The importance of tonight’s FA Cup quarter-final clash against Arsenal has not been understated by any of the managers. Arsene Wenger is still haunted by exuberant, raucous cheers from the victorious United players at Villa Park in ’99, Louis Van Gaal has compared the game to a final itself, with the result likely to have a psychological bearing on the race for a top 4 finish. The stakes are pretty high. Selection permitting, there will also be a first Old Trafford return for local lad Danny Welbeck, whose return in a United shirt was deemed sub-par for a United striker.
ARSENAL’s Last 5 (Premier League unless stated):
QPR 1-2 ARSENAL
ARSENAL 2-0 Everton
ARSENAL 1-3 Monaco (UEFA Champions League)
Crystal Palace 1-2 ARSENAL
ARSENAL 2-0 Middlesbrough (FA Cup)
Arsenal’s recent form, excluding being on the receiving end of a Berbasex master-class, has been a big factor in leapfrogging United into third place. They have had some good momentum, what better occasion to throw a spanner in their works than a night game at OT under lights with the twelfth man roaring us on.
It is difficult to pinpoint one or a couple of critical players for Arsenal as they are a team blessed with genuinely quality players, all of whom are in great form currently.
ALEXIS SANCHEZ- The Chilean has lit up the league at times and has been one of the signings of the season, even after a dip that is customary for most foreign players in the Premier League. He ended his goal drought at QPR and his pace, infectious work-rate and finishing prowess need no introduction.
SANTI CAZORLA- A player who you genuinely do not know what footed he is, he has been majestic for Arsenal of late. A slow start to the season is now in the rear view mirror. He pulls the strings in their midfield, unlocking the door invariably. He is now adding goals to his game, he needs to be watched on the edge of the box.
OLIVIER GIROUD- The Frenchman, like Sanchez, is well into double figures in terms of goal output. He scored a sublime consolation at the Emirates as we edged a smash and grab victory. He has become a fox in the box after many doubted his credentials to lead the line for Arsenal. His form has seen Welbeck ousted out wide, sound familiar Danny?
United v Arsenal- Last 3:
Arsenal 1-2 United: Giroud; Gibbs (og), Rooney.
Arsenal 0-0 United
United 1-0 Arsenal: Van Persie.
Robin Van Persie will not be adding to his three goals against Arsenal since making the move to United, he has failed to overcome an ankle injury. Jonny Evans is the only other absentee for the hosts, he is serving the first of a six-game ban for spitting. Van Gaal has to choose whether to persist with ailing midfielder Angel di Maria, with Adnan Januzaj impressing in his place in successive games.
January recruit Gabriel Paulista is injured for visitors, meaning Per Mertesacker is likely to partner Laurent Koscielny at the back. Wojciech Szczesny is in line to replace David Ospina as Arsenal’s cup goalkeeper, Natxo Monreal could return to the squad after a back injury.
United (4-2-3-1)- De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Blind, Carrick, Young, di Maria, Rooney.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1)- Szczesny; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Coquelin, Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud.
Give us your team and score predictions in the comments below. Come on United!