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Arsenal's revival faces Man Utd test

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Phil McNulty | 07:30 UK time, Friday, 28 August 2009

Arsene Wenger's confidence in Arsenal is almost set in concrete - unbreakable even under the greatest strain. And yet It has rarely been as hopelessly misplaced as it was before a meeting with Manchester United last May.

Wenger watched Arsenal being outclassed in the Champions League semi-final first leg at Old Trafford and used this flimsy (make that non-existent) evidence to announce victory would be theirs in the return - even inviting one cynic to meet him at his triumphant media conference.

A slight problem then arose. United exposed a rather glaring failing in Wenger's optimism by scoring twice in the first 11 minutes at the Emirates, transforming what was meant to be a glory night into what the Arsenal manager confessed was the worst moment of his career.

Arsenal meet Manchester United again at Old Trafford on Saturday and Wenger once again travels with great hope after a virtually flawless start to the season, recording four emphatic victories.

It is not hope without foundation because circumstances, and more significantly personnel, have changed. Cristiano Ronaldo, the two-goal tormentor of Arsenal that night at the Emirates has gone to Real Madrid, and Wenger has gone some way to addressing a flaw in his side's make-up.

Arsene Wenger
Arsene Wenger will fancy his side's chances against Manchester United

Wenger accepts confidence is a crucial commodity to take on your journey to Old Trafford. He never travels without it - and Arsenal should also have a plentiful supply after impressive opening exchanges in the new campaign.

It is a game laced with intrigue on both sides. Too much can be written into early defeats or victories, but this will undoubtedly prove a test of Wenger's renewal of his Arsenal team after last season fizzled out - and also an examination of United's potency post-Ronaldo.

And as the first meeting between two of the Premier League's four accepted heavyweights, points are to be made, markers to be laid down.

Wenger has already promised a positive approach, accepting Arsenal's passive nature undermined their hopes of winning the Champions League games.

In his own words Arsenal are "structured to go forward" - but he has also made what, on first evidence, looks to be a typically shrewd investment at the back in Belgian Thomas Vermaelen. The £10m paid to Ajax for Vermaelen and the £16m raked in from Manchester City for Kolo Toure seems a fair exchange.

Vermaelen, while not a giant in defensive terms, has played with reassuring authority and even got on the scoresheet against Everton. It will, however, be a test of him as well as Arsenal against Manchester United.

The question mark over Arsenal's start comes with the quality of opposition. Everton were a broken team almost before they took the field at Goodison Park as a result of the Joleon Lescott transfer saga - although it is churlish to undermine the quality of the football that brought a deserved 6-1 rout.

What cannot be underplayed is the excellence of the 2-0 win at Celtic. Giants have falled on that hostile territory and a team with a faint heart does not win Champions League games at Celtic Park.

Wenger also drew on his time-honoured mantra about the potential of Arsenal's side, although four years without a trophy suggests this has also been used as a cover for under-achievement.

He revealed somebody told him (a keen statistician presumably) that Arsenal's average age against Celtic on Wednesday was only 23.9 - a figure that he believes ensures greater strength and improvement as the season progresses.

Vermaelen will be put to the test by Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and perhaps Michael Owen but he has the appearance of an unruffled individual.

Wenger will also have been delighted that Arsenal emphasised a vast gulf with Celtic while keeping Robin van Persie in reserve and only introducing Andrey Arshavin for 19 minutes. Their inspiration will be needed at Old Trafford, especially if Cesc Fabregas is still out with a hamstring injury.

Michael Owen
Michael Owen scored his first Premier League goal for Manchester United in the 5-0 triumph at Wigan

If Arsenal can take at least a point, or even better, back to London on Saturday then the somewhat pessimistic predictions about their Premier League ambitions may be revisited, albeit marginally.

For United, it is an opportunity to reassert the authority that has been questioned after the sale of Ronaldo and the loss at Burnley. The 5-0 win at Wigan went some way towards addressing those questions, but it should be placed in the context of a display by Roberto Martinez's side that was as compliant for 45 minutes as Everton were for 90 minutes against Arsenal.

Arsenal's agonising defeat over two legs against United in the last four of the Champions League last season will still be fresh in Wenger's memory. It is easy to recall that pained expression as he sat in the Emirates media theatre that night and a win will go some way towards easing that lingering pain.

For United, another convincing win against an Arsenal team that may yet emerge as a potential threat to a fourth successive Premier League title will be regarded by Sir Alex Ferguson as an important statement of intent.

This season may be in its infancy - but the stakes will be as high as ever at Old Trafford.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Fancy it to be a draw on saturday. Arsenal are playing some great football at the minute (as usual) and united will not want to lapse into another defeat. Im still tipping chelsea for the title though (and im a liverpool fan)

    P.S. No mention of liverpool in this blog. Im disappointed Phil. The Phil-bashers will have nothing to complain about!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Indeed stakes will be high at Old Trafford. Arsenal will want to prove wrong those who have regarded him as a potential candidate to fly out of the "big 4" (including myself - well, can you blame me after last season?) and United will want to prove wrong those who think they have no chance for the title this year.

    Hope United will be hyped up after the Wigan game and Arsenal a bit tired after the mid week fixture.

    United to win 2-0

  • Comment number 3.

    Key is Fabregas..Cesc Fabregas

    No matter how well Diaby, Denilson & Song have played..

    We need that extra edge in Quality from Cesc Fabregas..he is as due as Wenger to get back at Man u after the Champs league defeats.

    Since The Last time Arsenal beat Man u at O.Trafford..they have lost the Goal-scorer...but they need to atleast have the player who made the assist to be playing tommorow

  • Comment number 4.

    First post...

    ...and I believe Arsenal's gonna nick it... my prediction is 2:1... that should ease Arsene's pain to some extent and boost their early season morale...

    I also see Arsenal finishing in the top 2 this season...

  • Comment number 5.

    Arsenal probably have their best opportunity of getting a result at OT for quite some time. That said, SAF has been there so many times before, and inspite of some critical injuries (particularly amongst the defence), I'm sure MU will be up for it, and put Arsenal under more pressure than they've experienced so far this season. United to take all 3 points.

  • Comment number 6.

    For the first time in a long time I actually think Arsenal have the better midfield in this game. Arsenal are free scoring at the moment so I think the only possible problem is how Arsenal's defence does against Man Utd's new look attack.

    Arsenal have not yet faced anyone with Man Utd's movement up fron so far and Wayne Rooney will be unlike anything Mr Vermaelen has faced yet in his short Arsenal career.

    The loss of Cesc for the game is looking likely, I don't think this is as major a problem as it would of been last season though. Arsenal this year look very interchangeable, a factor which alone should see them easily maintain the top 4 if not challenge. With Rio out it should hopefully make for a cracking attacking game and I would hope for an Arsenal win... if not a 2-2 draw or higher for entertainment value :D

  • Comment number 7.

    Atsenal will beat ManU on sat. ManU are still missing Ronaldo despite the 5 goals they scored against wigan. They struggled first half

  • Comment number 8.

    Phil - You are spot on, this match will be a real test for both teams. And it is better to be tested early in season than mid season. If Fabregas doesnt play, he will be missed. Owen/Berba cant trouble Gallas and co.

    Arshavin/van Persie yet to find net in their time to come on scoresheet.

    For Man U - Only Rooney can be a threat to Arsenal. Rest of MU is weak compared to Arsenal.

    My bet on Arsenal winning 2-1 at OT. Best Luck Gunners!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    United need to find another Paul Scholes quickly

  • Comment number 10.

    Oh and it is great that the blog is not about Liverpool for once. Perhaps if Tottenham win we can have something on them and the return of the attacking football not seen since Klinsmann played (and I'm an Arsenal fan.... well Bromley town mostly)

  • Comment number 11.

    Have to agree with post 6. Arsenal's midfield looks much stronger than Utd's. I think Utd could be overrun in midfield by Arsenal's counter attacking style and will have to rely on their defense a lot.

    Arsenal to win 2-1 - hoping for a match like the one at the Emirates last saeson (the one in the league!)

  • Comment number 12.

    In my opinion a triumvirate Arsenal midfield of Denilson Song and Cesc (or Ramsey, or Diaby, or Arshavin) is stronger than what Man U can put in there. Fletcher works hard but is technically weak, Scholes does not like to get outpassed meaning he will get frustrated, Carrick is a great passer but slow and out of favour, and Anderson is a headless chicken on xtc. Combine that with the attacking ability (van Persie, Arshavin and Eduardo/Bendtner) and the recently excellent defense and I see no reason for Arsenal not to win. Rooney will be a problem, Evra too (he always is) and Vidic is fantastic. Berbatov is not as good and the wingers are not top 4 quality (though neither are Liverpool's) Vermaelen recently said: "bring on Rooney and Drogba and Torres, I can handle them" and he is confident. He has been a revelation, freeing up Gallas to be the amazing CB we all knew he was.

    2-1 to Arsenal, though it may be more if Cesc plays, or perhaps less if neither Cesc nor Ramsey nor Diaby plays...

  • Comment number 13.

    Go on MU, show the imposter goners up for what they are,

  • Comment number 14.

    United destroyed Arsenal in midfield over 2 legs at the highest level of club football in Spring. With no changes in personnel in the key central midfield areas United should have far too much nouse and agression for Arsenal who are as usual being overhyped by their media chums after beating some lesser lights including an Everton shell shocked by Lescott's unprofessional behaviour.

    Typical clueless Gunners to suggest the loss of Ronaldo makes us rubbish - then how did Arsenal improve so much when Henry went? Nani is more then capable of beating Arsenal on his own as he did in the FA Cup tie at OT in February 08 4-0 and United's defence with Vidic back is as good as any around.

    United's players have also had a week to prepare for this one and after Burnley there is no margin for error.

  • Comment number 15.

    I really fancy the Gooners for a win here. They've kicked the season off superbly and the critics over the summer break are now not so sure about an Arsenal title this year.

    Close game 2-1........Eduardo's finishing just might be the difference between an away point and all three.

  • Comment number 16.

    With United back in goal scoring form and Arsenal flying, it all promises to be an intriguing game.
    I am not too convinced about Vermaelen. I was a keen observer of his in his days with Ajax and he tends to struggle against big, physical strikers in the mould of Drogba or Carlton Cole. IMO, part of the reasons why Ajax never won the Eredivisie title in his time with them.
    I just hope he gets better physically for Arsenal sake.

  • Comment number 17.

    It is so difficult to predict the overall outcome so early on but if pushed, I can only believe that Chelsea 1st, Arsenal 2nd, Man Utd 3rd, Liverpool 4th. Of course this is on current form and is subject to change; not that I'm really bothered providing Hull City stay up! Good article Phil!

  • Comment number 18.

    I think the match is intriguing for the two players that are missing. Rio is such a big loss for United and it will be interesting to see how they cope without him at set pieces, which Arsenal have been very good at recently. On the other side, the loss of Cesc is a blow and how the midfield battle will shape up might determine how the game is going to go.

    In my heart I still think Arsenal can still grab a win, but my head suggests a 1-1 draw.

  • Comment number 19.

    I got a good feeling we'l do man united in this time, even without fabregas we got alot of creativity,i just wish wenger starts with diaby because he's starting to look very good!

  • Comment number 20.

    Well Arsenal & Man U game promises to be a great football experience. Both teams have both losed some good players in the transfer season but still have outsanding team that can lift any football trophy in the world.

    All things being equal with the officiating, I think the game shall end in a draw as both sides have the potential of going out to level up any deficit before the regulation time.

    As for United, I would prefer a Kuszack as against a Foster in goal for this encounter.

  • Comment number 21.

    There was a time when the key ot our success was whether or not Cesc Fabregas payed but no more. It is very likely that he will not make it on Saturday and I think the skill available elsewhere will even allow Wenger to option of not risking Fabregas unless he is 100% ready. We have Arshavin, Rosicky, Song, Denilson, Diaby, Wilshere, and Merida all available in midfield, and we have Eduardo, Bentdner, RVP available as strikers. Add tothat the impressive start of both our Centre Backs and I don't see how you could look past the danger we can pose even if Cesc is not on the bus.

    The Celtic game was extremely interesting. We were notionally playing 4-3-3 but quite honestly I saw it as 4-6, because our midfield and strikers were just chopping and changing in a way that made it hard for anyone to follow. The line between midfielders and strikers continues to be blurred in the modern game and Man Utd have been one of the major purveyors of this new convention, but I think we will see this season which team can do it the best. No prizes for guessign who I think that is.

  • Comment number 22.

    Both teams are much stronger going forward than defending at the moment. United have too many injury problems and arsenal still need some time to gel, although they're looking much more solid than last year already (thank you alex song and vermaelan). I'd love to see arsenal nick it, but i reckon it'll probably finish a score draw.

  • Comment number 23.


    Impossible, there's only one Paul Scholes.

  • Comment number 24.

    As a Man Utd fan this is the first time for a few years I have thought we were genuinely not favourites for this game. It's going to be very interesting for sure and should tell us a lot about the two teams. Recent form suggests Arsenal should win but you never know who will rise to the occasion.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ 16, you say Vermaelen is not good against physical players. He was up against them for 3 matches in a row. He played excellently. At Ajax, his partners in defense where really, really bad. He was forced to play leftback cause Marco van Basten and the people before him had bought really badly. He has not looked one tiny bit like the Vermaelen of Ajax since coming here and there is no reason to doubt his physical strength, just because he is not 8 ft.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Phil

    You're right. Arsenals 'paasive nature' as you choose to describe it may well undo us at OT. To be brutally honest, the teams we have fielded for 4-5 years have often displayed what i would rather call mental fragility. Im not convinced that its a trait that has gone away entirely either. We'll see. As you say, i would take a draw.

  • Comment number 27.

    I have little doubt Arsenal will get something from this game, we drew there last year, lost the year before because of Adebayor and won the year before that.
    Man Utd will do what man utd do they will seek to impose themselves in midfield and undermine the full backs out wide, only this time they haven't got the pace and trickery of Ronaldo as an outlet and Arsenal will match man utd in midfield.
    Arsenal should seek to put Vidic under as much pressure as possible as we've seen before he crumbles under pressure.

  • Comment number 28.

    It's too early in the season for this game to affect anything too much. Both teams should be relaxed enough to play their own games.

    I don't expect a classic, these matches are never that.

    1-1 and a good result for both teams.

  • Comment number 29.

    "Giants have falled on that hostile territory and a team with a faint heart does not win Champions League games at Celtic Park." - Phil McNulty.

    First, I presume that Phil has some Scottish ancestory to make such a claim. The electric atmosphere aside, has a decent European side really feared the Celtic team in the last few decades? Secondly Phil, failed/fallen in that hostile territory? I'm not sure about falled.

  • Comment number 30.

    A draw would be the best result from my point of view being a chelsea fan but must say cnt see that happening tipping arsenal on raiding united's parade at OT 3-1 to the gunners! ''fergie franticaly rushes to the market after gunners defeat''

  • Comment number 31.

    as strong as arsenal midfield is it should be a piece of cake for them ...................
    ..........................yeah that's right

  • Comment number 32.

    Playing mid-week, despite popular myth, does not impair the weekend performance - especially since no travelling was involved. Indeed, so early in the season, when players are still finding their feet, getting back into full fitness and when teams and partnerships are still bedding down, it should prove beneficial to have played that extra game.

    That all said, Manchester United at Old Trafford is a step up to the very top level of fixtures, and Arsenal need to play in a mould similar to Liverpool last year. Press the midfield and look to exploit the lack of pace Vidic has.

    Still as a Liverpool fan, I hope for a draw.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    "Nani is more then capable of beating Arsenal on his own"

    Bellion that is the funniest thing I have ever heard, cheers for the laugh. You were joking right?

    Seriously though my heart says 2-1 to the Arsenal, but Man U are at home so I doubt we will get three. I see it as 2-2. And Man U and Arsenal in the first half of the season usually are classics, or atleast great matches to watch (remember last year). I think we'll see some great football, but neither team will be able to take much as it will end in a draw...

  • Comment number 35.

    Having been blessed with supporting Man Utd, words cannot describe my adulation for Sir Alex (and equal terror at his inevitable retirement).

    However, I have to admit that Wenger is by far the 2nd best Premiership manager ever, and (unlike Benitez, Houllier, and whoever's in charge of Chelsea this week) I respect his value system.

    It is rare to find a manager, in this Sky-Sports era, who does not allow outragious wage demands to dictate his transfer policy (as ever Sir Alex has had to do at times), and his recent interview admitting he claims not to see contraversial incidents is a rare bolt of truth from Premiership managers. The obvious questions followed Eduardo's dive and he handled them well, admitting, after watching the incident again, the player was NOT touched.

    I'm not worried about Saturday because I know both teams will play entertaining, sometimes sublime, football trying to win a very entertaining game. And in my experience, when this happens, the deserving team usually does.

  • Comment number 36.

    Wenger threw his lot into the hat when inviting the cynic to the victory conference, it is the psychological gamble of a supreme leader, more to the point it underlines belief and confidence. Arsenal are short of a quality Keeper if Almunia isn't fit. United haven't been tested yet, they'll be more nervous than Arsenal come saturday because they have more to lose and don't know how good or bad they are. No Ronaldo. Utd might get a draw, they might even win but don't be surprised if it's 5-0 to the Arsenal.

  • Comment number 37.

    comment 29:

    "The electric atmosphere aside, has a decent European side really feared the Celtic team in the last few decades?"

    Maybe European sides don't fear Celtic at Celtic Park but Phil is right in saying that very few go there an pick up a win. Man U coundn't do it. Ac Milan couldn't do it. tough place to win games and credit to arsenal.

    As for tomorrow united to get the win. Although i had no doubt they would qualify it must be said that arsenal were fortuitous in the first leg against celtic and then a dive in second leg ended the tie. they haven't faced quality such as united this season so united to nick 2-1 i think.

  • Comment number 38.

    Bebartov seems to have recaptured his Spurs form so he will be a threat to the Gunneers together with the ever reliable Rooney. My only hope is that Sir Alex starts with Anderson, Carick, Fletcher and Park with the latter two playing on the wings. Lastly I do not fear the Gunners.

  • Comment number 39.

    Arsenal have flattered against a dire Everton and a sinking Portsmouth, this game could be a real kick in the pants for them, United to win and quite handsomely too.

  • Comment number 40.

    2-1 United. I can see Arsenal folding under the pressure at OT, and with the possibility of Fabregas being out, I think the 3 points are there for us to grab. If we score early I wouldn't be surprised if we hammer them 3 or 4 nil!

  • Comment number 41.

    Scholes for the hat-trick, but Arshavin will score another four

  • Comment number 42.

    Should Arsenal be given a 2 goal start under Platini's new rules ? £580 m of debt. Has Platini created a communist black market ? We've got a chain of restaurants you can use for free, a yacht you can have all year round, a sponsor for whichever car you want to drive, how much for a private box at Stamford Bridge (£5 m) and who do you think will subsidise it ? We have purchased your favourite clothes shop and you now get an 80% discount. A new TV company in Saudi wants to buy your TV rights for 500 gazillion per game. It's LOOPHOLE CITY, how long before the breakaway league forms ? Is this the end of Capitalism ?

  • Comment number 43.

    This will be a great game as ever but confidence will be key. From a draw to either side taking the upper hand and pummelling the other I don't think anyone is able to truthfully predict the outcome. Probably my favourite fixture of the season and with good reason. When these 2 teams meet in the league its always the one to watch.

  • Comment number 44.

    P.S. No mention of liverpool in this blog. Im disappointed Phil. The Phil-bashers will have nothing to complain about!!
    Bolton have failed to register a single point on the board. But I know you feel that McNulty has dissappointed you this time. If Liverpool win against Bolton then we can expect an article about why Pools are favourites(One of the).

  • Comment number 45.

    Arsenal usually play their best football against the top teams in the Premier League, and should do so again on Saturday. I can't see them being outplayed, so the result will probably come down to luck on the day with a narrow win most likely.

    I just hope they don't give away the win with another last minute goal, which seems to happen more often than not lately.

  • Comment number 46.

    I really don't know how the game will unfold. United are for me now an unknown quantity. Before I expected to do well all the time, but now without Ronaldo I cannot say the same.

    As for Arsenal, well we can only beat the teams we are playing. Celtic away really is not an easy game. United which were so good last year only managed a draw there when Giggs scored in the last 5 minutes. I admit the goals were lucky but the performance was top top. People can say what they want about Everton, but still they finishes last season as no 5 and lost only to Chelsea in the FA cup Final.

    But talk is cheap. Tomorrow will show people how the teams stand...

  • Comment number 47.

    "Giants have falled on that hostile territory and a team with a faint heart does not win Champions League games at Celtic Park."

    Eduardo dived for a penalty in the home leg while his team was 2-0 up on aggregate. That seems to me like the action of a faint hearted person. Surely the fact that he dived suggests that he wasn't confident that his team could get past Celtic at The Emirates, even with a 2 goal cushion.

  • Comment number 48.

    As good as Vermaelen and Gallas have been this year, and they have been good...they haven't played against any top class strikers.

    Rooney is on fire, Berbatov is still to prove his doubters wrong (and he will!), I'll get grief for saying this but I'm going for it.....Fletcher has been excellent this season and the end of last season. He's looking like a proper midfielder now. Tenancious and strong in the challenge, great passing, always turns into space and gets the odd goal. Nani couldn't have had a better start to the season and Valencia will run Clichey ragged.

    Overal I don't think form has anything to do with these games, Arsenal were in poor form last year and then had a tremendous game against at the Emirates

  • Comment number 49.

    Two away trips to Manchester will tell us all we need to know about the strengths and weaknesses of this Arsenal side. My sense is that the belief is there, the strength and determination is there - and Toure for Vermaelen is looking like the best trade in premier league history. I loved Toure's attitude and he gave 100% every time, but when you compare his frenetic last-ditch tackling to the composure of the Belgian, you realise just how lacking Toure is defensively - he relied too much on his pace to get him out of trouble. Vermaelen reads and anticipates - and Gallas is a man transformed with a more assured partner at his side.

    The win against Celtic - for all the influence of their fans and the physicality of their tackling - was so comfortable, so easy. As the Celtic fans were telling us before the first game, Celtic Park is no place for the faint-hearted, so that was very encouraging.

    In midfield, the hardest thing really is deciding who to play. if Cesc is fit to play, then I think he'll go with Diaby and Song in the midfield - Denilson coming in for Cesc if he's fit. Good as Denilson's played, I think Old Trafford requires a bit more steel so Diaby and Song fit the bill.

    Up front, it's RVP, Eduardo and Arshavin for me.

    And this is not the time or the place to be meek and mild - it has to be positive, aggressive and forward - move the ball around at pace, fluid and always on the move so that Utd never get settled. If we allow them to set the pace then we'll lose the initiative - and possibly the match.

    But I see us winning 2-1

  • Comment number 50.

    Arsenal's attacking midfield and the new 4 3 3 formation has seen them dominate their games this season so far. However, they do have a bad habit of letting in a soft goal usually when they have scored many themselves. If their goal scoring is inhibited this could be a key weakness.

    The Euro matches against Man U were without Arshavin who revitalised Arsenal in the second half of last season. The quality of the pitch may be an issue - how many days has the groundsman at Old trafford been watering the pitch now?

  • Comment number 51.

    i think united will win as strikers look confident after the game with wigan. i don't think united have defense problem they have vidic, brown, o'shea and evra they can cope with gunner's strikers.
    i predict 2-1 for united

  • Comment number 52.

    3 nil to United, Berbatov to score a hat trick.Eduardo to have a blatant penalty turned down because the Ref thought he dived.

  • Comment number 53.

    Don't care what happens....either way....WE ARE TOP OF THE LEAGUE!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 54.

    Intresting contest, lets see who will emerge as winners, but ansenel have a slightly edge over united in view of departure of ronaldo and united crushing defeat from the hands of burnely. Arsenel definitely play attacking footbal but united on the other hand may be little bit defensive. they dont want to lose. Draw will be a better result for them.

  • Comment number 55.

    47. At 10:01am on 28 Aug 2009, Tomaths wrote:
    "Giants have falled on that hostile territory and a team with a faint heart does not win Champions League games at Celtic Park."

    Eduardo dived for a penalty in the home leg while his team was 2-0 up on aggregate. That seems to me like the action of a faint hearted person. Surely the fact that he dived suggests that he wasn't confident that his team could get past Celtic at The Emirates, even with a 2 goal cushion.
    So when the keeper came out in that split second he decided that we needed to cheat to win the game? Thats just ridiculous! I dont think Celtic managed a shot on target at the Emirates so that doesnt realy back up what you are saying

    I think it will be a good game with lots a attacking football like the game we had at the emirates last season - that was end to end and either team could have won - this fixture beat any other prem league fixture hands down as both teams play the game the way it is supposed to be.

  • Comment number 56.

    This one will be another classic.... Man U 3 - 2 Arsenal!

  • Comment number 57.

    To naf_aeslehc...interesting comments about Vermaelen struggling against big, physical strikers. This remains to be seen, but he has looked excellent so far.

    United do not have any strikers in that mould who may start tomorrow. Berbatov is big but you could not describe him as physical.

    And judging from the posts from Arsenal fans on here, it is not just Arsene Wenger who is confident. Real optimism - but I still say Fabregas will be a massive miss if he doesn't play.

  • Comment number 58.

    Phil - Vermaelen cost an initial £8.5m, not £10m as quoted.

    I am cautiously optimistic going into the game. Confidence is high and the likes of Song and Denilson are a yard quicker and much stronger and powerful than last year. The balance of Vermaelen on the left of central defensive has given Gallas a new lease of life, this has probably been his best 4 consecutive games for Arsenal.

    I have a feeling Arsenal will win by 2 goals.

  • Comment number 59.

    "Eduardo dived for a penalty in the home leg while his team was 2-0 up on aggregate. That seems to me like the action of a faint hearted person. Surely the fact that he dived suggests that he wasn't confident that his team could get past Celtic at The Emirates, even with a 2 goal cushion."

    lol are you serious?

  • Comment number 60.

    The goal last week will do wonders for Berbatovs confidence, but it will be rooney who make Arsenal Pay. Fabregas' absence will hurt the gunners if he's still unfit. Bendtner is not Arsenal quality and even though i am a united fan i feel sorry for their fans everytime he plays (I'm really hoping he plays Saturday!). It won't be a walk in the Ji Sung Park for United but if the midfield works hard to stop arsenal playing they'll be in with a great chance.

  • Comment number 61.

    Petty, but strained concrete is very brittle, whereas stressed concrete is very strong.

  • Comment number 62.

    Alright Arsenal fans, I only gave my honest opinion about Vermaelen. Only time will tell if he is good or not. I just think it is too early to judge a player after only 2 matches in the EPL . I have watched a lot of games involving Vermaelen with Ajax and I still think he is average at best. Arsenal needs an established world class defender to patner Gallas if they are to end their trophy drought this season and IMO Vermaelen is not that player.

  • Comment number 63.

    Hi Phil,
    Spot on regarding this will be Arsenals real teste and to a certain extent a real test for Man u as well. With the loss of Fabregas, it will be veryinteresting who Wenger decides to field in the central creative role.

    I think we have the personnell to go to Old Trafford and actually assertive ourselves unlike the passive nature of our past displays there.

    It should be an exciting day, and right now i'll take the draw.

    Manu 1-1 Arsenal

  • Comment number 64.

    This meet always promises to be interesting, i htink we may have the edge here, even if the recent opposition have been weaker teams with internal turmoil the point is the confidence is high in the dressing room. Arsenal's young team have no doubt tremendous talent but can sometimes suffer from a lack of cohesion and confidence. This said with the recent form and results confidence is very high, this can be the factor which leads to consistently good performances throughout the season. Utd have been slow to start in recent seasons and with the loss of Mr Speedos are lacking the trickery he bought.

    It will be a truer test to show where we are going to go this season; but i think we may just walk away with the 3 points, theyve got rio out as well.

    In terms of Eduardo's dive, it was a dive theres no doubt about that, my first reaction was that it wasnt but i was behind the goal at the opposite end, replays shown it was. I think the game was slow to start and we needed that goal to gain momentum and confidence. I dont agree with what he done, but i dont think it was fear of celtic, i think we needed to break what was becoming a tedious game until the 26th minute.
    Still it's no excuse and i think it was out of character.

    All 3 points to Arsenal.

    In wenger we trust!

  • Comment number 65.

    Watching Arsenal slowly waltz their way round Celtic, I wasn't entirely convinced they wouldv'e looked so good against a more pacey, physical side. They were rarely hassled by alot of the Celtic players in truth. They will have to up their game if they want to take a victory.

    I predict a draw, a result which neither team would be too unhappy with. Defeat for either team would be damaging - Man U would be left wondering if they still had what it takes to win the league, Arsenal would lose confidence in their ability to beat high quality opposition.

  • Comment number 66.

    Tough match for us(Manchester United Fan).
    Arsenal looks more composed team than us. I see Arsenal drawing first blood, but in the second half Manchester United will be back by a curling freekick by NANI and Owen scoring a deflected Goal in the INJURY Time!!

  • Comment number 67.

    Arsenal look good, but despite their goals their main problem is in attack. van Persie is great but injury prone and streaky, Bendtner does not have the class to be a top Premier striker. Vela, Eduardo and Walcott have the class but are developing players and not quite there yet. Arsenal's fragile attack coupled with the team's lack of ruthlessness when on top will show up over the season and alas rule them out of 1st place unless Wenger can get in a really top striker and an Essien type midfielder.

    Against Man U 1-1.

  • Comment number 68.

    From the recent upward form and promising streak by Arsenal its now time to reflect and focus on Old Trafford's match, its not all that easy but we gonna make The guns shoot.

    With Cesc and Song midfield its gonnna make the game sexier

  • Comment number 69.

    As usual this game conjures up thoughts of a great ' football' rivalry above all as both clubs have a long history of playing excellent quality football for decades.
    Since the start of the Premiership United and Arsenal are probably 50/50 in their matches and although this year the fixture comes very early and the Gunners have 4 wins, I still reckon the drawn game is likely as the teams post Ronaldo are more evenly matched and OT is still a fortress.
    SAF will sacrifice his natural s... or bust plan and put 1 point on the board as another defeat is unthinkable ! Even though our boys are slow starters, come January the real United will come to the fore and as long as we are close to the seasons front runners - Arsenal and Chelsea, we will be in charge come April 30th.

  • Comment number 70.

    naf_aeslehc wrote:
    Alright Arsenal fans, I only gave my honest opinion about Vermaelen. Only time will tell if he is good or not. I just think it is too early to judge a player after only 2 matches in the EPL . I have watched a lot of games involving Vermaelen with Ajax and I still think he is average at best. Arsenal needs an established world class defender to patner Gallas if they are to end their trophy drought this season and IMO Vermaelen is not that player.
    As you say only time will tell.....

    So far he has looked like a Vidic tpye player - strong good in the air (even if he isnt a giant)and a tough tackler.

    I also had doubts as he came from the Dutch league where he wouldnt come accross the same quality of striker as he will in the prem - but he was captain at the age of 23 so they must have rated him highly.

    The only mistake he made so far was getting nutmegd by a celtic player but nothing came of it.

  • Comment number 71.

    To All Arsenal Supporters on this Blog: Remember - There is Only 1 Michael Owen.

    Be Scared. Be very Afraid.

    P.S. Phils Blog: For United, a convincing win again against an Arsenal team that may yet emerge as a potential threat to a fourth successive Premier League title will be regarded by Sir Alex Ferguson as an important statement of intent.

    Why should United win convincingly? A 1-0 will do. A deflected goal will do. Basically a win will do. It will make no difference how bad they play. A win will be good win.

  • Comment number 72.

    Arsenal have a fantastic chance of getting the win at Old Trafford - hope Wenger's been watching the Burnley game.

  • Comment number 73.

    I'd be interested to see how Arsenal react if they go a goal down. They've played some good stuff so far this season but much of the defending they've come up against has been farcical at best. That isn't to say they won't win tommorow, Arsenal with Eduardo and Van Persie fit area completley different proposition to the side of last season.

    It is telling however that despite their dominance in the opening four games of the season Arsenal have only managed one clean sheet. Even with Van Der Sar and Ferdinand out, Evans doubtful and no completley fit right back the United back line looks far more impossing than Arsenal's if only due to the presence of the immence Vidic. Foster also deserve's alot of credit for picking himself up after the Community Shield display and this will be a big game for him.

    Up front while Rooney has been gaining the plaudits it is Berbato who has impressed me. Not only has he improved his work-rate but he seems to be thriving in the new set-up, he may not get as many goals as Rooney but his brilliant touches and approach play will lead to alot of goals this season.

    Fergusons commitment to 442 will also be tested, ferguson will be aware that he risks being over-run in the middle if he only selects two central midfielders. He may try to counter that by playing Giggs and Park on the wings who are able to tuck in and provide better cover to the defence. Then again with Arsenal using Gibbs and Eboue in the full back position their must be a temptation to start both Nani and Valencia. Hopefully it is the latter and we have a high scoring entertaining encounter.

  • Comment number 74.

    I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Arsenal win this one. They've started so well. My only concern is that the Celtic game might have taken something out of them. My heart says Arsenal but my head says draw.

  • Comment number 75.

    Arsenal beat Celtic and it "emphasised a vast gulf." They hump Everton and Man U. do likewise to Wigan but that is down to 'compliance' by the English opposition. So no gulfs in English football, just varying degrees of compliance? Pah.

  • Comment number 76.

    It's me Amanuel Tesfay, from Ethiopia I want to comment on the saturday's revival between Arse and Manche;I am sure Arse will be the winner!!!.

  • Comment number 77.

    i think right loss confidence, if arsenal can try to score an early goal them d game is ove bcoz man.U dont have d ronaldo that can turn something out of nothing, and they r afraid of arsenal good form now. so it's time 4 arsenal to take d game to untied..........4 gunner 4 life

  • Comment number 78.

    i thnk this match wd show whether arsenal really can be title challengers...i for one, wd like to see how arsenal react if they are a goal or 2 regards the wins they've had in the league...everton were a pale shadow of the team that played last season and the less said abt pompey the better...if cesc dsnt play...arsenal cant win...simple....for all of the abilities of arshavin,rvp, eduardo etc...fabregas is the only player who can actually make a winning difference.Without fabregas it cd be a draw or a man utd win

  • Comment number 79.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 80.

    Expect Arsenal to win. 2-0

  • Comment number 81.

    Wenger rarely goes into a big game without some kind of a proclamation. The trumpet is de rigour but this time the expression of intent sounds genuinely confident.
    Phil has hit all the right buttons in capturing the ambience as well as assessing the new capabilities of the two sides with due regard to some important changes. There seems to be a doubt about the Cesc fitness but I assume he is to play; else we would have detected some trace of a jarring note.
    I would like to think Arsenal have an edge. Home advantage to United could offset it. The tepid verdict thus should be a draw. Whatever the outcome, it will be keenly viewed by a large segment of the aficionados as a long term indicator of which manager knows his football better. Even a draw would raise Wenger's stock.

  • Comment number 82.

    The team that wins this fixture is always the one who has more pressure on them. . .usually because of not playing thier best football in the lead up to the game. This could be because too much confidence causes a team to lose their edge (see Burnley v United). United have it all to prove this season, Here's hoping Arsenal are as confident/complacent as their fans on here. . .lots of 2-1s to Arsenal. . .

    Nobody's learning from Wenger's mistake ahead of CL semi 2nd leg then. . ."we're going to win. . .definitely going to win. . .yes yes we'll win. . . .oh. . . we lost"

  • Comment number 83.

    2baGooner, OK, if it wasn't fear of Celtic that encouraged Eduardo to dive then what was it? Why did he risk a possible European ban diving for a penalty that, if as you say Celtic did not have a shot on target (which is incorrect, as Celtic scored), Arsenal didn't need?

  • Comment number 84.

    Wow! wins against Celtic, Portsmouth and Everton and suddenly Arsenal are world beaters. Reality check coming soon at OT. As for Wenger, he's all mouth and no trousers. Tactically outclassed again, which is the difference between being a CL winner and a CL loser.

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm going for the Gunners this weekend. I'm not convinced that Man U are really back, they beat Wigan (the Premiership whipping boys) yes, but no more than I'd have expected. Arsenal with Cesc will have too much for Man U. If Fabregas doesn't play then Wenger will probably just push Arshavin up front and that will be that!

  • Comment number 86.

    I feared for Arsenal at the beginning of the season, especially after the sale of Adebayor. However, on seeing both teams performances, it looks like Man Utd who have been left the weaker side after their summer dealings. I predict a suprise away win, 2-1 to Arsenal.

  • Comment number 87.

    I expect Rooney and Fletcher to be key in this game.

    Either an entertaining 0-0 or 1-0 to United.

  • Comment number 88.

    Like most Arsenal fans I've always thought we could give United a game - though sometimes the opinion is based more on heart than brain. But it has to be acknowledged that setting aside last season's Champions League debacle, we have as good a record as anybody against United under Wenger's reign.

    Forget Arsenal's recent results and look at the performances and you will see why there is genuine optimism among the fans. The team grew up last season after a shocking start and has continued to improve this season.

    This is most certainly not the same Arsenal side that were outplayed by United last season and I defy any United fan to tell me honestly that United are an improved team this season.

    Arsenal to squeak it - nobody ever hammers United - and for the first time in seasons, Fergie can stop being nice to Wenger - a stance he adopted when Arsenal ceased to be a threat.

  • Comment number 89.

    Only Celtic, Portsmouth and Everton...aye, they are no Burnley, that's for sure.

  • Comment number 90.

    A lot of people going for the away win here then. I hope Arsenal can pull it off. Form suggests it can easily happen but Ferguson will have one or two aces to pull out as even though United demolished Wigan last week that surprise defeat at Turf Moor is still very much gnawing at the United boss. Beware of the Berba......but Arsenal will do it!

  • Comment number 91.

    No Arsenal fans are being big-headed and saying we will win just that we have very good chance, what people should remember is that for the United Semi-Finals the only member of our defence that remains is Sagna and he was only half fit for that game.

    Gallas and Clichy were both injured and that was crucial.

    Also we outplayed you off the park in the League last season at OT and somehow we didn't win.. I would love Bendtner to score a winner tomorrow and shut the critics up!

    He scored more than Berbatov and Tevez last season in the League and I think only one away from Rooney.. they must all be rubbish too then!?

  • Comment number 92.

    #67 diamo333

    Arsenal's fragile attack? We've scored 15 goals in 4 games! With scorers from all over the pitch the reliance on our strikers is no where near as important as your are making out.

    #84 dmrichkt

    I'm not sure anyone here has said we are 'world beaters' but are encouraged by an emphatic away win against the FA Cup finalist and 5th placed side from last year, plus a brilliantly controlled performance at Celtic Park where a lot of top European teams have struggled to win in recent seasons.

    Talking of tactics, if you play 4-4-2 on Saturday with one of Giggs, Scholes or Carrick playing in the centre, you are risking being completely overrun.

  • Comment number 93.

    United are not the benchmark against which we measure how far we will go on the premiership ladder. Yes they beat us in the champions league but we beat them easily in the premiership at home and drew with them away and yet finished some 18 points off the target. So beating them will be nothing special. Besides, beating them doesn't take much; Burnley beat them for goodness sake! It is beating the "small" teams consistently I'm gunning for not beating man utd.

  • Comment number 94.


    Four games in and people who were predicting Arsenal to fall outside of the Top 4 now think they're the team to beat.

    Little has changed.

    This match has draw or a 1-0 home win written all over it.

  • Comment number 95.

    In answer to one poster, I do not think anyone has said Arsenal are "world beaters" after the start they have had to the season, but even Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his surprise and admiration this morning at the scale of their win at Everton.

    Ferguson himself sounds pretty confident and insists Manchester United cannot afford to lose this game.

    Where do fans of both clubs think the key areas will be? And as his name has been mentioned a couple of times here, do United fans (and indeed Arsenal fans) think Paul Scholes can still have a major impact on games such as this?

  • Comment number 96.

    Except last season we met Arsenal early on after a shaky start and they beat us well, with Ronaldo at the club.

    Somewhere along the line people are going to have to recall that United lost games in the 5 seasons Ronaldo played for us...

  • Comment number 97.

    Don't underrate the Dutch league, it's more technical than the premiership that's why players from there don't find it difficult playing in the premiership - it's a question of them getting used to the physical aspect of it. He was from Ajax and the education there is second to none!

  • Comment number 98.


    I think there are key duels all over the pitch, but in most of these big games it is the control in the midfield that often dictates the result. That is why I'd be amazed if Sir Alex goes 4-4-2. Arsenal's 4-3-3 is all about pressing high up the pitch and if Man U don't match like-for-like in the middle they could get overrun, particularly if one or two of Giggs, Scholes or Carrick plays centrally.

  • Comment number 99.

    To All Arsenal Supporters on this Blog: Remember - There is Only 1 Michael Owen.

    Be Scared. Be very Afraid.

  • Comment number 100.

    I'd put money on united for this Arsenal are a really good team but lack a finish Celtic is one thing but premier league champs and champions league finalists is another


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