Manchester United welcome Londoners Arsenal in their penultimate game of the 2014-15 season. Having secured their berth in the Champions League with a hard fought win over Crystal Palace last weekend, the Red Devils will look to finish as high as possible with a win over the high flying Gunners.
Manchester United have been dealt a fresh injury blow, with captain Wayne Rooney set to miss his sides’ final home game of the season with a dead leg. Luke Shaw is also announced to be unfit by Louis van Gaal, along with Michael Carrick, who was ruled out for the rest of the current campaign through a calf injury last week. Ángel Di María returns to the fray after sitting out last weekend.
Danny Welbeck, who swapped the Red of Manchester for Arsenal earlier in the summer, will miss the trip to his native Manchester through a knee injury. The Gunners though, been boosted by the return of Jack Wilshere. Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mathieu Debuchy still remain sidelined.
Key Battles –
Alexis Sánchez vs Antonio Valencia
Arsenal top scorer Alexis Sánchez would be licking his lips at the prospect of coming up against a makeshift right-back in Antonio Valencia. The Chilean has been nothing short of sublime for Arsene Wenger’s side, and could pop up with a vital contribution. The former Barcelona man is quite handy with his runs behind the defenses, and Valencia will need to keep his attacking forays limited in order to stifle the cunning Chilean.
Marouane Fellaini vs Francis Coquelin
Marouane Fellaini’s revival this season has continued, and he showcased it with a winner last weekend against Crystal Palace. After failing miserably the previous season, and being made somewhat of a scapegoat for the failures, the big Belgian has formed himself as a vital cog in Louis van Gaal’s setup. His physicality and aerial prowess could trouble another rejuvenated player in Francis Coquelin, who will come up against the towering former Everton man.
Mesut Özil vs Ander Herrera
Arsenal’s creator in chief Mesut Özil has returned from injury even better and stronger, and his excellent form since,has helped his side fired his side to the top three places. The insightful German finally looks to be settled, having been deployed in his favoured central role. Ander Herrera, one of United’s most consistent performers, will be shouldered with the task of sopping Özil from influencing the game. The Spaniard, with his industry and his intelligent play could even outwit the Arsenal number 11.
– Manchester United are unbeaten in seven home league meetings with Arsenal (W6 D1), since a 1-0 defeat in September 2006.
– Wayne Rooney has 11 goals against Arsenal in the Premier League. He has only scored more against Aston Villa (13) and Newcastle (12).
– United have not conceded more than one goal at home to Arsenal and lost in a league game since February 1979.
– Arsenal could become the fourth team in history to beat Man United twice at Old Trafford in the same season. The others were Chelsea (2004/05), Tottenham (1989/90) and Aston Villa (1919/20).
– Manchester United have gone seven Premier League games without a clean sheet; they last went eight without a shutout in September 2001.
– Arsenal have won their last five Premier League away games; their longest winning run since September 2013
Louis van Gaal
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal wants to end a campaign on a high for the fans, with a victory over Arsenal. The boss, like his counterpart Wenger, also hoped to finish 3rd rather than 4th,
“I want to thank the fans with a victory. A victory over Arsenal is very fantastic at the end of the season. We want to be third – it’s still possible. We can put pressure on Arsenal on Sunday.”
“We want to put a gap mathematically between them [United] and us in the top four, and secure the top-three place. To win at Old Trafford again would convince us that we have strength, and help us be stronger next season. We feel we have made progress,” Wenger continued. “Only one thing shows you have made progress and that’s continuity in your performances. We have good, fantastic and very bad memories [against United] but what we want is to show we are a solid team.”
Daley Blind could again feature at left-back, with Shaw ruled out. Herrera could take up the holding midfield role, partnered by Di María and Fellaini in midfield. Robin van Persie could start up top in Rooney’s absence.
Arsenal will go unchanged from the side that fell to Swansea at the Emirates.
Expect United to sit back and hit on the counter, and Swansea proved it can be done. Angel Di Maria’s pace on the counter could prove crucial.