United come to Arsenal as reigning league champions, but they have no hope of retaining that title. Arsenal are in second place two points behind the leaders Chelsea on 55 points with 13 games to play and United are a further 14 points back in seventh place. A Champions League place will be a tough task for them with Everton, Spurs and Liverpool all ahead of them and it could be a very bad first season in charge for David Moyes.
Their form had been patchy at best and they have lost to all of the teams above them so far with the exception of Arsenal. In the reverse fixture United won by the only goal in a rather tame affair. That goal was more than a little fortunate as it went in off the shoulder of Robin van Persie as he attempted to head the ball from a corner. There is no love lost between him and Arsenal fans and they will yet again let their former captain know what they think of him during the game.
He claims to have left Arsenal because the club weren't going in the direction he thought they should be going and this came only a year after he accepted the role of captain and declared his love for Arsenal. He may have won a league title in his first season with United, but it's great to see them languishing in seventh place as Arsenal make the title challenge this season. It would be poetic justice if United were to only make it to the Europa League for next season and van Persie got to display his talent along with the rest of the also rans and no hopers.
Arsenal showed remarkable faith and patience in a player who spent most of his first six and a half seasons at the club injured and then he upped and left after 18 injury free months. He has been plagued by injury problems yet again this season and his fortunes have been matched by the club he joined as they struggle against the Premier League's weaker teams. As Kevin Keegan once said "I'll love it if we beat them".
Leaving aside my dislike for Arsenal's former captain there is a chance for Arsenal to reclaim top spot in the league after Chelsea could only draw at West Brom last night. They may be favourites for the title but they showed they are by no means certain to take the trophy come this May. Arsenal have just as much chance of doing so and if they can beat United they can put the Liverpool game behind them and look forward to other challenges.
With regards to the team selection I can only think that Arsene Wenger needs to shake things up a little and bring in one or two different players. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kieran Gibbs get a chance at left back or to see Tomas Rosicky come into the midfield. There is no real option in the striking role with Olivier Giroud as the only genuine choice to lead the line.
There had been much made of the form of Mesut Ozil or lack thereof but I would be very surprised if he is left out unless he has picked up a "knock". He needs willing runners to get on the end of the passes he can thread which few others have the ability to do. There aren't too many of them in the Arsenal team with Theo Walcott injured but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has the pace to be that player and so has Serge Gnabry if he plays.
Arsenal spent an awful lot of money on Ozil and they need to build a team around him which can get the very best out of him. They can't change their personnel between now and the end of the season, but it's something which has to be addressed in the summer. I still think Ozil is one of the best players in the world and the team will benefit when he has proper outlets for his vision and ability.
Getting back to tonight I would be surprised if Arsenal went Gung Ho at United from the start as their confidence must be fragile after the weekend. They have started far too many games in a very slow fashion recently but there is a case for some trepidation in the early stages tonight. I would also surprised if United had the confidence to come out all guns blazing from the start.
The United defence has been poor this season and Arsenal will get chances by playing their own game. Players like Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra are past their best defensively and make mistakes when they play and Arsenal need to put pressure on any of them that do play. Their goalkeeper is a good shot stopper but he is dodgy on crosses and that's another area where Arsenal need to exploit United.
A big performance from the team tonight will put an end to the doubt surrounding them following the Liverpool result and set them up nicely for the next two big tests of their current run of games. If they beat United to go on top of the league and put Liverpool out of the FA Cup on Sunday it will have been a very good week no matter how badly it started. I think this team are capable of just that and I hope they show tonight that they are just that.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.