10th November 2013
There will be a lot of fire at Old Trafford when reigning Premier League champions Manchester United take on current league leaders Arsenal. And while the Red Devils are hoping to finally revive their title bid, their bitter rivals can all but end United’s title hopes with a victory on Sunday afternoon.
Taking over the reigns from United legend Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be one of the toughest jobs in football, so no wonder it hasn’t been all plain sailing for David Moyes. And while the Red Devils sit eight points behind leaders Arsenal after making quite a few slip ups in the opening exchanges, it is perfectly clear their title bid is far from over. What is more, it appears that Moyes has steadied the ship following a tumultuous start to the season, with his side currently on an eight-match unbeaten run. With Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie finally clicking into gear and the back line keeping three clean sheets in last five matches, the Red Devils have reason for optimism ahead of the all-important clash with Arsenal. And even if the hosts are well aware they need to win this match if they are to revive their title challenge, the prospect of going 11 points behind Arsenal in case of a defeat is likely to prevent them from going all guns blazing at their arch rivals. Full-back Rafael is doubtful with an ankle problem, but Danny Welbeck definitely misses out. The good news is Michael Carrick and Jonny Evans should be in contention.
Following the opening defeat to Aston Villa, Arsenal fans probably couldn’t even dream about seeing their team at the top of the Premier League standings, but the fact is the Gunners look like genuine title contenders at the moment. Even after the impressive run of results saw them climb to the top of the standings and open up a five-point lead at the summit, many people still seem to doubt team’s title credentials. The reality is Arsenal are playing with a lot of confidence at the moment and have sufficient strength in depth to cope with the busy schedule, especially with several important players set to return into action. And while the Gunners remain incredibly entertaining in home matches, the narrow win over Borussia Dortmund proved they can also play a waiting game when needed and shift to a more cautious approach. This is exactly what Arsene Wenger is expected to do at Old Trafford given that it is their opponents who are under pressure and need to attack, giving the Gunners plenty of space to launch swift counterattacks. The visitors have been boosted by the news of Mathieu Flamini’s return, but Jack Wilshire is unlikely to start and Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Yaya Sanogo and Abou Diaby remain on the sidelines.
While everybody is hoping to see a highly entertaining encounter at Old Trafford, I am afraid the huge importance of the game is likely to prevent the two sides from utilizing their attacking potential to the fullest. Chances are that we are instead going to witness a cagey affair where one goal could easily decide the winner.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 21/20
Bookmaker: William Hill