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Manchester United vs Arsenal Preview: Red Devils bid to disrupt Gunners’ title chase

Manchester United’s penultimate home game of the 2023/24 Premier League season brings title-bidding Arsenal to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.

Under-pressure manager Erik ten Hag suffered his joint-heaviest defeat in charge of the Red Devils on Monday as Crystal Palace brushed United aside with a stunning 4-0 win at Selhurst Park.

Despite insisting he’s not afraid of potential sacking, the Dutchman can’t afford another embarrassment after slipping to eighth in the standings, two points adrift of sixth-placed Newcastle United.

In an otherwise disastrous campaign, the emergence of Kobbie Mainoo is a rare bright spot, with the Premier League including the United prodigy on their list of nominees for the Young Player of the Season award.

Mainoo’s rise to stardom has quickly made him a fan favourite, with an array of outstanding youngster performances featuring a superb goal in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool in April. 

United will need their prodigious teenager at his best following Casemiro’s woeful showing against Palace if they’re to knock high-flying Arsenal off their perch. 

The Gunners eased past mid-table Bournemouth 3-0 last weekend to maintain a one-point lead over second-placed Manchester City, though the perennial champions have a game in hand. 

It means Mikel Arteta’s side can ill-afford to drop points at Old Trafford, where they’ve lost back-to-back league encounters against Man Utd, conceding precisely three goals on both occasions. 

Match Preview

Palace’s sumptuous performance earlier this week condemned Man Utd to their 13th league defeat this season, accounting for their worst tally since the 1989/90 campaign.

While the championship seems a lost cause, United could still salvage this disastrous year with the FA Cup trophy, a title they incidentally won in 1989/90. 

Avenging a heartbreaking 3-1 loss in September’s reverse fixture would set them up nicely for the upcoming showdown against Man City, but the Red Devils’ defensive leaks can’t inspire much confidence.

Not only have United kept just two clean sheets in the Premier League since mid-December, but they’ve conceded at least once in their last nine competitive outings. 

Arsenal’s free-scoring frontline is well-positioned to take advantage of United’s defensive mishaps as they bid to complete their first league double over the Red Devils since 2006/07.

However, the Gunners have only claimed one triumph on their 16 top-flight visits to the Theatre of Dreams since September 2006 (D5, L10) despite finding the net in their last nine (W1, D4, L4).

The visitors can take confidence from winning four consecutive league games since losing to Aston Villa in mid-April, with three of those wins yielding a clean sheet.

On top of that, Arsenal have outperformed all other Premier League clubs on their travels this season, racking up a league-high 39 points on the road (W12, D3, L3). 

Team News

According to ManUtd.com, Lisandro Martinez and Marcus Rashford have returned to training, but this contest will come too soon for the former, who last featured for United in mid-March. 

In addition to the Argentine centre-back, the Red Devils can’t call upon Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia.

Like Rashford, Bruno Fernandes is not 100% fit, but both players should make Ten Hag’s starting XI, with Alejandro Garnacho and Rasmus Hojlund expected to complement the front four. 

Visiting Arsenal will be without long-term absentee Jurrien Timber, but the rest of Arteta’s squad will touch down at Old Trafford. 

Manchester United vs Arsenal Potential Line-ups

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Andre Onana; Diogo Dalot, Casemiro, Jonny Evans, Aaron Wan-Bissaka; Scott McTominay, Kobbie Mainoo; Alejandro Garnacho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Rasmus Hojlund. 

Arsenal (4-3-3): David Raya; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes, Takehiro Tomiyasu; Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey, Declan Rice; Bukayo Saka, Kai Havertz, Leandro Trossard.

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