FA Cup quarter-final: Manchester United vs Arsenal - Match Preview
Manchester United and Arsenal, two of English football’s traditional powerhouses, go head-to-head in the FA Cup quarter-final fixture on Monday. It is almost three-way battle for the trophy between United, Arsenal and Liverpool unless the ‘Magic of FA Cup’ has any surprises in store for us.
The stakes are pretty high for all three teams, considering that this competition looks like the only way to win some kind of silverware this season. Ironically the teams involved on Monday are also battling it out in the Premier League for the Champions League qualifying spots. So a win here for either team will not only guarantee a place in the semi-finals but also might give the winning team a psychological advantage in the race for a top four finish.
Venue and Kick-off
Old Trafford – 10 March, 1:15 AM on Tuesday (IST)
Probable Starting Line-ups
Manchester United will look to maintain some consistency in their formation and personnel which was missing in the first half of the campaign. The home team are expected to dominate possession like they have done for majority of this season. Starting with a 4-2-3-1 formation, United are likely to start with Wayne Rooney up front.
Arsenal aren’t a ‘big team’ in terms of height, so Marouane Fellaini is set to start on the bench in this one. Juan Mata might get a rare start in his favoured no.10 role as United have lost some of the creative impetus because of deployment of Rooney as a striker and the lack of form of other players like Angel Di Maria whose place in the side is in danger after yet another dismal performance bereft of any kind of form or confidence.
Adnan Januzaj might take his place in the starting XI after displaying glimpses of form which he had shown last season under David Moyes. Ander Herrera continues to impress and is likely to start in midfield alongside Daley Blind.
On the injury front, United are without striker Robin van Persie. Luke Shaw also remains a doubt. United defender Johnny Evans is set to miss out after he was banned for six games for allegedly spitting on a Newcastle United player.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1) De Gea; Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Rojo; Herrera, Blind; Januzaj, Mata, Young; Rooney
Arsenal are expected to field a 4-1-4-1 formation and might adopt a counter-attacking strategy against which United have consistently shown some vulnerability over the course of this season. The FA Cup holders will look to press their possession happy opponents high up the pitch, not letting them play out from the back.
United’s fragility against the high pressing opponents is well known (they struggled in midweek against Newcastle United), consistently lost the ball in midfield exposing their defenders to one-on-one situations. Similar errors against the likes of Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez would definitely cost the home team a place in the semi-finals.
As far as injuries are concerned Arsenal will be without defender Gabriel who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Midfielder Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby and Mathieu Debuchy are all out for the longer term and are unavailable for this fixture.
Starting XI (4-1-4-1) - Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Coquelin; Rosicky, Ozil, Cazorla, Alexis; Giroud
Alexis Sanchez vs Antonio Valencia
Alexis Sanchez will look to build on his goal against QPR in the mid-week. He will go head-to-head against United’s makeshift right-back Antonio Valencia. Although the Ecuadorian is a winger by trade, he has performed admirably well at right-back this season, keeping Rafael out of the starting XI. If the Chilean can capture the form that he showed earlier in the campaign then it will certainly be a very nervy outing for the United right-back.
Wayne Rooney vs Per Mertesacker
After Falcao’s lack of effectiveness and van Persie’s injury, Rooney has found himself playing up front again. Since then he has delivered the performances expected from a 20 goals-a-season striker. His impressive exploits have yielded him a couple of goals against Sunderland and he almost scored against Newcastle in midweek. The towering German is set to lead his side from the front and will look to keep the English forward in check.
Oliver Giroud vs David De Gea
The Frenchman will look to continue his impressive goal scoring run of five goals in his last five matches. To deny the Arsenal striker from doing so, De Gea will need to be in top form in front of a shaky United defence. Giroud is very good in the air, so the Spanish shot-stopper‘s reflexes are bound to be tested. Considering the form of both the players this season, this might turn out to be a very exciting battle.
The FA Cup holders haven’t won against United in their last seven meetings. In fact, they last won a game at Old Trafford way back in September 2006. But Arsene Wenger was quick to write-off their recent dismal record against the EPL giants and insisted that his team will be up for the challenge. United will look to build upon their recent success and guarantee a spot in the semi-finals. And Louis van Gaal has delivered a trophy in each of his first seasons at every club he has managed
Predicted scoreline: Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal