Manchester United is on the verge of chasing Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, as the Portuguese faces his arch-rival Arsene Wenger this Saturday at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal’s unbeaten run at home since January is unsettling for United who know the London club will not give up their record so easily.
To fairly analyse the situation, one must take a look at the forms of both the clubs.
United who have won 10 out of their 14 matches this season, sits eight points Manchester rivals, City.
Manchester United’s defensive record has been impressive with nine clean sheets, courtesy David de Gea, who leads the chart for the least goals conceded this season.
Victor Lindelof was looking confident in his last match against Watford after getting a lot of criticism against Hudderfield, while Ashley Young’s experience and performance has been spot-on during United’s last two matches, scoring 3 wonder goals against Brighton and Watford.
However, the Red Devil’s midfield has been underwhelming even with the likes of last season’s top player Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, who’s still looking for his top eleven spot, Henrik Mkhitaryan, who is dropping and ‘vanishing’ during previous matches as said by Mourinho, and Paul Pogba, who has failed to find his top-form after returning from injury.
United’s £75 million striker, Romelu Lukaku, has not been able to capitalise on early-season goal-scoring form in recent fixtures.
Anthony Martial, however, has taken the spotlight with 6 goals this season, even after not starting the majority of the matches.
Arsenal, who failed to jump start their season after two losses and a draw in their first five matches have recently seen a change in form after beating then second placed Tottenham Hotspur 2-0, and an entertaining 5-0 victory against Huddersfield, where it seemed the North London club was scoring at will.
Marred by injuries and rumours of top players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez wanting out, the London club has still managed to maintain their winning form.
Talking about Wenger’s defensive tactics, in recent matches, they might have conceded a lot of goals, but whenever Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny have started together, they have always come out with clean sheets.
Mesut Ozil’s undeniably excellent playmaking abilities were nowhere to be seen in the first few game weeks, but in recent matches, it seems Ozil has been back in his top form even with Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey’s inconsistent performance.
Wenger’s attack has been consistent though, with Alexandre Lacazette being the only striker in the league with the most home goals this season. Oliver Giroud, Arsenal’s super sub, has also somehow found the back of the net.
The Red Devils’ clinical midfielder, Nemanja Matic, who was forced-off in the 54th minute of United’s 4-2 win over Watford due to a muscular injury, is set to miss the clash against Arsenal this weekend. Whereas Lacazette, who is set to be out for a while following a groin injury will probably be replaced by Danny Welbeck, whose physical abilities will not be enough against United’s aggressive defence.
The Wenger-Mourinho rivalry is sure to set an aggressive and animated tone for the match. And it is clearly evident that both managers will be going in for maximum points.
Statistics for the last ten clashes between the clubs
28 Apr 2013 Arsenal v Manchester United 1-1 EPL
10 Nov 2013 Manchester United v Arsenal 1-0 EPL
12 Feb 2014 Arsenal v Manchester United 0-0 EPL
22 Nov 2014 Arsenal v Manchester United 1-2 EPL
09 Mar 2015 Manchester United v Arsenal 1-2 FA Cup
17 May 2015 Manchester United v Arsenal 1-1 EPL
04 Oct 2015 Arsenal v Manchester United 3-0 EPL
28 Feb 2016 Manchester United v Arsenal 3-2 EPL
19 Nov 2016 Manchester United v Arsenal 1-1 EPL
07 May 2017 Arsenal v Manchester United 2-0 EPL
This match can possibly be the turning point for United this season, since they are quite behind on the points table as compared to their noisy neighbours, who have won 13 matches out of 14.
Pep Guardiola has transformed a rich Arab club to a well-oiled machine which has neared perfect efficiency this season. The blue side of Manchester has been in top form and are possibly playing the best football in the entire Europe right now, something which is hardly expected from a Premier League club.
To be able to win this match would propel United’s EPL ambitions as they try to chase their neighbours’ from the second spot. A loss, however, while not prove to be the final nail in the coffin but would render City as the potential favourites — something Mourinho knows all too well.