This is a big week. Manchester United away and then AC Milan at home. We can’t fear the United backlash after losing the Old Trafford Manchester derby for the first time in four hundred years, but they are a wounded side looking to get some psychological edge over us. To go five points behind Arsenal in the league and then be knocked out of the FA Cup by us would perhaps be a bit too much for them, so let’s hope it happens. We can’t afford this match having a similar affect on our league form as the defeat to them at Villa Park in 1999. We need to keep the momentum going, and this would be a serious bump if we were to lose. We’re playing with confidence in recent weeks, and a win here would certainly keep this going. Plus, with the league visit at this ground approaching towards the end of the season, the winners here could have the edge in that game.
I was thinking the other day about what United players would get into the Arsenal side, and I’m sure that it’s less than it was a season or two ago, despite the sides being very similar. I guess it’s to do with how well we’re playing as a team, individuals are looking better playing in it. The only certainty I’d take is now Ronaldo, as much of a idiot as he is. The rest are all questionable. Before their last two matches of dropping points, they had won six in a row in all competitions. It would be nice if Sunday wasn’t just a blip, and they hit an extended period of poor form, but I expect we’ll see a strong response from a side licking it’s wounds. Let’s rub some salt in.
In the running head to head between Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson, the current score is Arsene 12 – 11 Ferguson, with eight draws. Our form in recent years against them hasn’t been great, despite beating them twice last season. In the last fourteen meetings between the sides in all competitions, we’ve won four, lost six and drawn four. We’ve met four times in the FA Cup in recent years, losing two semi finals but winning the final in 2005 and the fifth round in 2003, the same stage as this game. Under Arsene’s tutelage at Old Trafford, we’ve won four times, drawn three times and lost six times.
Our injury situation has worsened. Djourou, Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky, Almunia, Walcott and van Persie are still injured, and the latter is still a few weeks away. Maybe we’ll see a cameo sub appearance in the last league game of the season or something. Sagna and Clichy join the absentees, meaning we’ll see Hoyte and Traore. Toure and Eboue will probably return to the side, Eboue playing on the right with Hleb on the left, and Fabregas moving into the middle. Lehmann will continue his role as FA Cup goalie, making an unprecedented fifth appearance in a row for the mad German. I’m sure he’ll get a good reception. With the squad in it’s current state, there’s not really much room for rotation in this game. We could maybe play Bendtner, but that’s about it really. The side that we’ll end up putting out will ensure maximum mockery if we do win, and responses of "Well it was a half strength side anyway" if we lose, which is always nice. Certainly takes off the edge of a psychological blow if everyone was expecting us to lose anyway, which they probably will when United line up full strength. I can’t help but think Traore will get destroyed by Ronaldo, but we’ll see.
Gary Neville, Louis Saha and Mikael Silvestre are injured for this game, but everyone they would normally play is available, and Rooney is back after a one match suspension which he served against Manchester City. Evra will also return to the side, I expect. I don’t really know what their first choice midfield is, who out of Scholes, Anderson, Carrick and Hargreaves they’ll play, as well as whether Giggs or Nani will play on the left, so I’ll guess.