One of the biggest fixtures in football takes place on Thursday night as Manchester United host Arsenal in the Premier League.
Ralf Rangnick won’t be in the dugout just yet as he waits to receive his work permit, so the Red Devils will be lead out by Michael Carrick for the third time. Since their humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure from the club, United have managed a 2-0 victory over Villarreal and a smash-and-grab 1-1 draw at Chelsea.
Their visitors on Thursday are an Arsenal side who clearly have a way to go before restoring their former glories – as a recent 4-0 trouncing at the hands of Liverpool will attest to – but who have also rebuilt impressively since a torrid start to the campaign. Since losing their opening three Premier League fixtures, the Gunners have lost just once (to Liverpool) in their subsequent ten outings, winning seven and climbing to fifth in the table – level on points with West Ham in fourth.
Here’s 90min’s preview of an intriguing battle.
When is kick off? Thursday 2 December, 20:15 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Old Trafford, Manchester
What TV channel is it on? Amazon Prime Video (UK), fuboTV (US)
Highlights? Sky Sports YouTube channel
Who’s the referee? Martin Atkinson
Who’s the VAR? Andre Marriner
United captain Harry Maguire is expected to return having served his suspension for his side’s trip to Stamford Bridge, although fellow centre-back Raphael Varane is expected to remain absent through injury.
Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani will also continue to miss out, while Carrick insists that Luke Shaw is still being carefully assessed after sustaining a couple of head injuries in recent weeks and having missed out on the Chelsea game.
You can read Man Utd’s predicted lineup here.
Mikel Arteta’s squad looks in pretty good shape heading into Thursday’s clash. Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac will remain on the side-lines as they continue their recoveries from injury, and there is concern over the availability of Bukayo Saka.
The England star was forced off the field with a thigh injury in Arsenal’s win over Newcastle last time out, and will have to rely on a late fitness test to determine whether he can feature at Old Trafford.
You can read Arsenal’s predicted lineup here.
There have been a whopping 234 meetings between these two giants of football, dating all the way back to 1894. Unsurprisingly, it’s been quite an even battle over the years – although the Red Devils edge it. United have come out on top 99 times, with Arsenal winning 85 times and 50 draws occurring.
Sir Alex Ferguson enjoyed a dominant stretch over Arsene Wenger in the latter years of his glorious managerial career at Old Trafford – including that 8-2 mauling – although, since his departure, the record has been identical. In the their 18 meetings since the beginning of the 2103/14 campaign, each has won six, drawn six and lost six.
Recent meetings have favoured the Gunners, however. In the last five fixtures between the two sides, Arsenal have won three while the other two resulted in draws.
On paper, it would be easy to back Arsenal to get a result in this one. Given their recent record against Thursday’s hosts and the generally encouraging form they find themselves in, they should have the spirit to overcome a United side that have been in turmoil over the past couple of months.
However, it does feel like the dawning of a new era at the club. While Rangnick’s eventual appearance on the touchline will obviously be greatly-anticipated, even Carrick’s brief spell at the helm feels like a breath of fresh air.
Performances may not have been exhilarating but, after two menacing fixtures away from home, United find themselves unbeaten with a win and a draw under their former midfielder.
Arsenal are proving a very promising team with top performers all over the pitch of late – but there’s just something about Carrick’s United that may snatch a win.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-0 Arsenal