Erik ten Hag and Mikel Arteta have been throwing compliments at each other going into this weekend’s title showdown at the Emirates Stadium, with Manchester United hoping to close the gap on league leaders Arsenal.
Both managers are in charge of what many view as fallen giants of soccer and by the time the 20th round of fixtures have been played, it’s very plausible that United and Arsenal are the two favourites to compete for the Premier League crown.
Arteta is into his fourth season in charge of Arsenal, whilst Ten Hag is halfway through his first campaign. It goes without saying that the two projects are at completely different stages but Ten Hag has done extremely well thus far, something Arteta has highlighted.
Ten Hag did not pass up the opportunity to praise Arteta either, with the Dutchman claiming the Gunners are fully deserving of the position they are in with less than half of the season left to play.
He has, however, admitted that he is well-prepared for this weekend’s showdown in London, having already orchestrated a memorable win over them earlier this season – the only time Arsenal have been defeated this season.
“They deserve to be in the position they’re in now,” Ten Hag is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
“They have a really good structure in the way they play and have a winning mentality and attitude in the team. That’s why they are top of the league.
“When we played them before you could already see that the coaching style was already working. You could see really good structures in the team and I think they have even improved during the first half of the season. There is a really good spirit in the team.
Marcus Rashford’s Scintillating Form
While Ten Hag and Arteta have been sharing compliments, one man that should be getting plenty of plaudits himself is Marcus Rashford. Since the World Cup-enforced winter break ended, the 25-year-old Englishman has been in scintillating form. Prior to the heavyweight showdown at the Emirates, the United academy product has scored eight goals in eight games in all competitions, and his stunning form has shown no signs of grinding to a halt.
Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s jaw-dropping interview with Piers Morgan and subsequent release from Manchester United on the eve of the World Cup, many thought that the Red Devils were suddenly lacking options up top. But Rashford has stepped up in his club’s hour of need, like few thought he could. Fans of United have always wanted the pacey attacker to succeed, but for the past two years, his form had dropped off a cliff.
That has all changed in recent weeks. Rashford finally looks to be realising that huge potential he displayed when he burst onto the scene back as a teenager back in 2015. His initial contract was due to expire at the end of the season and a number of Europe’s top clubs – including Paris Saint-Germain – were thought to be interested in snapping up the 25-year-old free of charge.
Manager Erik ten Hag has ended that speculation by tying his main man down to a new contract. He has also taken some of the burdens off of his newly found superstar by bringing in Dutch striker Wout Weghorst on loan until the end of the season. That signing should allow Rashford to continue to flourish, and his manager, teammates, and club’s supporters will be hoping he continues to fire throughout the second half of the campaign.
The Coming Weeks
Following United’s trip to the Emirates, they have a number of winnable fixtures looming on the horizon that could drag them back into title contention. They face Nottingham Forest in the League Cup semifinals, with a shot at silverware and a trip to Wembley on the line. Then three consecutive Premier League fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the division should see nine points head to Old Trafford.
United will first face Crystal Palace at the Theatre of Dreams on February 4th. They then face back-to-back tussles against rivals Leeds United, firstly at Old Trafford on February 8th, before heading down the M62 to Elland Road four days later. Following that, just the small matter of La Liga league leaders Barcelona in the Europa League.