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Preview: Arsenal V Manchester United


United and Arsenal in happier times… 

It feels like it has been missing for the past few years. There were epics, pitched battles, moments to savour and, unfortunately, a couple of dull ones but when the Arsenal and Manchester United have met it invariably provides talking points, controversy and deepening distaste between fans.

Arsenal falling off the pace of the likes of United, Chelsea and Liverpool over the past number of seasons has been the major factor in this fixture slipping under the radar but now the two top teams in the premier league come face to face again with the stakes higher than they have been in recent times.

This game has a high billing. The two most attrctive, arguably most consistent over the past decade and the two best managers in the league coming face to face on even points with Arsenal having one game in hand.

Ferguson has come out saying that this game won’t decide the title and he’s right but the confidence and the mental advantage that is at stake here will go a long way to getting there. It is a testament to the consistencey and performance levels of the top teams in the league that clashes such as this are so vital. We have seen Chelsea, United and Arsenal all sit on top of the league for months and months at a time. Even though it is only a table and the real decisions will be made on the pitch, the confidence of being on top is crucial to a league winning side. We saw it with United and Chelsea last year, Chelsea simply were not comfortable chasing the title.

No matter what the managers, players, pundits, tea-ladies or your mother says, this game is vital. And it is sure to be an absolute cracker. Often this fixture can be over-hyped and since the exit of Messrs. Keane and Viera it has most definitely lost some of its appeal but now there is a host of new, young players in each club and hopefully tomorrows clash will be the breeding ground for many new rivalries.

With both teams on song and both squads relatively healthy it is next to impossible to pick a winner tomorrow but when push comes to shove it has got to be United really.

Arsenal have talent and what they lacked in experience over the past few years they are making up for with determination and conviction this year but they still lack that cutting edge and if it becomes a real battle tomorrow at the Emirates then I don’t know who they have to fight for them. Fabregas is turning into a real player, a soon to be “great” player but his attitude and desire haven’t really been tested so far this season so it remains to be seen how good he is. Far be it from me to question the judgement of Arsene Wenger but, for tomorrow especially, he has to pick Gilberto over Flamini. The Brazilian’s experience of the big games and his ability to lead on the pitch is second to none, even if Wenger bowed to pressure by giving the Captain’s armband to Gallas.

Ferguson doesn’t have too much to do for tomorrow but will be boosted that Gary Neville, Louis Saha and Michael Carrick are all available. Neville is unlikely to feature but Carrick is likely to come in for the injured Scholes and then Sir Alex must decide if Saha sits on the bench or disrupts the balance of the attacking phenomena which is currently in progress. The form of United at the moment is likely to carry them through tomorrows game and give them the win they need. Big performances are expected, hoewever, from the likes of Hargreaves who needs to show why he was signed. He has yet to play the way he played for England in the World Cup and I wonder if we will see that side of him.

I’m still backing United but I don’t think there will be as many goals for either side as in previous games. It will be good to watch so make sure you see it. Anything tipped to be “GAME OF THE SEASON” usually disappoints but maybe, just maybe we could be in for something special tomorrow afternoon. 

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