Arsenal will have to win at Old Trafford in the Premier League for the first time in close to a decade if they are to keep their challenge of landing a first Premier League title in 12 years on track. Arsenal will go into Sunday’s match with Manchester United boosted by a dramatic 2-1 win over leaders Leicester City two weeks ago, but having seen the surprise pace-setters extend their advantage back to five points with a victory earlier in the weekend. It leaves little room for error for Arsene Wenger’s side with just 12 matches remaining.
Having twice recorded famous wins at Old Trafford en route to lifting the Premier League title, Sunday would be an ideal time to end their long winless streak. “The next chance is always the best chance,” Wenger said in his ore-match press conference. Despite Manchester United’s struggles this season, the Arsenal boss believes it remains one of the season’s defining fixtures.
“United are a big club, Old Trafford is a special place and I believe for every club it remains a special fixture,” he added. “For the big games certainly Against Arsenal, the United fans and players will be up for it.”
Events of the past week may have added to the challenge. Arsenal have endured their struggles—being held to a goalless draw at home by Hull City in the FA Cup, before losing 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie with Barcelona. Manchester United, meanwhile, have had a rare week to savor, comfortably ousting Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup before brushing aside Danish champions Midtjylland 5-1 to progress in the Europa League.
“In one week all has changed,” Wenger said with a snigger. “I didn’t believe that they would lose against Shrewsbury and Midtjylland. Old Trafford is always a difficult place to go and even if they had lost against Midtjylland, I would have said that it is a difficult game.”
Arsenal have also lost Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to injury after he was forced to withdraw against Barcelona with a knee injury. But Manchester United have plenty of their own injury problems. Still, Louis van Gaal, is hoping to have back David de Gea, who was injured in the warm-up for the first leg against Midtjylland, and Anthony Martial, who suffered the same fate ahead of the second leg. Also looking to make a return is Chris Smalling, who missed out on Thursday with a shoulder injury but could now be in line to face the club he supported as a boy.
“I was disappointed to miss the other night, but I'm hoping to be okay to play this game,” he told Manchester United’s official matchday program. “I always look forward to these games. “It’s no secret that I was an Arsenal supporter growing up, so this fixture is even bigger for me and especially given it involves two of the biggest teams in the country. I hope I can step out onto the field.”
United, who go into the game in fifth place, six points off the top four, will still be without Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian and Marouane Fellaini.
G: De Gea
D: Varela, Smalling, Blind, Riley
M: Carrick, Schneiderlin
Lingard, Mata, Memphis
D: Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal
M: Coquelin, Ramsey
Walcott, Özil , Sánchez
Kickoff time: 9:05 a.m. EST
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra