Arsenal have had a very poor record against United for far too many years now and I can see no better way to erase some awful memories than by winning tonight. I don't particularly rate this United team and I don't think they're particularly better than the team who finished seventh in the Premier League last season. They have got an impressive record at home in the league though and they have won 11 of their 14 home games with only Chelsea taking more points at home.
Arsene Wenger will have a very similar squad available to him to the one which won 2-1 away to QPR on Wednesday night to hold on to third place in the league. The only absentee from that game will be Gabriel Paulista who picked up an injury on the night and will be out for the next few weeks. Both Wojciech Szczesny and Nacho Monreal should be available again after missing that game and the chances are they will both play from the start.
With David Ospina now making the goalkeeper's shirt his own Szczesny is limited to FA Cup appearances if he wants to make an impression on the boss. Monreal could come in as a central defender for the injured Gabriel or he could fill in for Kieran Gibbs on the left without weakening that side of the defence. I think he will play at left back and the pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker will get the nod in the centre of the defence. It would be too much of a risk to play a full back in the centre in a game on which so much depends.
There's not going to be too many changes to the rest of the team in my opinion although there are quite a few players who will be hoping to start. There's definitely a case for the inclusion of Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from the side which beat QPR, but I'm not so sure how many of them will play from the start. If he's up to it after his most recent injury I think it makes sense to include Ramsey in midfield alongside Francis Coquelin and the pace of the other three could be a real asset against a United team who will hopefully push forward and leave some space behind their defence.
I wouldn't be surprised if two of those four started, but the only player I can see who is sure to miss out is Tomas Rosicky. I think Olivier Giroud might be on the bench too with Welbeck given a chance through the middle against his former club, but the inclusion of Walcott or Chamberlain would see the exclusion of Mesut Ozil or Alexis Sanchez and I just can't see that happening.
Arsenal haven't shown up against United far too often and they have yet another chance to silence their critics tonight. Far too often when these chances present themselves the critics are proved right, but the trip to City in January was different and I really want tonight to be the same. There is no doubt the players are capable of getting a result tonight, but sometimes you have to wonder if they truly believe that themselves.
I'm still not sure how United managed to steal three points from the game at Arsenal in November, but it was the boost United needed at the time and it started them off on a very good run. That run has somewhat faltered in recent weeks and Arsenal have leap frogged them into third place in the table. If Arsenal can get the better of them on their own patch tonight it could be a real blow to United's confidence and help Arsenal to stay ahead of them in the race for a top four finish.
Despite Arsenal being the holders United have to be favourites in a game between the only two teams to have won the cup 11 times. Whoever wins the game will have the chance to become the team who has won it more than any other team and that's not a bad carrot to dangle in front of the players either. There is so much to be gained from a positive result tonight that a defeat is hard to contemplate.
If that defeat does arrive it will be a bitter pill for Arsenal and effectively end their chances of a trophy with over two months to play this season. I have a feeling that's not going to happen though and while I would be perfectly happy with a draw I think Arsenal have the players to win tonight. I just hope those players live up to their potential this time and give us a display to be proud of at Old Trafford for the first time in many years.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.