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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Super Sunday: Man Utd seek 100th victory over Arsenal

Manchester United and Arsenal lock horns in the Premier League in a Super Sunday clash with both clubs sitting in the bottom half of the standings.

The Gunners have suffered back-to-back league defeats against Manchester City and Leicester City and are placed 12th while United are only in 15th place after claiming seven points from their opening five fixtures.

Before the October break, the Red Devils were completely outclassed by Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur in a 6-1 scoreline. The loss saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer having to fight for his position at Old Trafford ahead of a set of difficult fixtures.

However, they bounced back against Newcastle United and have collected maximum points from their two Champions League games, as well as earning a share of the spoils at home to Chelsea on the domestic scene.

United have scored 11 times for the loss of just two goals since the middle of the month, leaving them high in belief ahead of a fixture which will be regarded as a must-win if they are to make quick headway up the standings.

The same cannot be said of Arsenal who are yet to win a game against the bigger teams in the league.

The Gunners were at the losing end against Liverpool in September, lost to Manchester City and Leicester City as well.

Although Solskjaer and his squad would have been relatively content with the goalless draw against the Blues, the manner of their 5-0 triumph over Leipzig has naturally led to a change in expectations.

United have scored 11 times for the loss of just two goals since the middle of the month, leaving them high in belief ahead of a fixture which will be regarded as a must-win if they are to make quick headway up the standings.

Seemingly aided by the leadership skills which he has been displaying off the pitch, Marcus Rashford is beginning to show more of a ruthless streak in front of goal.

Five strikes and two assists have come from his last 297 minutes of action, a run which has contributed to keeping Edinson Cavani among the United substitutes for the time being.

There have recently been calls for the Uruguay star to be drafted straight into the first XI, but the reemergence of Rashford as a frontline striker is allowing the veteran to get up to speed at his own pace.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was hoping for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to showcase the same kind of firepower in front of goal, especially with the Gabon international having been rewarded for his previous form with a lucrative new deal.

Unlike Rashford, however, Aubameyang has looked a shadow of the player who ended last season as one of the best attackers in Europe, highlighting the reliance which had been placed on his shoulders.

With his only goal in his last six appearances coming against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League, Arteta will hope that the 31-year-old can benefit from not being required against Dundalk in the Europa League.

A largely second-string side initially showed signs of being frustrated by their Irish opponents before scoring their three goals either side of the break.

Although few players enhanced their chances of being selected at the weekend, it felt important for some of the fringe players to get minutes under their belts when Arteta will want as many options as possible for the Premier League.

Only Alexandre Lacazette has scored more than once in the top flight this season, while lapses in concentration at the back have left Arsenal without a clean sheet since the opening weekend of the campaign.

In Arsenal’s defence, they have already made trips to Liverpool and Manchester City, meaning that visits to three of the big six will be out of the way by the end of the week.

Most supporters would feel content if a point can be secured at The Theatre of Dreams, even if it means a longer spell being spent around the mid-table positions.

However, recording maximum points would catapult the club back into the mix at the top when many of their rivals have to take on a tougher run of fixtures during the winter months.

For the records, Sunday’s encounter represents the 233rd competitive meeting between these two sides, with United bidding to record their 100th victory over the Gunners.

The Gunners are not too far behind with 84 wins to their name, while only 49 draws have been played out between two of English football’s most decorated clubs.

Additional reports from Sports Mole


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