Gunners have played a game less and are five points behind upcoming opponents United who are 5th in the table. Wenger’s men are six points short of a Champions League qualification spot and a win here would surely give them an added boost to make it to the Top 4. Meanwhile visitors Manchester United will be hoping to keep their unbeaten run going with a result at the Emirates.
It’s been another wobbly season for Arsene Wenger and his men. After a fantastic start to the season in which the primary target was to challenge for the league title, Wenger is now finding it an uphill task to even secure their ‘beloved and guaranteed’ top 4 place amidst so much competition. Last week’s 2-0 defeat in the North London derby against Spurs mounted more pressure on under-fire boss Arsene Wenger. Considering his woeful record against foe Mourinho, which includes no wins in the league in 12 league outings (D7 L5), the task seems even more daunting. On top of that United’s unbeaten run of 25 games in the league suggests that it will take a lot for Arsenal to break United’s resilience at the back. Anything other than a win here for Arsenal would surely end their minimal chances to finish in the top 4, so Wenger has to ensure that his big guns come firing on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United find two doors still open for them in order to make it to the Champions League. United are just one point below 4th placed Manchester City in the league table and are halfway through to finals of UEFA Europa League. United came out as deserved winners in the midweek with a 1-0 win against Celta Vigo in Spain in the first of the Europa League semifinals. The win made sure that United return to Old Trafford in the 2nd leg with a 1-0 cushion. A lot of injuries to their first team players have loomed over Mourinho this season, but the Portuguese seems to have handled them quite efficiently. United have a chance to extend their unbeaten league run to 26 games on Sunday, but only a win would put the unbeaten run to good use.
Stats seem to favor Manchester United and Jose Mourinho a lot. Out of the last 11 league meetings between Manchester United and Arsenal, Arsenal have lost 6 and drawn 4, only coming out as winners in the 3-0 win last season. Wenger has never won a competitive game against Jose Mourinho in the league, losing 5 and drawing 7 of the 12 fixtures he has played with Mourinho. It remains to be seen whether Wenger can break the jinx on Sunday, but stats will definitely give an added edge to Mourinho and his men.
Arsenal are sweating over the fitness of Granit Xhaka who suffered a calf injury last week and has very less chances of playing according to Arsene Wenger. Shkodran Mustafi and David Ospina have returned to training after recovering from their respective injuries. Other than that Lucas Perez is still out on the sidelines. It will be interesting to see whether Wenger opts for a back 3 again considering last week’s antics against Spurs.
On the other hand, United have had their fair share of injuries too this season. With Marcos Rojo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luke Shaw and Fosu-Mensah out for the season, Mourinho has had a lot of problems in rotating teams when for the Europa League and Premier League clashes simultaneously. Marouane Fellaini is suspended for this match and Ashely Young is also out as he suffered a knock as he was forced off with a muscle injury in the midweek game against Celta Vigo. While it is expected that Mourinho will field a ‘weakened’ team on Sunday, we still feel Mourinho will include enough firepower in his team to outclass the Gunners.
Arsenal (3-4-2-1): Cech; Gabriel, Holding, Koscielny; Chamberlain, Ramsey, Coquelin, Monreal; Sanchez, Ozil; Giroud
Manchester United (4-3-2-1): De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Blind; Herrera, Carrick, Pogba; Mata, Martial; Rooney
Arsenal 0-1 Manchester United