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Arsenal Away: Champions’ League Preview

It’s hard to talk about other things without getting the obvious rumour out of the way. The Guardian broke the news of United making an offer of £63m for Franck Ribery. Now before we get ahead of ourselves, let it be known that we just made an offer — assuming the story is true. (Raphael Honigstein did the exclusive, and although he’s one of the better journalists around — and among the nicer chaps based on my sources — you never know with so much time between now and the transfer window.)

All we know right now is that the club have made an offer. And that fact has been confirmed by some unnamed officials. I have only this to say: Transfers of major star names are not discreet affairs. Other parties will also be interested. An initial price is usually that — an initial price; it’s bound to go up. We are Manchester United. We always end up paying a United tax on these kind of transfers.

(You would notice, I haven’t even mentioned Ronaldo in all this. Well, I don’t think we have the funds to blow money on one player without selling one of our own of a comparable value.)

End of talk on that.

Let’s move on to what we have today.

Yes. The Champions’ League semi final against an old enemy. A rivalry that’s mellowed on all levels; be it between fans, players and even managers to more of mutual respect. Some United fans would chalk this down to a lack of challenge presented by the Gooners in recent times in the title challenge stakes. Some others would put it down to a lack of characters in either side who would be protagonists in the drama that unfolds on the stage.

But rivalry or no rivalry, United-Arsenal games have rarely disappointed in the quality of football. You’d always see both sides going for it or, at the least, one side dominating the other. What one rarely sees is a cagey match where either side is scared of losing.

That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that Ferguson might go for a safety first approach. It’s acceptable if we make good use of our counters. But if Fergie intends to play it like Camp Nou of last year, I’d be concerned. Just as we seem to be hitting the right notes as the season winds down, I’d expect a positive mentality going into today’s game. A positive mentality does not mean going hammer and tongs at the opposition, mind, but making a better than a token effort on the counter when we have possession; not dribbling our way to a corner flag.

Anyway, on the pre-match trash-talk press conference, the manager has stressed on the importance of going to the Emirates with the intent to score. Meanwhile Wenger is extremely confident of a ‘magnificent’ performance from his side. I must re-emphasise: he is extremely confident. Like he knows he’ll make it. A bit disturbing, I must say.

In their team news, van Persie is back, which is something to fear. They have a full strength squad in their attacking end (minus a cup tied Arshavin). A majority of their side has had a good week’s rest. Something we must be wary about.

We’ve had our own clutch of rested stars. The biggest boost for us is obviously the news that Rio is fit. In midfield we’ll possibly see the same line up as last time: Anderson, Fletcher, Carrick. In attack it is anyone’s guess, but Rooney and Ronaldo will occupy the left and right respectively, whilst it’s always going to be a toss up between Berbatov and Tevez. Being an away fixture it could be that Tevez’s endless running might tempt Fergie to go with him, but I’m no good at these prediction games. So I’ll let it be.

Anyway, I’m excited about today. I’m sure most of you are too. Prediction: 1-1.

Come on you reds!!! (Although we won’t be wearing red today. So I don’t mean the red team… but you know…)