Manchester United are the visitors to Ashburton Grove, as we look for our third consecutive victory against the cunts in the league, to go top by three points with a game in hand, and to maintain our 100% home start to the season in all competitions so far. Winning this match would be an immense mental boost for this young side, and losing it would be a big blow to our confidence. I think both sides would take a draw now. While I’m confident we can beat them, you never know what’s going to happen in this fixture, and draws against Liverpool and Manchester United to avoid confidence damage so we can go back to beating the shit teams would be acceptable. However, I doubt either dressing room will be thinking like that, both sides have a point to prove and both will desperately want to win. United will be forced to play attacking, with only one fully fit defensive midfielder, and then a load of attackers, so this game should be fairly open.
After not winning in their first three matches, United have now won eight league games in a row, which is one more than we managed in our winning run this season. They lost the one game more than us that they’ve played, other than that they’ve had an identical start to us. They’ve scored four goals in each of their last four games, a record we should surely be looking to put an abrupt end to.
We need a big game from Ade for this one. He was poor against Liverpool, still putting in his usual workrate but his passing in the final third was way off. Still, one thing he’s proven himself to be useful at since he’s arrived is scoring in big games, and there’s no better game to get back on the scoresheet after six goalless games. If Clichy and Sagna can keep Ronaldo and Giggs/Nani quiet, then hopefully we can cut off the supply to Rooney and Tevez. I really, really, really fucking want to win this game. After this we have five league games which, while mostly away, we’d be expecting to win most of them, until we play Chelsea in mid-December, and a win this weekend could kick off a great run of results that could see us with a commanding lead at Christmas. Or we could lose and fall apart. Although I don’t see that happening, I think the team is too strong mentally to let it affect our form too badly if we did lose.
Since the start of the Premiership, in home games against Manchester United in all competitions, we’ve won seven, drawn five and lost four. Since Wenger’s taken over, that record is won six, drawn three and lost three. In the five Premiership seasons before Arsene took over we had only managed one home victory against our old rivals.
In all competitions since 92, home and away, the score stands at Arsenal winning fourteen, United winning seventeen, with nine draws. In the running head to head between Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson, the current score is Arsene 12 – 11 Ferguson, with seven draws.
Still just Robin van Persie and Philippe Senderos out for us, so you expect a full strength team with, as usual, the only selection questions being who partners Fabregas, and who, if anyone, partners Adebayor. We could go 4-5-1 again with Hleb floating around behind Adebayor, or Wenger could draw staws to see who of Walcott, Eduardo and Bendtner deserves to start. Both Walcott and Eduardo were rested towards the end of the Sheffield United game, but whether Eduardo is rewarded for his tasty finishing or not will remain to be seen.
Subs: Lehmann, Gilberto, Diaby, Eboue, Bendtner.
Rio Ferdinand has been passed fit despite reports that he may miss this match. Gary Neville is back in reserve matches but won’t be risked in this game. Long term absentees include Scholes, Silvestre, Foster, and Ji-Sung. Carrick and Saha return to the squad after injury.
Their squad is a bit thin at the moment, their options are limited. Anderson and Hargreaves are the only fit central midfielders they have, unless Carrick is risked after only recently recovering from an arm injury, and might not be match fit, and with Rooney and Tevez both pretty poor at playing at the top of a 4-5-1, they’ll probably be forced to go 4-4-2, with Hargreaves the only defensively minded player in midfield. Nani or Giggs on the left. Probably Giggs.
Subs: Kuszczak, O’Shea, Carrick, Nani, Saha.