So that game has arrived on Citi 97.3 FM. Robin Van Persie faces the club he just left and with both teams benefitting from refereeing decisions on the last matchday, the spotlight will not only be on the Dutchman. In the studio will be Nathan Quao and all our panelists from around the world. The coverage will be anchored by Godfred Akoto-Boafo this week. Kickoff is at 1245 GMT, and pre-match analysis starts at 1215GMT.
United have no new injury concerns after facing Chelsea twice in four days, however they will revert to a more experienced team against Arsenal than the one which featured in mid-week.
David De Gea will return in goal and in front of him Rio Ferdinand will partner Jonny Evans at centre-back and Evra and Rafael will start in the fullback positions. Chris Smalling is back in training, however he is unlikely to feature. Vidic and Jones are unavailable through injury.
United may continue to play 4-4-2 which means Cleverley and Carrick will start in the centre of midfield, with the option of Rooney dropping deep. Young and Valencia should take up the wide positions if the Reds stick to playing wingers. Giggs, Nani, Scholes and Anderson are available; Kagawa is ruled out through injury.
Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie are expected to return or the Reds. Hernandez could start due to his current form, Welbeck is also available. Surely this could not be a repeat of the sensational 8-2 scoreline that saw Manchester United plunge Arsenal into crisis in the corresponding fixture last autumn?
Usually you would say there is no chance. But with Arsenal coming into this game on the back of a 7-5 win and United losing 5-4 in midweek then it would seem anything is possible.
What matters to Sir Alex Ferguson and his players are the points. United can go top of the Premier League with a win over the Gunners.
Him, for the first time. Indifference towards Him (RVP, obviously) would probably be more effective psychological weapon than jeering; dismissing eight years of his life with a shrug of the shoulders a more hurtful retaliation to his betrayal and lies.
Football, being football, won’t have that and it was no surprise to read of Arsène talking about defenders containing Him. Presumably none of those who formed the back four on Tuesday against Reading sprang to mind.
Indeed, the line-up which faced QPR is the likeliest to start against United with the only possible change being the inclusion of Theo Walcott ahead of Aaron Ramsey, who must have left the field for the final ten minutes of the game unnoticed since we are regularly told that Arsenal never win a game when he is involved.
The England substitute has played himself into contention at club level with a good performance at the Madejski Stadium but is his desire to play as a central striker curtailing his club and international opportunities this season. Certainly in the case of former and that will damage the latter. The wide right position at club level was his and no matter the opponents, Walcott was probably one of the first names on the teamsheet. This has changed with his contract negotiations stalling, a situation that will not last beyond Christmas according to the manager.
Once that deadline passes, the speculation is whether or not Walcott will be sold in January. A certain amount of arrogance presumes the club is in control at that point; Arsenal may agree a fee but unless it is a move that Walcott wants, he is not going to sign for anyone and the club receive nothing in June when his contract runs out.
For Arsène, it becomes a question of what is best for the team to that point. Ramsey is favoured at the moment but I wonder if the injury to Gervinho will force the manager’s hand somewhat. Giroud needs service and with due respect to the Welshman, he is neither blessed with pace or noted for his ability to cause defenders concern in wide positions. With the Frenchman leading the line, I don’t see that Wenger has much choice but to play Walcott, another attacking outlet, a further release from pressure.
In the same way that some have concerns about Santos and Valencia, United share similar discomfort about Walcott and the left side of their defence, vulnerabilities exposed by Chelsea in recent matches as well as Braga and Stoke. Indeed, only Newcastle and Galatasaray have failed to score against today’s hosts and that offers Arsenal considerable hope. That is not to dismiss our own defensive failings or even ignore them, more to underline that we are not the only club with problems in that area.
The stakes for Arsenal are huge, a chance to close the gap on teams above them and with their twelfth man on the pitch today, United will not be short of support. Whether men 13, 14 and 15 are also in play largely depends on Arsenal. Maybe Sir Alex Ferguson won’t need to bring pressure on the Assistants and Fourth Official; maybe (hopefully) he will since that is a sign of how well Arsenal are performing.
It is crucial that the team plays well today. Pride is at stake as well as three points. Capitulating as last season is not an option. If lightning should strike twice, there will not be a pleasant atmosphere ahead of the trip to Gelsenkirchen with calls for a number to be left in Germany almost irresistible.
United have won 7 and lost none of the last 8 matches against Arsenal at Old Trafford in all competitions.
In the Last meeting at Old Trafford, United inflicted Arsenal’s biggest ever defeat in the Premier League when they won 8-2 at Old Trafford.
Robin van Persie scored in both league meetings last season while playing for Arsenal.
Wayne Rooney scored his first Premier League goal, his first in the Premier League goal for United and his 100th Premier League goal against Arsenal.
Rooney has scored 10 goals against Arsenal in his career. This is the join highest by a Premier League player against the Gunners
There have been nine penalties in the Premier League meetings between Arsenal and Manchester United in the Wenger era (seven for United, two for Arsenal); all at Old Trafford and five have been missed.
Eight of those penalties have come in the last nine meetings between United and Arsenal at Old Trafford.
The Gunners have scored just 10 goals in 20 Premier League visits to Old Trafford, with last season (2-8 defeat) being the only time they have netted two in one game.
Robin van Persie has seven goals and three assists in nine Premier League appearances for the Reds. United have scored in their last 53 Premier League home games, an all-time Premier League record.
Source: A Cultured Left Foot