Can the Gunners break poor Premier League run at Old Trafford
Can the Gunners break poor Premier League run at Old Trafford

Manchester United will be looking to continue their excellent Premier League record against Arsenal at Old Trafford when the teams meet this afternoon.

The Gunners haven’t won at Old Trafford since 2006, but will take encouragement from their 2-1 FA Cup win last year.

In the Premier League though Arsenal have lost on six of their last eight trips to Old Trafford.

The Gunners’ 3-0 win against the Red Devils at the Emirates earlier this season ended a run of eight Premier League matches without a victory .

Arsenal go into the match once again five points behind leaders Leicester City.

The Foxes beat Norwich City 1-0 yesterday, with a last-minute goal to keep the pressure on their title rivals.

This will be a pivotal week for Arsenal’s title challenge. After today’s match, the Gunners face Swansea at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday before taking on North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

Manchester United are ten points behind Arsenal in the table in sixth place. The Red Devils are under pressure to secure fourth place to at least ensure they make the Champions League qualifying round.

The Red Devils also have winning the Europa League as a potential route into the Champions League. After coming through their last 32 tie with Midtjylland, Manchester United will take on arch-rivals Liverpool in the  last 16.

The Managers

Louis Van Gaal

“Chris (Smalling) is a question mark, but you never know,” said van Gaal.

Asked whether Anthony Martial would be available against van Gaal admitted: “I don’t know because it has happened before the match. I’ve talked with him. I have talked with the physiotherapist that already had control of him. I cannot say, but it is not as heavy as everybody thinks, but you never know.

“I’m very happy with Marcos (Rios) that he played 10 or 15 minutes and how he showed already his form and shape, he was very good. But I have to build him up in the games and that’s not so easy, because he only had two training sessions with me. On the first day, he was with the second team and, on the second day, he was with us. So I take also a risk to do that, but I think that I have to do that now with 15 minutes and then 30 minutes and like that and I hope we can build him up.

“Valencia is also coming back and Fellaini too – in the month of March, a lot of players are coming back and then we have a strong selection again.”

Arsene Wenger

“We are in a strong position in the league, that’s for sure, but there is still a long way to go,” said Wenger. “Winning at Old Trafford in 1998 put us on a good run, but the second time [in 2002] we knew that if we won there we would become champions. It was a decisive game, which is the case again on Sunday.

It is the key period. We work the whole season for this period and that’s where you are really tested but it’s where you have an opportunity to show your quality as well.

You can show quality, nerves and desire as well. We need to focus on the Premier League where we have a big part to play. Everybody drops points and it is unpredictable. We have rebuilt a good run in the Premier League and we need to continue that.

Let’s not set any limit on the number of points we can get. We have put ourselves in a strong position again. We want to take advantage of that and continue our good run in the Premier League.”

Key Men

The return of David De Gea will boost an injury-hit Manchester United defence.

The Spain international was injured in the warm-up of the Reds’ Europa League first leg tie away to Midtjylland eight days ago and has since been receiving treatment.

Van Gaal said at the time he believed De Gea’s problem was not too serious and the manager hopes he will be able to call upon the stopper at Old Trafford today.

Laurent Koscielny will have to once again marshal the Arsenal defence if they are to end their poor Premier League record at Old Trafford.  Arsenal have kept five clean sheets in their last eight Premier League matches.

The Gunners though have dropped seven points from winning positions away from home, the joint-most in the Premier League along with Man Utd, but Koscielny produced an impressive performance in defeat against Barcelona on Tuesday.

“Overall, he had a great performance [against Barcelona],” Wenger said. “He has an authority in the challenges now that he did not have at the start.

“He has the needed quality to play with the ball. We want to have defenders who can play well when your opponent has the ball and can play well when we have the ball. I think on both sides, he’s reliable now.”

Team News

Manchester United

Anthony Martial is a doubt with the hamstring injury he picked up in the warm-up to Thursday’s Europa League last 32 second leg clash with Midtjylland.

David de Gea is expected to make his return to action following a similar injury he picked up in the warm-up to to the first leg clash with Midtjylland.

Chris Smalling (shoulder) and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (unspecified) are likely to return the starting line-up.

Provisional squad: De Gea, Romero, Blind, Smalling, McNair, Rojo, Varela, Riley, Love, Schneiderlin, Herrera, Carrick, Lingard, Depay, A Pereira, Mata, Martial, Rashford.

Arsenal

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be out until at least the end of April with a knee problem picked up the injury in the Champions League defeat to Barcelona

Gabriel faces a fitness test ahead of the game as he looks to return after missing the last three games with a hamstring problem,

Provisional squad: Cech, Ospina, Monreal, Gibbs, Koscielny, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Bellerin, Chambers, Ramsey, Elneny, Coquelin, Flamini, Ozil, Reine-Adelaide, Iwobi, Sanchez, Campbell, Walcott, Welbeck, Giroud.

Match Officials
Referee: Craig Pawson. Assistants: L Betts, M Perry. Fourth Official: M Dean

Prediction

Arsenal to get a third win in a row over Manchester United, with a 2-1 win to maintain their title challenge.

Key match statistics (supplied by Opta)

Only three players (Thierry Henry 20 in 2002/03, Frank Lampard 18 in 2004/05 and Cesc Fabregas, 18 in 2014/15) have assisted more goals in a single Premier League season than Mesut Ozil (17) in 2015/16.

United (33) have scored fewer goals after 26 league games than in any season since 1989-90 (30).

Red Devils have earned fewer points this season than in any other Premier League campaign after 26 games (41).

Arsenal have only won two of their last seven Premier League away matches (W2 D3 L2), this following a run of 12 away matches where they won 10.

United have scored 995 goals at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Just 21% of the attempts Arsenal have made in the Premier League this season have been from outside the box, the lowest proportion in the top division.