José Mourinho’s Red Devils welcome Unai Emery’s Gunners to Old Trafford in a fixture that always produces plenty of fireworks
Manchester United v Arsenal, Wednesday 5 December, 7pm, BT Sport 1/HD (CH 531/527)
For United, it’s a chance to gain precious ground on the top four while also showing they can still do the business against their rivals. For the Gunners, it’s an opportunity to prove that the Unai Emery revolution is the real deal and that they’re serious about mounting a top-four challenge this season.
Ahead of the match at the Theatre of Dreams, we answer the big questions around this must-watch encounter between two of English football’s fiercest foes…
First things first, who’s going to win?
Unfortunately, we’ve temporarily misplaced our crystal ball, but what we can tell you is that Arsenal haven’t enjoyed this fixture in recent years. In fact, they haven’t won a Premier League game at Old Trafford since 2006. But considering their current form, you might tip the visitors to end this dismal run. However, you can never rule out José Mourinho and United when it comes to grinding out results at home against their biggest rivals.
Is this rivalry as intense as it used to be?
No, but it’s still pretty spicy. While those classic mid-noughties duels were based on genuine animosity, it’s important to remember that any hostility was magnified by the fact that both teams were going for the title. These days, a mutual lack of championship-winning credentials has diluted the antagonism. Still, if you think this game won’t be fast and furious, prepare to be proven wrong.
Do Mourinho and Emery get on?
While the relationship between the two managers isn’t exactly frosty, they’ve certainly had their moments. In 2010, Emery referred to his counterpart as a “crybaby” after Mourinho – who was then in charge of Real Madrid – complained about a 1-0 defeat his side suffered against Valencia. Emery wasn’t even coaching Valencia at the time; he was managing Sevilla!
What represents a good season for United?
At this stage, a top-four finish. The Red Devils appear to be allergic to consistency this season, yet somehow, they find themselves loitering around the UEFA Champions League places. If they can successfully navigate a busy festive period (which includes winnable games against Fulham, Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town) they’ll be right in the mix.
And for Arsenal?
Like United, ending the campaign in the top four will be seen as a success for the Gunners. Unlike United, Arsenal are in a strong position to make that a reality. With the divisive end of Arsène Wenger’s reign now a distant memory, Unai Emery has brought the good times back to the club. Securing UEFA Champions League qualification would make him an instant legend in north London.
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