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Why Arsenal's Manchester United hoodoo is rubbish

Arsenal travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final looking to win for the first time in years

Arsenal Manchester United
Arsenal travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-final

Perhaps no rival torments Arsenal as much as Manchester United does these days. Against Chelsea, we can point to pulsating 3-5 and 3-1 wins, even if those were in 2011. Against City, we have the 0-2 win at the Etihad and the Community Shield to boast of. Aside from 20 minutes against Liverpool, we've bossed them more often than not, and, as for Tottenham, well, the record speaks for itself.

However, there's something about United. I don't ordinarily buy into head-to-head records going back more than 2-3 years, but even I have to admit that there's a psychological block that seems to force us to knuckle under even when it seems like we should lord it over them. Especially over the last two or three years, when it's felt like we had the superior squad, we've faltered.

And so we go into this FA Cup sixth-round clash with an inferiority complex, and that mindset, perhaps more than the players who will take to the pitch, might be nemesis we have to slay. Against Chelsea and City, after all, we could console ourselves with the idea that theirs have been the better squads. Since Ferguson stepped down – and even in his final season – we have had to sense at some level that our squad, on paper if not on the pitch, is better than United's.

Yes, Rooney and van Persie, and more recently Falcao and Di Maria, boast some impressive pedigrees, but the former pair have grown long in the tooth while the latter have failed to impress to the degree that their price tags might suggest. Meanwhile, we have a roster brimming with talent even if it's only Alexis and Özil who might be first-choice starters for another club.

Then again, you look past their prima donnas, and there's a bit of a drop-off. Yes, David De Gea briefly inspired a meme early in the season, but it's a stretch to count him among the elite goalkeepers in the EPL. He and Szczesny are on a similar level, with form still supplanting class. Elsewhere, their squad is a bit of a patchwork quilt, and I hesitate to say that I'd leap at the chance to take one of theirs to replace one of ours. I'd even go so far as to bypass Rooney, van Persie, and Falcao, with only Di Maria enticing me.

But I digress. My whole point is to look past such comparisons. In these last few seasons, we have been at least equal to, if not better than United – except for those times when we have actually faced them. It does start to feel like there's more at work against us than the players on the pitch, as if we're sabotaging ourselves, undermining our own best qualities, because we lack the confidence or killer instinct to go into a match against these Mancs and win it.

As we prepare to go into Old Trafford, there are a quite a few of us who openly doubt that we'll emerge with a win, and some are performing some absurd triage, wondering if a loss on Monday could be traded for a win on 16 May – as if one could trade a loss now for a victory later, or vice-versa. That speaks to our inferiority complex. Instead of demanding, insisting, or committing to victory, we're bartering – and rather grubbily at that.

Maybe I'm alone in where I stand. I look at Rooney and see a determined competitor but one who's seen his best years and failed to really make the most of them. I look at Falcao and sense the same. Van Persie, of course, will be unavailable due to injury.

We hear or see these names, and we fret. They're so clearly world-class, how can we compete? How can we possibly go into Old Trafford and vanquish them and so many years of futility? For starters, we're not facing off against the track-record; we're facing off against the eleven men who will take to the pitch.

This squad has shown that it can play up to or down to the moment, whether it's beating Bayern or Dortmund or Man City away, or losing at home to AS Monaco, Aston Villa, or Swansea. That is to say, when our lads put their minds to it – and when we as fans give full-throated support to them – we can beat anyone who dares to line up against us. Why not Manchester United?

There's nothing particularly special about them, other than this hoodoo they have over us. I'll tug no forelock against this lot. They don't intimidate me in the least. I'd love nothing more than to smash them on Monday and again in May, relegating them to yet another barren season of trophyless football. We have it in us to make that happen. Win on Monday, and United's hopes of winning silverware are shattered. Win again in May, and we may just consign them to another season without Champions League football.

The last time we traveled north to Manchester, after all, we delivered a commanding performance en route to a 0-2 win over Man City. Who's to say that we can't go replicate it on this trip? After all, almost all of us – except these Mancs – still have a measure of revenge to exact for how shabbily Manchester United treated the FA Cup, withdrawing from the 1999/00 competition, a move that undermined football's oldest tournament to a degree from which it still has not fully recovered.

In short, they don't deserve to progress in the Cup. It's up to us to overcome our insecurities and set things right with a win on Monday.

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