (Yorkshire)

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