This Friday, Arsenal will host Manchester United in the stand out tie of the FA Cup Fourth Round. The two teams are the most decorated teams in FA Cup history, Arsenal leading the way with 13 wins to United’s 12, and both have made 20 appearances in the final of the tournament, on two occasions playing each other.
With the game selected for being shown live on BBC TV across the nation, the game has more at stake than usual for both teams as the FA Cup is arguably both sides best chance of landing silverware this season, given that both are out of the Carabao Cup and off the pace in the Premier League, while European success, while an option for both teams, is never easy to achieve.
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The two most famous clashes between the teams in the competition have both come in the final. The most recent coming in 2005-2006 when after a rather uninspiring 90 minutes which finished goalless, extra time and then penalties was needed to decide the winner. Arsenal scored all their penalties, while Paul Scholes missed one for United and that was enough to ensure that Patrick Vieira’s successful fifth kick for Arsenal secured them the trophy.
That game was a very different one compared to the one that was contested in the 1978-79 FA Cup Final. In that game, goals from Brian Talbot and Frank Stapleton put Arsenal in control at 2-0 as the game entered the last few minutes. Gordon McQueen pulled one back for United and then almost immediately Sammy McIlroy wound his way through the Arsenal defence to slot home and pull United level.
However, barely had you got your breath back from United’s stunning comeback than the game changed in the very last minute. Straight from the kick off Arsenal broke with Liam Brady, who fed Graham Rix on the left and his deep cross was missed by United keeper Gary Bailey allowing Alan Sunderland to turn the ball home at the back post.
It would certainly be something if the game between the teams on Friday turns out to be anywhere near as exciting as that famous final from years gone by.
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Arsenal v Manchester United
Current Form (last 10 games)
- V Chelsea (H) – W 2-0
- V West Ham (A) – L 0-1
- V Blackpool (A) – W 3-0 (FA Cup 3rd Round)
- V Fulham (H) – W 4-1
- V Liverpool (A) – L 1-5
- V Brighton (A) – D 1-1
- V Burnley (H) – W 3-1
- V Tottenham (H) – L 0-2 (Carabao Cup Quarterfinal)
- V Southampton (A) – L 2-3
- V Qarabag (H) – W 1-0 (Europa League Group Stage)
Played 10, Won 5, Drew – 1, Lost 4, Goals Scored – 17, Goals Conceded – 14
Leading Goalscorer – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 16 goals (28 games)
Premier League Position – 5th (44 points from 23 games – +16 Goal Difference)
It’s been a somewhat up and down few weeks for Arsenal, with almost as many matches lost as won over the last ten games. That form was a sharp contrast to the unbeaten 23-game run they had prior to the loss at Southampton and which had Arsenal being mentioned as potential title challengers.
Realism has set in a little since and the Gunners have struggled in some games, most notably against Liverpool, but they have been off the boil in away games relatively often of late. At home though, they remain very strong as they showed with their excellent 2-0 victory over Chelsea last weekend, although it is worth noting that Spurs did inflict a 2-0 home defeat on them in the Carabao Cup.
Arsenal will be without four key men for the game, Hector Bellerin has been ruled out for the season and he joins the likes of Danny Welbeck, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Rob Holding on the sidelines.
Unai Emery has shown a tendency towards picking very strong teams for cup games against top sides and I think with this game being the best chance of a trophy for Arsenal this season, he will likely name an unchanged team from that which beat Chelsea, other than Maitland-Niles coming in for the stricken Bellerin.
Predicted Arsenal Team (4-4-2) – Leno, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Papasthatopoulos, Koscielny, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Torreira, Ramsey, Lacazette, Aubameyang.
Current Form (last 10 games)
- V Brighton (H) – W 2-1
- V Tottenham (A) – W 1-0
- V Reading (H) – W 2-0 (FA Cup 3rd Round)
- V Newcastle (A) – W 2-0
- V Bournemouth (H) – W 4-1
- V Huddersfield (H) – W 3-1
- V Cardiff City (A) – W 5-1
- V Liverpool (A) – L 1-3
- V Valencia (A) – L 1-2
- V Fulham (H) – W 4-1
Played 10, Won 8, Drawn 0, Lost 2, Goals Scored – 25, Goals Conceded – 10.
Leading Goalscorer – Paul Pogba – 10 Goals Scored (26 games)
Premier League Position – 6th (44 points from 23 games – +13 Goal Difference)
After Jose Mourinho was sacked, the effect Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had coming in has been truly stunning. United have won all of their last seven games under their caretaker manager and they have been scoring plenty of goals in that time too, netting 19 goals in those seven matches.
With Paul Pogba now back in the team and Marcus Rashford seemingly being the Norwegian’s first choice striker, I think Solskjaer may decide to rotate some of his players for this game. This may not necessarily weaken United too much, with the likes of Lukaku, Mata, Sanchez, Darmian, Perreira and Romero likely to come in.
It will be interesting to see if Solskjaer makes changes in central defence where Jones and Lindelof seem to be gelling nicely together, but if he does then expect Bailly to come in for one or the other.
The teams played out a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford when the teams met in December in the Premier League, Mustafi and a Rojo own goal for Arsenal, while Martial and Lingard both grabbed the goals for United.
Predicted Man Utd Team (4-3-3) – Romero, Darmian, Young, Jones, Lindelof, Matic, Herrera, Perreira, Sanchez, Mata, Lukaku
Arsenal v Man Utd Tips
Full Time Result – Manchester United to win – 7/4
This is going to be a very close game and a draw is always the default option here, but something tells me neither manager will want a replay given their hectic schedule and as such, I can see this being settled on the day. United’s pace on the counter is the key for me and I think as such, they can spring a surprise by continuing their winning run on Friday.
Correct Score – Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United – 9/1
This game does tend to produce goals and I think Arsenal’s inconsistency at the moment will cost them here. United do look capable of scoring against any team and as such, I think a 2-1 scoreline is about right for the Correct Score bet.