Manchester United vs Arsenal Preview

Manchester United vs Arsenal Preview
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The penultimate Bix Six game of 2018 for Manchester United as they host Arsenal on Wednesday at 20:00 GMT. A huge game for both sides as Manchester United's sloppy performances of late have forced them to remain at seventh place in the league after two embarrasing draws to Crystal Palace and Southampton. This game could show the ability and intent of the Red Devils to break past their poor start and reach the top four. Arsenal have something to prove after a dramatic and emphatic comeback against Tottenham to beat their North London rivals 4-2 at home. The Gunners seem to always falter against United when it counts and a win against their old title rivals would show their development from the poorer years of Arsene Wenger's tenure and make a statement to the Premier League. 

As for team news, it looks bleak for United; Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling are doubts for the game, as are Luke Shaw ans Romelu Lukaku, who both were taken off against Southampton with unclarified injuries. Lindelof is certain to miss the game after suffering an injury against Crystal Palace, as is Alexis Sanchez who it seems will be out for the remainder of 2018 and perhaps longer. Ashley Young is also unavailable through suspension, after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season. It is also unclear as to how Jose Mourinho will line up at the back as Marcos Rojo, although named on the bench at St Mary's, may not be fit enough to see out 90 minutes. McTominay and Matic were all over the place at the back and should never be part of a back three again. Does that allow someone like Regan Poole or Ro-Shaun Williams to come in and show their ability or will Smalling or Bailly be forced out of recovery early for the game? It's difficult to decide but three at the back causes too much confusion as seen at St Mary's and stifles the attacking play as there are safer options sideways and behind and so should not be used. 

Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard have to start. They have so much talent and offer so much to the side with Martial's natural finishing something that Rashford and Lukaku both need to improve on and Lingard's energy and work ethic a vital reason why Gareth Southgate trusts him and why Jose Mourinho did last season. Ander Herrera was excellent against Southampton and at least attempted to get the game going and the Spaniard should start against Arsenal and might be given the task to mark Lucas Torreira who shone in the North London Derby as he has all season. I think Dalot will be on the bench again as Young is suspended and Pogba has been stripped of his captaincy and so Valencia will probably return to the side to captain United against the Gunners. It is a disappointing but likely future as, unless Jose names De Gea or Herrera captain, the Portuguese youngster will have to wait to get his full United debut.  

This is going to be a tough game for United as Arsenal have the firepower of Lacazette and Aubameyang who have a total of 16 league goals so far and with their leaky defence, are almost guaranteed to concede. United need to be clever in their play and take on the wingbacks with Rashford and Martial's pace which is difficult for any defender of any calibre to deal with and use Pogba to the best of his abilities - have wilful runners and attacking fullbacks for him to pick out like a quarterback and then get around the box and cause hassle. I think if Smalling, Rojo or Bailly are fit, Matic should be dropped and if not then the Serbian should fit in at LCB alongside Phil Jones who has been solid since coming back into the side. Perhaps Mason Greenwood could make an appearance on the bench if Lukaku is unfit and give him a debut against Arsenal as Rashford did two and a half years ago. It will be a close game that's for sure, but I think United will finally wake up and sort themselves out or it could be another bitter loss at home and Mourinho could well be on his way out before Christmas.

Predicted Lineup: De Gea, Valencia (c), Jones, Matic, Shaw, Herrera, Fellaini, Pogba, Lingard, Martial, Rashford

PREDICTED SCORE: 3-2 to United


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