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Manchester United vs Arsenal

Although neither Manchester United nor Arsenal have much left to play for in the Premier League, expect not a single inch to be given in what is the last act of one of the greatest managerial rivalries of the modern day.

In the large scheme of things, this game is perhaps nothing but a dead rubber. Manchester City have already won the league title, so Manchester United have nothing but a 2nd-place finish over bitter rivals Liverpool to contend for. On the other hand, Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top 4 are all but over – they will have their eyes on the Europa League as their route to the Champions League. However, when Man Utd take on Arsenal, the stakes are always high – and if this fixture needed a fresh lease of life, it has been accorded just that, in light of Arsene Wenger’s decision to step down at the end of this season.

Man Utd will go into this game as heavy favourites – 8/17 on Betfair Premier League odds. They are certainly the side that can afford to take this fixture more seriously. Man Utd’s potential FA Cup final is after the end of the league season. For Arsenal, this fixture is sandwiched between two crucial Europa League semi-final ties against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid. Arsenal would need nothing short of a miracle to finish in the top 4, according to Betfair Premier League Predictions, With that in mind, Wenger could opt to rest key players for this clash, but don’t expect Jose Mourinho to show similar nicety towards his arch-nemesis as they clash for the final time.

Form Book

Manchester United (PL) – W L W W W W (most recent first)

Utd’s recent form has oscillated between the two poles. Their comeback from 2-0 down at local rivals Manchester City’s fortress, the Etihad Stadium that resulted in a 3-2 victory was the only time this season a Premier League team had emerged victorious at the Etihad – they also delayed their “noisy neighbours’” title procession in the process. However, they followed that up by meekly handing the title to City the following week – losing at home to bottom club West Bromwich Albion, who were winless since August, and remain all but relegated.

The Red Devils, though, have been up for the big games lately – ever since their 2-0 surrender at the Wembley against Spurs in early February, they’ve secured victories against Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City.

Arsenal (PL) – W L W W W L  (most recent first)

Arsenal’s form could be split into two halves as well – their home form and their away form. On one hand, their form at the Emirates has been exemplary – since the turn of the year, their only defeat at home has been against champions Manchester City.

On the other hand, their away form has been nothing short of a disaster – they have no points on the road in 2018. It doesn’t bode well for Arsenal that this clash is at the Old Trafford, but perhaps there is no better venue for Wenger to get that right – given his storied past at the venue.

Jose Mourinho vs Arsene Wenger – one last time

As much as Man Utd vs Arsenal, this will be Jose Mourinho vs Arsene Wenger. One of the most illustrious touchline rivalries of the Premier League era is finally coming to an end. Spanning over the better part of two decades, over Mourinho’s two stints at Chelsea and now his tenure at Man Utd.

They’ve had their fair share of spats – Mourinho once infamously called Wenger a “specialist in failure”, and has also called him a “voyeur” – Wenger has called Mourinho “stupid”, in retort. Yet, they share a kind of “respect” – as Mourinho said in a heartfelt tribute to Wenger, as he talked about Wenger’s achievements and his impact on football.

Although Wenger was the top dog when Mourinho arrived in England – his Arsenal side had just finished a season unbeaten, it has been quite a one-sided rivalry on the field. In the Premier League – Mourinho has emerged the victor 6 times, it has ended in a stalemate 7 times and Wenger has only won once, at the Emirates last season. It has included some memorable clashes, including Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of Arsenal in Wenger’s 1000th game in charge.

Mourinho hates losing. He hates losing big games even more. And if there is anything he hates the most, it’ll be losing to Wenger. Which could give him the upper hand here, since the Frenchman has the other fish to fry – continentally.

Alexis Sanchez – up against his former club

One man in focus could line up on the left-hand side of Man Utd’s new 4-3-3 formation – Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean forward left Arsenal in controversial circumstances in the winter window. Sanchez, the highest paid player in the Premier League, has experienced a frustrating time at the Old Trafford. Although he’s shown some flashes of his electric best – against Swansea and Man City, the 29-year-old has struggled to remind Man Utd fans regularly why he was rated so highly in the first place. He was, thereafter, dropped against Bournemouth after a poor performance against West Brom. Sanchez will certainly have extra motivation for this fixture – and you can expect the away fans to be hostile towards him.

The man who moved the other way as a makeweight, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, may miss the clash through injury. However, a player making a homecoming will be Danny Welbeck – a born and bred Mancunian, the Utd academy product will be coming back to his boyhood club. And he does love a goal against them – Welbeck has scored 3 times in 5 appearances against Utd.

Head to Head

Man Utd have enjoyed the upper hand recently – in the last 5 seasons, the head to head for league meetings reads 4 victories for Man Utd, 3 draws and 2 wins for the Gunners.

Team News

Man Utd will not have any major players out – second choice goalkeeper Sergio Romero is the only player expected to be out. Defenders Daley Blind and Phil Jones have made their respective returns.

For Arsenal, Santi Cazorla is a long-term absentee. Ex-United player Henrikh Mkhitaryan is back in training, though he is unlikely to be risked in the midst of pivotal Europa League ties. Jack Wilshere is also expected to miss the game. Expect more voluntary changes from Arsene Wenger, as he shuffles his pack before their second leg against Atletico.

Stats

Arsenal have won just 24% of their Premier League points in away games this season (13/57), the lowest proportion in the competition.

Arsenal are the only club in England’s top five divisions without an away point in 2018. The nearest club to them in league position without one are Tamworth, 20th in the National League North.

Mesut Özil has been directly involved in four goals in his last five Premier League appearances against Manchester United (two goals, two assists).

The last time the Gunners emerged victorious at the Old Trafford in the Premier League was all the way back in September 2006.