Its is a rivalry that has simmered over in recent years comes right back to boiling point this evening at Old Trafford as Manchester United take on Arsenal in the Premier League.
A battle that would have been first against second is now first versus third after Manchester’s other team decided to move themselves joint top alongside Arsenal.
It should come as some comfort that United are unbeaten against the Gunners in the last five matches and you have to go back 2 years to find the last Arsenal victory.
Tensions have been renewed in the last few days with Patrice Evra the main instigator.
“Arsenal, a big club like that, have won nothing for five years. For me, it’s a crisis, it’s ridiculous,” Evra told Canal+ in France.
“People get knocked out by Arsenal’s play, but in the end, what is there? There’s nothing. No trophies, nothing.
“Arsenal is a training centre. I watch them play and enjoy it but will they win the title? That’s what people remember.”
United are expected to field a relatively settled line up, so expect the usual backline of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand in the middle, Patrice Evra on the left and Rafael on the right.
As with most big games Sir Alex will likely deploy a five-man midfield, resulting in Nani on the right, probably Ji-Sung Park on the left and a midfield trio of Anderson, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes. But Darren Fletcher may be preferred to either Carrick or Scholes to give the midfield some extra bite.
It should also be noted that Anderson has seemed to play well when Park is in the team as the South Korean often drifts inside covering for the Brazilian on his more recent forays forward.
One big change will be Wayne Rooney deployed as a lone front man, leaving Dimitar Berbatov to stew on the bench. This means the midfield will have to support the England international as much as possible if United are to unlock the Arsenal backline.
The matches against Arsenal have lacked a certain je ne sais quoi as Sir Alex acknowledged but with the away side perceived as genuine title contenders the boss is predicting fireworks.
“The games, particularly four or five years ago, were so important because both of us were challenging for league titles,” Sir Alex told manutd.com.
“Chelsea have now come in and it’s been ourselves and Chelsea over the last five years.
“Nonetheless, it’s Manchester United against Arsenal and the history of both teams always guarantees a match of intensity and, a lot of the time, controversy.
“I think Monday’s game will be more or less the same because the pride and history of both clubs determines that.”
Arsene Wenger’s team have a number of injuries to key players. He will make a late decision on whether to play captain Cesc Fabregas who has struggled to recover from a hamstring injury. Kieran Gibbs is out with an ankle injury, while long-term absentee Thomas Vermaelen means it is Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny in the heart of the Gunners defence.
One recent development has been regarding the goalkeeper, it seems Wojciech Szczesny will make his Premier League debut at Old Trafford as Lukasz Fabianski is struggling with a leg injury and Manuel Almunia is out of favour.
Wenger is also confident in his side’s ability to conquer Old Trafford.
“We have an opportunity to show how good we are – that is what you want in life,” Wenger told reporters.
“Let’s go without any preconceived ideas, not about any weakness of Manchester United, nor about any weakness from us, just let’s focus on the day, to give your best, play with belief, play for each other and we have a good chance to beat anybody.
“I know that my team will be really up for it, and I always have great belief in my players – I know how hungry they are for success and am sure that will come out in the game,” he concluded.
This game has a real air of expectation to is and fortunes should lie with United given Arsenal have lost seven of their last nine trips to Old Trafford in league and cup.
In a little side note: A special presentation will be made to Solskjaer around 15 minutes before kick-off as it is the last home match before he leaves to take over at Molde.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Possible Line-Up: Van der Sar; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Scholes, Park; Rooney.
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