STAR PREVIEW Thurs: Manchester United v Arsenal

Manchester United v Arsenal may not be the title deciding fixture of years past, but it’s still a fascinating clash and this evening’s fixture could tell us plenty about both sides. The start of the Ralf Ragnick era at United has been put on hold – even the might of Manchester United have to deal with a work permit and COVID rules – but Michael Carrick’s interim stint has gone to plan so far, with a 2-0 win at Villarreal sealing a place in the last 16 of the Champions League whilst taking a point at league leaders Chelsea.

That point really was hard earned thanks to a rear-guard effort that saw Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic in midfield in front of the back whilst he recalled Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford to the attack, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench.

United were pinned into their own half for the vast majority of the game but did threaten on the break and took their one big chance when Jorginho’s poor touch allowed Jadon Sancho to break away and score his second in two games.

They may have completed their smash and grab had it not been for Aaron Wan-Bissaka conceding a penalty but they’d have been very fortunate to take all three points; and indeed they had a good deal of fortune in taking a point – Chelsea won the Infogol xG count 2.86 to 0.88, with 0.82 of United’s xG coming from Sancho’s breakaway goal.

It’ll be interesting to see if Carrick uses the same approach against Arsenal, who bounced back from their 4-0 defeat at Anfield with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over a Newcastle side that they had under plenty of pressure from the get-go.

That was Arsenal’s fifth league win at the Emirates this season, but they’ve won just once away from home and scored just three goals on the road, something which has to change if they’re to build on what’s been a promising autumn so far.

Manchester United v Arsenal
Premier League
20:15 Amazon Prime Video

HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches)
JAN 2021 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United
NOV 2020 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal
JAN 2020 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United
SEP 2019 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal
MAR 2019 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United
JAN 2019 FA CUP Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United
DEC 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United 2-2 Arsenal
APR 2018 PREMIER LEAGUE Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
DEC 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United
MAY 2017 PREMIER LEAGUE Arsenal 2-0 Manchester United

Arteta’s men do have individual quality, especially in the shape of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe, who have been consistently outstanding recently, but they have struggled at times with creating clear chances, especially against deeper lying defences.

The tactical approach to tonight will be fascinating – United are brimming with attacking quality if it can be utilised correctly, whilst Arsenal could be inclined to go with a counter-attacking strategy, and no result would be a major surprise here.

A case can be made for each of the three match outcomes, but it’s not impossible to imagine a rather cagey game with some moments of quality. That was the story for much of United’s 2-0 win at Villarreal before they were on the back foot against Chelsea and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Carrick sticks or twists with the game plan used on Sunday. Arsenal have made progress in recent weeks, but United’s superior man-for-man quality could be enough to earn them three points here.


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PROFIT/LOSS (NOVEMBER 2021): LOSS -21.54 points
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