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Manchester United vs Fabregas-less Arsenal: Preview

Vidic NasriSo here we are then. With just three competitive (if you prefer not to count the Community Shield as meaningful) games of the season played, we face our first big test in the shape of Arsenal.

While last season’s meeting at Old Trafford in the Premier League was hardly of massive significance, tomorrow’s encounter will certainly provide a decent benchmark to how we are shaping up in terms of our title credentials this campaign.

The big news? Cesc Fabregas will NOT be playing for the Gunners. Now while I don’t like to single out opposition individuals on the impact they can have on a game, Fabregas has looked pretty darn impressive in the opening couple of games this season. Given our own injury worries too, his absence should certainly provide a welcome boost.

I doubt you’ll need reminding but Rio Ferdinand continues to miss out for us with a thigh injury although a return against Spurs on September 12th has been pencilled in as a realistic comeback date. Despite Jonny Evans’ concerns over his own fitness, it would appear that he will continue to play through the pain barrier to line-up alongside Nemanja Vidic at the heart of the defence.

Ben Foster will undoubtedly continue to deputise for Edwin van der Sar between the sticks while I expect Patrice Evra and John O’Shea to vacate the two full-back berths. In central midfield we (well Sir Alex really) is faced with something of a conundrum. After Anderson’s well documented paddy, will Fergie continue to leave him out despite the Brazilian’s eagerness to brush the incident under the carpet. Michael Carrick was another to miss out against Wigan but with Darren Fletcher pretty much a nailed on starter, I predict it will be one of Carrick or Anderson to come in ahead of Scholes.

Following a decent, if not inspirational, performance from Antonio Valencia against his former club last weekend, he should start on the wing with Nani continuing on the opposite flank. That said, Park has always seemed to perform well against Arsenal so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he does make the starting eleven. That leaves the inevitable strikeforce of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov as I can’t see Owen getting the nod in a game of such significance. 

In his pre-match press conference Sir Alex has called for our results to improve against the so-called big four (where we only won one out of six last term) but he has played down the significance of tomorrow’s clash with the Gunners.

“With 35 games left, you can’t say that this game will be decisive,” he said.

“But what means a lot to us is that last season against the top teams we dropped six points to Liverpool, five to Arsenal and two to Chelsea. We really need to address that and do better in these games. One opportunity comes along on Saturday and I hope we take it.”

In an ultimately similar fashion (gone are the days of a Wenger-Ferguson feud I’m afraid), Wenger has admitted that he is desperate for Arsenal to prove they can pick up victories away from home against the club’s fighting for the title. Prior to beating Chelsea in November last year, the North Londoners hadn’t beaten a top four club away from home since 2006.

“We want to show that we can win the big games away from home,” he said.

“This is a good opportunity to do it. We know we go to Old Trafford with a good belief and that is very important before a big game like that.”

Whether Arsenal will be more up for the game considering we outclassed them over two legs in last season’s Champions League semi-final remains to be seen but in terms of our recent record against them, we’re certainly on top, especially at Old Trafford.

Arsenal have clearly come flying out of the blocks this season and I believe it’s going to be just as much a test of our credentials as it will be for Wenger and his side. Freshness may be a factor later on in the game with Arsenal having played against Celtic in midweek although at this early stage of the season I can’t see it being too much of a hindrance to them.

Despite the loss of Fabregas, the likes of Arshavin, van Persie and Eduardo all have the ability to cause us problems which is why I’m tentatively predicting a draw as the outcome.

Prediction: 1-1

Photo credit: Getty Images



  1. Fred The Red

    31 August 2009 at 01:11

    @Roge9: Patience my freind, very rarely, if ever does the gaffer allow mediocrity to stay long a OT, but at the end of the season if things are as you say then he will move to address it, but I have a sneaky feeling that a few young potential superstars are going to cutting their teeth this season.

  2. Roge9

    31 August 2009 at 01:12

    @Fred The Red: No one is advocating that we stock pile on stars, but to not have purchased even one is unacceptable and quite frankly, moronic. Fergie’s faith in recent years has been increasingly misplaced. How are any of them to improve when he plays them inconsistently and assigns them roles incompatible with their attributes?

  3. Nino

    31 August 2009 at 01:15

    @gator: 😀 😀 😀 😀

  4. colver

    31 August 2009 at 01:24

    FredTheRed. If Fergie does see something special in our youth I would understand and support that. But Im not sure quite how they are going to develop into the worldbeaters we need when we invariably start either Scholes or Giggs and continue to put up with Carrick’s lacklustre displays and Berbatov’s occasional displays of brilliance that paper over his lack of goals.

    Im pleased to see Nani is getting a lot of game time and he could well develop into a world class player one day. Valencia is basically the same age as Ronaldo and half the player so Im not sure what Fergie had in mind with that signing when we could have got Silva for another ten million.

    But what worries me the most is midfield. I would like to see either Anderson (although if im honest i see NO progress in Anderson despite a fair number of games for the club) or Gibson paired with Fletcher or Hargreaves. The only way Anderson and Gibson have a hope of progressing is if they get thirty or so games a season and are playing every week.

    I also cannot see how Macheda or Welbeck is every going to develop when Berbatov and Owen are ahead of them. Now Berbatov and Owen are good players but they are not the world class striker we need alongside Rooney. Could Macheda or Welbeck become world class? Who knows but definitely not if they never play!

    My basic complaint is that Fergie is playing EXACTLY the same team minus Ronaldo. If he was going to use this season to blood youngsters I would respect that and accept a trophyless season. But I do not see the youngsters getting enough games at this rate so we’ll be trophyless this season and the following season and so on until Fergie actually gives the youngsters lots of games so they have a chance at becoming top class two or three seasons from now.

  5. Fred The Red

    31 August 2009 at 01:39

    @colver: the season is only 4 games old mate, the youngsters could still be blooded yet, its better to introduce them into a winning team rather than throw them in from the start.
    I agree about Anderson, he must be given at least 30 games this season to find his game.
    I share some of your fears about the way the gaffer could go about things, the problem is he wants to give the young players a chance while remaining competitive at the same time, a very hard thing to do, I hope by trying to achieve this he doesnt derail both.

  6. Fred The Red

    31 August 2009 at 01:45

    @Roge9: theres not much in your post that I disagree with mate, but I will reserve judgement until the end of the season, to make an assessment before then is futile.

  7. Grognard

    31 August 2009 at 03:30

    @Red Ranter: They are all suffering from an ailment called Ronalditis. And it’s going to take a long time before they as well as their manager realizes it is a slow healing ailment. 😀

  8. Grognard

    31 August 2009 at 03:33

    @Craig Mc: When I am referring to people in generalities mate, that never includes you whether I agree or disagree with you on a point. I have more respect for you simply because over time, you have earned it. So even if you are overly positive at times, I still don’t lump you in with a lot of those out there who happy addicts and who find a silver lining in terminal cancer. So you have no problem with me. When you and I have problems or disagreements, you hear it from me. I’m not shy and I don’t hide. Correct? 😀

  9. Grognard

    31 August 2009 at 03:39

    @Roge9: There are no excuses. The truth is he doesn’t have to nickels to rub together because the Glazer’s took that Ronaldo money and put it towards their massive debt overload. So Fergie lies through his teeth at those who have loyally followed him for two decades and those who have shown trust and faith in him. Instead he protects American corporate jackals who are slowly but surely destroying the fabric of this team. One day they will realize that it’s not all about advertisers and licensing because when we cease to have a competitive team and Fergie is long gone, no sponsors or fans around the world will give a rats ass about the brand if the team is mired in 13th place. All that success is contingent on the on field product.

  10. Karl

    31 August 2009 at 08:15

    @Craig Mc:
    1. First of all, I think you are way off in interpreting what I said. You somehow interpret it as an attack. Even in previous debates, I notice a lot of misunderstanding. I try to explain it in simple terms, but you just can’t seem to grasp. I don’t know if it is because I put my point accross poorly, or if you can’t comprehend, or simply just won’t comprehend. Somehow we miss each other. ‘If you don’t understand, then ask’.
    2. “and as Grog and you keep referring to us as the young ones who won’t listen to you our elders”
    – When have I ever done this? Please point it out?
    – I admit that when I comment to Eddy, I sometimes comment from “an older person to a younger person” perspective. But, I have my reasons. (I saw somehting in him that I admired and would like to see developed). Please show me where I have ever referred to you or anyone else what you accuse me off?
    3. You started the labelling. I merely tried to point it out.
    4. What’s with the “you and Grog” stuff? You mentioned it in a previous post as well as if we’re some sort of a coalition? 🙂 Just like he stated, I don’t need to seek people’s approval, nor the need to be associated with others to validate my beliefs. We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but I still respect his view, as I do yours, otherwise I would not have persisted with the “argument”.

  11. gator

    31 August 2009 at 16:47

    @Red Ranter: you dont remember doing just that last yr. how many 1-0 did we have? and loosing more points to big clubs than we took. we were all saying the same things last yr and are better off now than at this point last yr and with a w over a top 4.

    im just not ready to throw my toys out of the crib and put my head under the pillow.

  12. gator

    31 August 2009 at 16:48

    @Dan: that is feking gross 😐 😯 😕 😥

  13. gator

    31 August 2009 at 16:53

    @Fred The Red: mice post +1 mate +1

  14. Red Ranter

    31 August 2009 at 17:49

    @Craig Mc: I’m a hater? Right, I run a United blog, and I’m a hater because I don’t share your view of Saturday’s match? I try to be as fair as I can. I won’t just say everything is rosy for the heck of it. You must remember that I was quite positive of the team last time round because despite limping to the title, we had Ronaldo. As I said, if at all we win the title we’ll limp towards it. There’s a big if right there.

    @gator: I wasn’t saying the same things last year. We limped despite having Ronaldo. All I’m saying is right now I don’t see the aura in our side. I still think we are capable of much better if it weren’t for Ferguson making some questionable decisions both against Burnley and against Arsenal. But then you’ll tell me I am a Ferguson hater.

    I just have a sneaky suspicion that this may not be our season after all. I don’t have a problem going trophyless either, I just want it to be a transition in the right direction. That’s all.

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