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Manchester United Fixtures

What Should Be Manchester United’s Starting Lineup Against Arsenal?

Were there as many bumps, nicks, scrapes, strains, sprains, and so on in the Manchester United squad as there were throughout the Manchester United squad as there were earlier in the season, the current stretch of United’s stretch run would make for a serious selection headache for Sir Alex Ferguson.

After taking a decided advantage in our Champions League semifinal against Schalke with a dominant 2-0 victory in Germany on Tuesday, United’s focus this weekend returns to trying to move within a win of the Premier League title as we visit slumping Arsenal at the Emirates tomorrow afternoon.

There won’t be much time to rest after the visit to north London, with the return leg against Schalke on Wednesday night at Old Trafford. As much of a formality as some might think the second leg is with United two away goals to the good and Old Trafford being a veritable European fortress, there’s still some work left to do after Manuel Neuer’s masterpiece, combined with a few glaring misses for United, prevented the tie from being 100% decided in Gelsenkirchen.

Despite the Gunners’ recent struggles that have not only seen them miss multiple opportunities to close the gap on United, but fall to third and nine points back of us, you can be sure that Fergie will send out a strong side with the intent to take all three points ahead of next weekend’s potential title clincher against Chelsea. However, he must do so with Wednesday on his mind as well, even with what amounts to a commanding lead against visiting Schalke.

Fortunately, we’re at a point in our season where we aren’t starved for experienced and quality options all across the board, even with Paul Scholes serving the last of the three-match domestic suspension he received for his straight red in the FA Cup semis against City a fortnight ago.

In our 1-0 victory in December, this was our starting lineup and bench, with Wayne Rooney as the only recognized striker in the starting XI:

Edwin Van der Sar, Patrice Evra, Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Darren Fletcher, Nani, Michael Carrick, Anderson, Park Ji-Sung, Wayne Rooney

Subs: Tomasz Kuszczak, Wes Brown, Chris Smalling, Ryan Giggs, Gabriel Obertan, Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez

That setup did the trick, stifling Arsenal’s attack (which only had the services of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie from the bench that evening) and creating enough chances of our own to win by a wider margin.

When we met the Gunners in the FA Cup quarterfinals in March, only a few of those names were present in the starting XI:

Starters: Van der Sar, John O’Shea, Brown, Vidic, Evra, Rafael, Fabio, Smalling, Darron Gibson, Rooney, Hernandez

Subs: Kuszczak, Giggs, Obertan, Paul Scholes, Antonio Valencia, Dimitar Berbatov, Joshua King

Those selections no doubt garnered quite a few gasps and shakes and scratches of the head, but it worked to perfection. Arsenal had the edge in possession and attempts on target, but they were never able to break through United’s walls of defenders, and the presence of the pacey and attack-minded twins on the flanks was a real difference maker in a 2-0 United win that was a wrap just minutes into the second half.

So, what lineup and formation will we see from United when we visit the Emirates tomorrow? Will it be one with caution, defensive responsibility, and opportunism in mind, or will we see one that presents more attacking intent and freedom, with a win and nothing less in mind?