Back to league business this weekend and a trip to old foes, Arsenal, awaits. Manchester United against Arsenal, in the Premier League era, had always been an epic battle. On the pitch, the players would do battle with crunching tackles, the treatment of Reyes from the Neville brothers was borderline assault, missed penalties, dodgy penalties, Vieira and Keane squaring up, it all went off. Off the pitch was a similar story. Both Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson would do battle in the media, Sir Alex the master of mind games. Vieira and Keane, again but this time in the tunnel! Who can forget pizzagate?!
In recent seasons the magnitude of the tie has declined due to both teams going through something of a bleak period trophy wise. A couple of FA Cups for Arsenal and likewise for United, but no League titles between them for four years now. United will travel to the Emirates with a patched up side, with Europa League commitments starting to take their toll.
Jose’s team is at breaking point in terms of fatigue and fitness. Players being asked to play through the pain barrier or even rushed back to fitness. The site of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Eric Bailly would have pleased the manager no doubt, but two games in three days, including travel, is certainly no ideal recovery period.
Over the years, this fixture has provided some really special games. Playing at the Emirates will certainly not worry Mourinho or his United players. Mind you, they will not want a repeat of last season, when Louis Van Gaal’s men found themselves three goals down inside the opening half hour!
Don’t be too downhearted though fellow reds! In 2011, during an FA Cup Quarter Final, Sir Alex fielded a team containing seven defenders in his starting lineup. A back four consisting of Brown, Vidic, Smalling and Evra. Nothing untoward here, in fact, that’s a pretty impressive defensive line. It was the midfield four which raised the most eyebrows. Brazilian brothers Rafael and Fabio were given the duty of wingers, Fabio even grabbed a goal in the 2-0 victory. Utility man John O’Shea, played central midfield with conventional midfielder, Darron Gibson.
Mourinho has hinted that he may play a weakened side for the clash, I don’t believe that for a second. Jose will not want to lose to Wenger. Whatever team is selected, you can be sure it will be one fighting for the badge.