In the past, these clashes were highly charged, competitive, and physical affairs. Arsenal v United, two sides that were at the very top of their game during the ’90s, fighting for the top honours in the domestic league and on the European stage.
A constant battle for supremacy, where brains clashed with brawn, however, those classic Arsenal v United encounters are now consigned to the memory. Yet, these games are still desperately important to supporters and there’s always something to play for. Instead of who sits at the top of the Premier League, both clubs are looking at a Champions League slot and one could prevent the other from achieving that goal long term.
In terms of quality, one could say there’s not much between them, but each of the two sides contains game-changers or key personnel that could have an impact on the result but who are they? Let’s look at the players who could make the difference for each side.
So often Arsenal’s saviour in games and probably the most consistent performer over the last few seasons, even if you take into account his injury. If United find fluency and Arsenal’s defence become indecisive and flakey, Leno will need to dig deep, he’s more than capable of shutting the door on United.
The youngster has been extremely impressive in a range of positions, but he has started to blossom on the right in attack, having displaced Pepe and Willian in the role. He has pace, intelligence, an eye for goal, and under the guidance of Mikel Arteta, he is certain to reap the rewards. One only has to look at the Spaniard’s influence on Raheem Sterling to appreciate what’s possible. If Saka gets the room, United are in trouble.
Exceptional in the previous encounter against the same opposition, Partey oozes authority and undeniable quality. If fit and functional, Partey could not only outperform his United counterparts but assume control of the game. He works the pitch by breaking up play, adding a physical presence, and offering an array of tricks to put Arsenal in the driving seat.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (if available):
We’ve been waiting to see Arsenal’s talisman start hitting the net regularly and what better stage with the old adversary coming to town. Aubameyang has barely hit the gas but his season has to start somewhere and the sight of him on the front foot will surely cause palpitations in the United defence. If he opens his account in the Arsenal v United game, then United could be on the receiving end of an avalanche.
The Frenchman may appear to be behind in the pecking order because of his more flamboyant skipper but the striker is in form and if Aubameyang remains unavailable, then Lacazette could easily seize the chance. Lacazette has more to his game than just goals, he offers the ability to hold the ball and play in others by passing it into the danger areas. Watch him closely, he gives Arsenal a range of skills that no one else offers in the squad.
Emile Smith Rowe:
This is the player who could well hold the keys to a victory, even at his tender age. ESR plays with freedom and is blessed with a quick-thinking football brain and excellent vision and awareness. He moves well off the ball and instinctively knows where others are, an asset of any top player in the number ten role but he needs time, with so much expectation surrounding him. It will take one moment for him to shine.
He has been the perfect acquisition for United and his performances have made him irresistible to watch. He’s strong and resourceful with great technical ability and in a team not blessed with quality, he could easily put Arsenal to the sword if he gets the opportunity. A genuine playmaker but he can also deliver his share of goals offers a genuine threat and Arsenal will need to wrap him up.
David De Gea:
The United keeper has been deemed suspect over the last few seasons but remains a quality GK. If Arsenal get into first gear, then the Red Devils will need him desperately to keep out Saka and Co. The Spaniard could have a key role to play in the Arsenal v United match as well as in the outcome.
What do you say about Pogba? All the talent in the world but sometimes a passenger and a peripheral player, yet he has the skill and quality to rip Arsenal apart. His pairing with Fernandes makes the United midfield a cut above and they have developed a great understanding. There are signs that he is starting to look more at home at Old Trafford and is adding consistency to his locker.
Always capable of supplying goals or grabbing them. A fearless character who likes driving forward and making things happen. Rashford is blessed with great balance and control and he could be United’s silent assassin in a tight game. Elusive and hard to mark with changes of pace and direction, he could lead the Arsenal defence to a merry dance if left unattended.
The Frenchman was once on Arsenal’s radar and although he hasn’t had a glittering United career, he is a top player and only needs a half chance to hurt the opposition. The problem at United is that the play isn’t tailored to his strengths because if it were, he would surely be prolific. Martial would be an automatic choice in 90% of the current Premier League sides. He is certainly a problem that needs to be solved if Solskjaer is to mould this side into a Premier League title challenger.