We all know that there’s no love lost between Wenger and Mourinho, but both United and the Portuguese manager are used to getting the better of Arsenal. And if rumours about Arsenal injuries are true then the Gunners are going to be up against it in a fixture they were already dreading.
There used to be a time when Premier League managers would be given time to settle into their new clubs. But perhaps with Guardiola and Conte starting so strongly at United’s rivals, that rule has gone out the window.
Mourinho hasn’t helped much either, talking up his team’s title chances when he took over last summer, and again at the start of this season. The truth is that United aren’t much more than long-shots for the league and the board won’t require more than a top four finish.
But in any season they will still expect to beat Arsenal at home.
United’s preparations haven’t been helped by the one-match suspension of Ibrahimović. The goals may have long dried up for the Swedish striker, but it’s a sign of his strong relationship with Mourinho that he was still starting every week.
So now there’s a mystery about who’ll spearhead the attack in his place. It could be any of Rashford, Rooney or Martial, all of whom would be making their first league start in that position, as Ibrahimović hadn’t missed a single game.
Pogba’s True Position
But whatever happens with the striking role, Mourinho may have already solved the biggest problem afflicting his team. The manager was reluctant to put Pogba in front of the defence, where he had too much responsibility to protect the back line.
But the number 10 spot didn’t play to the Frenchman’s strengths either, as he doesn’t quite have the eye for a pass to shine in congested areas.
Then in the win at Swansea everything came together when he starred in United’s 4-1-4-1, which put him in a role that resembled the one he had when he came to the world’s attention at Juventus.
Herrera or Carrick?
Normally you’d think that Ander Herrera would be a sure-fire bet to slip back into midfield following his suspension for the Swansea game. But in a 4-1-4-1, Carrick looks like the man who could provide the needed defensive cover and passing range.
OK, Carrick is 35, and though he may be a pale imitation, he’s the closest thing United have to an equivalent of Andrea Pirlo. And if the aim right now is to make Pogba as comfortable as possible so he can merit that astronomical price tag, Carrick would seem to be the man for the job.
Mourinho may be forced to pick a pacey striker against Arsenal, which is convenient because United have made a habit of picking Arsenal off on the counter in recent years. They’ll have the speed to give Arsenal’s defenders nightmares, especially if Arsenal switch off high up the pitch like they usually do.
But not so suited to a counter-attacking strategy are the defenders that Mourinho has available. Fellaini is an important shield and may be out with a calf strain, and then you have to add him to long-term absentees like Bailly and Smalling.
Would Mourinho feel safe sitting back and relying on Darmian, Shaw and Blind against Arsenal’s attacking talent?
Predicted Manchester United Team Sheet:
De Gea; Darmian, Jones, Rojo, Shaw, Blind; Carrick; Mata, Herrera, Pogba, Rooney; Rashford
Every year Arsenal fans can put money on their team coming unstuck in November. And this November hasn’t started too well: The Gunners were unconvincing at home against an an out-of-form Spurs, and could easily have lost.
And now comes the injury news that everyone’s been fearing. Bellerín has hurt his ankle, to be replaced by Jenkinson, who himself is returning from a long-term absence.
Wenger has also voiced concerns about Koscielny and Alexis Sánchez and won’t take a risk on them if they come back from the internationals in bad shape.
But despite all these doubts, the single biggest loss will be Santi Cazorla. As was the case last season, when the little Spaniard is out of the team Arsenal just aren’t the same.
He’s the man with the vision to supply Özil, Alexis, Walcott and Iwobi, but his footwork can also open up loads of space in the middle to make life easier for all his attacking teammates. You can bet that Arsenal bought Xhaka in the summer hoping that he would eventually take over from Cazorla.
But against Spurs he showed that he isn’t ready yet, and until he settles or Cazorla returns Arsenal will suffer.
Reasons for Ramsey?
When Arsenal are with Cazorla they win 66% of their matches compared to 44% without. But since August 2014, when Ramsey has started they’ve won 49% compared to 68% when he’s out of the starting lineup.
This stat needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, but it appears to show that Arsenal are better off without Ramsey. Part of the problem has been nailing down a position for the Welshman. Ideally he’d play at number 10, but he has no chance of dislodging Özil.
Every other role, whether out wide or in central midfield feels like a compromise, to the point where Arsenal are better looking at other options.
On top of their injuries and traditional slump in November, you can see why the tipsters might be backing a home win. Arsenal almost never get the points at Old Trafford.
So rarely do they win here that those victories are enshrined in the memories of all Gunners’ fans. In the Premier League era we’re talking about Overmars’ breakaway goal in ‘98, Wiltord’s title decider in ‘02 and 2006 when a neat finish by Adebayor and amazing goalkeeping by Lehmann sealed the win.
Arsenal Predicted Lineup:
Cech; Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Xhaka; Walcott, Özil, Iwobi; Giroud
When Will Manchester United vs Arsenal Take Place?
The match will be played at Old Trafford on Saturday 19 November at 12:30 GMT. It's sure to be a full-house, in Europe's most attended league.
Manchester United vs Arsenal Match Prediction
We’re afraid that Arsenal’s long wait for a win against Mourinho is going to continue. But whether they can get away from Old Trafford with something depends on if stars like Alexis and Koscielny are fit to start.
If they’re available we’ll lean towards a score draw. But when you factor in Arsenal’s wretched form in Manchester and remember that Arsenal never have good surprises when it comes to injuries a home win for United looks all the more likely.
We predict a 2-1 win for Mourinho’s men.