Despite what can only be described as a shambolic season for Manchester United, they are still within six points of 4th place. The gap is not insurmountable but if they lose to Arsenal it surely will be. A much-needed victory over Danish minnows in the Europa League was a relief for Old Trafford but Arsenal will present a much sterner challenge. Wenger’s men will be confident of a victory here, looking an all-round better team than their opponents. Losing to Barcelona at home will have hurt and this is a great opportunity to get things back on track.
Maybe Arsenal’s most improved player this season, Monreal has displayed tenacity and focus. He couldn’t help stop Barcelona midweek but there aren’t many teams that can. His manager has placed a lot of faith in him—Monreal has played more minutes than any other outfield player this season. The Arsenal back line looks comfortable and settled for the most part, although there still exists a debate around Per Mertesacker. That debate has never reached Monreal.
Since he joined Manchester United, Schneiderlin’s form has looked shaky at best. The Frenchman has gone from one of the most coveted midfielders in the league to an also-ran. Considering his competition (or lack thereof), Schneiderlin should be one of the first names on the teamsheet by now—but he hasn’t been able to impress Old Trafford very often. He has looked more comfortable in recent weeks, and LVG will need him to shackle the deadliest player on the field, Mesut Özil. Perhaps a few crunching tackles early on will be required to put the German off his stride.
Called up at the last minute to replace injured Anthony Martial, 18 year-old Rashford will have to start this game in the absence of more established strikers. A local academy product, Rashford’s performance against Midtjylland was a welcome relief for a fanbase used to low-scoring, dull football. His efforts against Arsenal are likely to draw plenty of interest, but will that be too much expectation to place on such young shoulders? Certainly Rashford has been on the cusp of breaking into the senior squad before and a chance like this to lead Manchester United’s forward line is one he needs to grasp with both hands.
Arsenal’s playmaker has made the absence of Santi Cazorla seem much less damaging than it might have been. He is barely recognisable as the player who looked lightweight and underwhelming when he first moved to England. It’s difficult to believe that this is the same player who was shunted out wide because he wasn’t playing well enough behind the striker.