Both David Moyes and Arsene Wenger hope to receive fitness boosts ahead of Manchester United’s heavyweight clash with Arsenal on Sunday.
Moyes was without Michael Carrick, Rafael, Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley for Tuesday’s goalless draw at Real Sociedad, but says that they are all in contention to return against the Premier League leaders. The only man definitely still ruled out is Danny Welbeck.
Wenger, meanwhile, is confident that influential midfielder Mathieu Flamini will be fit to return after the Frenchman missed two weeks with a groin injury. There were less positive sounds made about the availability of Jack Wilshere, who has been suffering with an ankle problem.
A match at Old Trafford and the chance to put 11 points between themselves and the champions provides the opportunity for Arsenal to cap what has already been a mightily impressive week. Arsenal have secured victories over Liverpool and at Borussia Dortmund and kept back-to-back clean sheets in the process. Wenger believes that achievement was the result of greater urgency and focus without the ball and he is keen to guard against any complacency.
"We have made a lot of improvements at the back in our defensive game," he said, according to Arsenal’s official website. "We have done well in the last two games, but there is a lot to do.
"We cannot come to the conclusion that we are in a position where we can relax -- we have a lot more to achieve. We have won nothing at all, we have just won two games, and what is important is what we achieve in the future.”
United’s defense has looked far shakier for much of the season, with Moyes frequently rotating his center-backs. But, having conceded just one goal in their last two matches, against Fulham and Real Sociedad, Moyes believes that United are becoming more robust, while he also defended the lack of continuity at the heart of his back four.
“You would like to have a bit of continuity but when you have five center backs like we have here in the squad they all need to be used,” he explained, according to Manchester United’s official website. “They all need to be played at different times, and some of them have had injuries which have meant we have had to change. It would be better if we could get a bit more consistency to it but at the moment whoever we have brought in has done well.”
Three early defeats in the Premier League made it a difficult start to life as Sir Alex Ferguson’s replacement for Moyes. Still, having now gone eight matches without defeat, the former Everton boss believes his side also come into Sunday’s contest on a high.
“Arsenal are coming to play the champions,” he said. “They're in the top position at the moment, their form has been very good and they'll come here in good spirits. But we've had some growing momentum and we want to put on a good show.”
Manchester United (probable)
G: De Gea
D: Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra
M: Carrick, Jones
Valencia, Rooney, Januzaj
F: Van Persie
D: Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs
M: Flamini, Arteta
Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League match will kick off at 11.10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the NBC Sports Network, with a live stream available on NBC Sports Live Extra.