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Tough test expected to fire up title rivals

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailAs Manchester United and Arsenal face each other on Sunday, it’ll be impossible not to cast our minds back to transfer deadline day and wonder how things would have panned out had United agreed to sign Mesut Ozil, rather than deeming the German international too expensive, thus allowing him to join the North Londoners.

Since his arrival at the Emirates, the former Real Madrid man has been inspirational for the Gunners, who have won eight games and drawn one after losing at home to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season and arrive at Old Trafford with a five point lead over second-placed Chelsea.

If Arsenal’s superb run had remained under a cloud up until last week, with doubters questioning the Gunners’ real strength after they had capitulated at home against Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea, Arsene Wenger’s men have now quelled those doubts by beating Liverpool last Saturday, before registering a surprise 1-0 win in Dortmund on Wednesday.

Arsenal’s history of post-Christmas capitulation means it’s probably too early to consider them favourites for the title, but at the same time, should the Gunners maintain their current form, they’d be in with a shout to end their eight-year drought. On a more practical note, three points for Aaron Ramsey & co. on Sunday would probably spell the end of United’s dreams of retaining the title, while a United win could prove the springboard David Moyes has needed since taking on from Sir Alex Ferguson.

For the first time in almost a decade, United enter a clash with Arsenal as the underdogs, much as they had done in 2005, when Arsene Wenger arrived at Old Trafford on the back of a 49-game unbeaten run and capitulated 2-0, courtesy of goals from Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney.

The game, widely remembered for its intensity and the subsequent “pizza gate”, was arguably the last to be contested with the same fierce rivalry that had characterised United-Arsenal matches in the 1990s and early 2000s, for with Arsenal decline over the last couple of season, the fire between the two sides has been somewhat extinguished.

However, that fire could be blazing again come Sunday afternoon.

United enter Sunday’s clash on the back of an eight-game unbeaten run in all competition and last week’s 3-1 win at Fulham was the first time they have won back-to-back league matches this season, but Arsenal remain very much the team in form, as they arrive at Old Trafford having won 14 of their last 15 away matches.

The Gunners will relish the opportunity to extend their run on United’s home turf, a ground where they haven’t won since 2006 and have lost eight of their last nine visits, including a 2-1 defeat last season, when Robin Van Persie scored the opening goal in his first appearance against his former club.

The Dutchman was instrumental at Craven Cottage, his crisp passing and movement proving the perfect foil for Wayne Rooney – with whom he’s developing a fearsome partnership – and Van Persie will again be the key man for United when he comes up against a much improved Arsenal back four, where Per Mertesacker has been excellent all season.

With Mesut Ozil and the in-form Aaron Ramsey in midfield, United are likely to be exposed in the middle third of the pitch and must hope Michael Carrick will be fit ahead of Sunday, as his presence was sorely missed against Sociedad on Tuesday, while Tom Cleverley could also return to the starting XI.

One way or the other, Sunday could prove to be a crucial point in United’s season. Let’s hope it’s a starting point, rather than a dead end.

 

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. mike_macca

    8 November 2013 at 20:03

    Am I surprised that Ozil is the star amongst other stars at the Emirates……… NO

    He is German and they, as a nation, have a mentality of trying hard and achieving plenty.
    Anyone remember Klinsmann at Tottenham…. came with a reputation of a diver and became a revelation with his excellent work ethic and sensible press interviews.

    There was no ‘over the moon Franz’ with him.

    After the ’66 World Cup, the Germans (albeit West Germany until unification) made a conscious decision that in the years thereafter….. every German team would leave the pitch knowing they had left all their effort on that pitch irrespective of the result….

    The team I remember throughout the years at OT almost always did the same. They may have been good, they may have been bad, but the applied themselves……. a quality that is sadly lacking in the current squad.

    So with the German ethic in mind Khedira just might be a very successful purchase….. at a price£££££.

    And regarding Sunday…… nothing short of a professional attacking performance, along with 3 points will be acceptable….

    Do we still want to be the standard for everyone else?…… I say YES

    Macca

    • Redrich

      9 November 2013 at 03:37

      @mike_macca: There are those out there that maintain United will never sign a German – it’s a war thing I’ve been told. 🙂 🙂

      • mike_macca

        9 November 2013 at 12:59

        @Redrich:

        Seriously?….. and this from a ground that sang:

        ‘He plays on the left, he plays on the right.
        That boy Ronaldo, made England look ………………

        I also seem to remember “Argentina Argentina’ in respect of Heinze.

        Macca

        • Redrich

          10 November 2013 at 03:00

          @mike_macca: You saw the smiley’s didn’t you mike??

        • mike_macca

          10 November 2013 at 14:15

          @Redrich

          Hello Red, I certainly did see you smiley faces.
          My comment was addressed to ‘anyone’ who did hold those views and not addressed at you personally.

          I would like to think that MUFC supporters, like MUFC, set the standard for others and believe in ‘Live and let LIve.’

          Enjoy the game today Redrich.

          Macca

  2. Redrich

    9 November 2013 at 02:18

    I don’t see this as the “big game” that a lot of you do. It certainly is a good test and a barometer for the current state of things at OT. It’s a game that the likes of Rooney, RVP and Vidic should flourish in – they will definitely want to take it to them.
    But this game, unfortunately, will not tell us anything we don’t already know – and the really big, one thing we already know is that Arsenal have a quality MF and we don’t. It’s not a question of tactics it’s a question of player personnel. Ozil and Ramsey are head and shoulders above any combination we can field and that’s a fact. Throw in Arteta and we cannot compete at any level.

    Tactics have been a big topic on here, especially because a lot of you think that replacing Moyes will make the world of difference. What Moyes has done, with his tactics, is to try and fortify the teams achilles heal by putting in players that should really be playing their natural positions and limiting playing time for those that cannot (or will not) chip in with defensive duties. It’s stopped the rot but it is clearly an ugly exercise in makeshift selection. Possession has improved as has the leaky defense. The cost has been an un-United like lack of goals and a withdrawal from our swashbuckling ways.

    I doubt that will change for this game and I expect them to play for not losing. A draw would be a victory in my book and anything better will be a miracle.
    Hope the crowd is in good singing voice (don’t they have their own section now) and spur the lads on, regardless of the score line.

    • red astair

      9 November 2013 at 12:28

      @Redrich: “A draw would be a victory in my book”
      Sad but true. It’s always possible that Utd step up the performance and get a win, but a draw is the most likely target. Arsenal’s MF are quality, so we have to hope to match them with quantity by packing our MF. It won’t be entertaining but it might be effective.

    • mike_macca

      9 November 2013 at 13:17

      @Redrich:

      In answer to your comments Redrich, for me it’s always a big game because Arsenal are a big four team and have been for quite some time.
      Currently, they are the team to overcome if anyone has aspirations of winning the title, even though lots of television pundits are dismissing them.

      “Ozil and Ramsey are head and shoulders above any combination we can field and that’s a fact. Throw in Arteta and we cannot compete at any level”

      Ozil is a class act but Ramsey will hit the buffers and the early promise of a great season for him will disappear quicker than ‘Arry’s chances of ever managing England.
      Arteta, is more difficult to define….. Boring boring footballer when at Everton and still a boring boring footballer ay Arsenal.

      If Arteta played in the same midfield as Ray ‘the crab’ Wilkins or Tom Cleverley, I would forgo football and take up whippet racing.

      Still looking for 3 points and a proper attacking display of footie from MUFC

      Macca

    • Opti

      9 November 2013 at 13:24

      @Redrich: When did Arsenal NOT have a better MF than us and how many times have we beaten them? Arsenal are the same team as last year + Ozil. They replaced their top-class strikers for midfielder… that’s their choice.

      They are chubby in midfield but strikers and defense is thin as paper.

      I expect United to steam-roll Arsenal because this is like every year since Henry left: United for the win!

    • BigRed

      9 November 2013 at 15:01

      @Redrich: I understand what you’re saying, but playing for a draw, at home, is an appalling lack of bravery. We did it against a piss poor Chelsea team earlier in the season and it was embarrassing to watch. We could have beaten them, well, but Moyes’ lack of insight meant he couldn’t allow that. It’s that negative mentality that disgusts so many United fans. But, that’s what he’s built his career on, essentially fear. United are not a team that can play to hold a draw, the players we have are attacking, skilful players that Moyes (and Fergie in the latter years) is shackling so much with his approach that it is doomed to fail.
      I’d rather see us lose playing the right way than win playing a chickens game. United should not be seen as spineless, but that’s exactly what we look like under Moyes. It’s the only way he knows, so expecting him to change is daft. He said it himself, “Im just going to carry on doing what I’ve been doing for the last eleven years”….What? not winning any trophies? Happy days ahead, eh.

  3. Redrich

    9 November 2013 at 03:34

    If all the reports are true that Moyes declined Ozil because we have Rooney and Kagawa, then the man needs a reality check. Me thinks it’s coming!!
    STOOOOOOPID to turn down WC talent because you can’t find room.
    Sign the talent, make the the room and move on from there.
    It’s not what you need, it’s all about what you can afford.
    Disgusting, if true. 👿 👿

    • Julian

      9 November 2013 at 07:28

      @Redrich: Unlikely. They declined Ozil because of the money. They weren’t prepared to offer that even for Fabregas. What’s more Moyes still isn’t convinced about Kagawa so he certainly wouldn’t have rejected the idea of going for one of Europe’s top midfielders because of Kagawa. I think they were working to a budget of around 50m and one of the main targets was Baines (with Fellaini as part of an odd package deal) so there was only so much they were prepared to spend on someone else. At least that’s one theory.

  4. Stephen

    9 November 2013 at 09:44

    Tomorrows game for me is the biggest we played in seasons. This is the real test for Moyes. Under the previous regime I would put my house on a United victory. With the new manager, with no proven track record for winning, this is the acid test. A lot of speculation has been abounded about Moyes, none positive. This is understandable, what did he do bar being from Glasgow and be at Everton for nine or so seasons? His track record does not stand up against the obvious competition and was he the unanimous choice? The farcical transfer window didn’t do him any favours, Fellaini has dispelled any fears, nor was replacing Rooney with Smalling against Southampton, which as very un-United like. But he dealt with the hand grenade of Rooney which the egotist Fergie kindly left him well and the dealing of Januzaj with his contract was also negotiated well.
    We are currently unbeaten in 8, all be it not convincingly so.
    So now will the real David Moyes stand up, inept out of his depth clown, or the next United manager, he will decide. Is he a winner or a loser?

    • red astair

      9 November 2013 at 12:33

      @Stephen: I think Moyes has to be spot on with his team selection, tactics and substitutions, otherwise the result is a foregone conclusion. I don’t think it’s make or break for Moyes, but the January transfer window just might be.

  5. red astair

    9 November 2013 at 12:51

    These kind of games are totally unpredictable. How many times have we seen Utd, in the past, go into games where 3pts was a formality, and lose. OK, maybe not that often, but it does happen. I don’t expect an open, entertaining game, it will probably be quite tight with few chances. So, whoever takes their chances will win. It’s not the end of the world if Utd lose, disappointing but not disastrous. Whoever is the manager of Utd in the future, whether it’s Moyes or someone else, they will need to make changes. We all know that Utd’s MF has been poor for a number of seasons now and to fix the problem won’t be an overnight thing. It’s what happens after January that will make or break Utd’s season, not necessarily what happens before. So, a win against Arsenal would be great, but if not, well hopefully next time.

  6. Moscow

    9 November 2013 at 18:20

    I am one of his biggest fans but the Mourinho has shown a complete lack of class after West Brom were clearly robbed of 3 points. Disgusting. The Arsenal game tomorrow is absolutely crucial now.

  7. Jay Wire

    9 November 2013 at 19:23

    I have two questions.
    1. Why was Ozil being offered to other clubs?
    2. Why did Moyes try to sign Anders Herrera? The guy is struggling to get a spot in the starting eleven right now. Even last season.

    • Moscow

      9 November 2013 at 19:53

      @Jay Wire: Selling Ozil and buying Bale for more than double the price when they still had Ronaldo, Isco and Di Maria (all more technically superior wingers, experienced and suited to La Liga) probably rivals Barca’s switch from Eto’o to Ibra.

      • Opti

        9 November 2013 at 21:53

        @Moscow: Do you consider football or business decision? Bale will sell more than Ögly Özil… that’s how Madrid things… remember why they did not sign Ronaldinho. LOL.

        • red astair

          10 November 2013 at 08:56

          @Opti: Ögly Özil

          But he has the looks of a film star, unfortunately it was peter Lorre 😆 😆 😆

    • Opti

      9 November 2013 at 21:55

      @Jay Wire:
      1) Probably because no one knew he was available until Madrid told other clubs whether they wanted to buy him for fixed price.

      2) Wasn’t it the same with Bebe, Fabio/Rafael, Smalling… I think they call it: taking a punt. Is Herrera expensive you think?

  8. Adithya

    10 November 2013 at 04:52

    David moyes rejected his chance to sign Ozil…hope that does not come to bite us back today and moreover United have to win today because this week chelsea everton both has dropped points and tottenham are expected to drop points against newcastle…so a win will nicely help them climb up their place in the table 😛 😉

  9. shadie

    10 November 2013 at 10:13

    I have this sneaky feeling that ashley young is gonna start today’s game.

  10. fahime shahime

    10 November 2013 at 16:04

    This is out of topic but i had to say this that i am proud of wes brown outstanding display today against citeh. 😉

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