Arsenal v Manchester United preview.






An Arsenal v Manchester United cup tie is always a tempestuous affair.

Trawling through the years, one could pick any number of encounters that were crammed with excitement , goals and incidents.

The 5th round tie at Highbury when Brian Mc Clair missed a last gasp penalty saw Arsenal scrape a 2-1 win.




Arsenal’s 3-2 win in the 1979 final was another fabulous contest which showcased the full repertoire of Liam Brady in the most dazzling turnaround of fortunes in this old cup competition.




Then there was the semi-final of 1999, which is now viewed as a classic, between two sides at their absolute best, in contention for everything and fighting for superiority.

Eventually, they were separated by one piece of brilliance from Ryan Giggs, who arrived on the pitch 10 minutes from time to deliver the best goal in the competitions history.

As a gooner, it’s obviously not a moment to savour but as a football fan, it was a remarkable piece of individual brilliance.

One which saw the United man embark on a run from inside his own half, advance into the Arsenal box without extracting a single challenge from any of the four defenders in pursuit before rifling the ball beyond Seaman.



It’s something that Arsenal fans will want to avoid in this outing but then again, these are nothing like the sides of the 90’s.

Those sides were far superior to the ones they currently have and every time they we’re pitted against each other, in the premier league or in cup competitions, it drew the best and most memorable performances from them both.







At present, United appear to have weathered a crisis and are in hot pursuit of a champions league slot.

Arsenal had been on a superb 22 match unbeaten run but  have suffered since a loss to Southampton.

However, the win against Chelsea has bought back the feel good factor and increased optimism that even without additions, Arsenal can still perform.



There’s little to chose between these two sides and it will simply boil down to the ability to fashion and convert chances and to defend and absorb pressure as a unit.

Manchester United have a better backline but not by much.

They are extremely fortunate to have De Gea in goal, who is arguably the best keeper in the World and who single handedly won the game for United against Spurs. 



The good news for Arsenal is that this rocket fuelled, Spanish cat, is unlikely to feature and rumours suggest that he is not travelling to the game.

Arsenal will also need to snuff out the threat of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial to stop United in their tracks.

There is also the prospect of an Alexis Sanchez return and one can’t rule out that the Chilean will suddenly find some degree of form that has been a stranger to him since his move to Manchester.

It’s not just the threat of goals from Sanchez, it’s his ability to pick a pass and put it into space that needs to be eradicated.

Sanchez is going to be in for a trying time. The Arsenal faithful that once worshipped him, are not the most forgiving bunch and have probably been to booing practice at the Drayton Park pub.




If I were Unai Emery, I’d be tempted to stick with the side that stifled and bullied Chelsea so well at the weekend, minus Bellerin.

In that case Ozil would only merit a place on the bench but what a story that would be, if the German came on to seal the game.



In essence, that’s what the FA cup does, it contrives to makes stories that we thought were impossible.

It takes players from zero and turns them into hero’s or takes the most unlikely match winner from their position of comfort and catapults them into the limelight.

An ideal opportunity then,  for one Arsenal’s academy to imprint themselves on the history of the cup and of the club, should they get the opportunity.



In terms of threats from Arsenal, Lacazette is a fearsome and resourceful prospect.

Even when he has no space, he can jiggle free to offload the ball or propel it into the net.

He is becoming the key man for pace and vision, and is involved in all of the promising forays going forward.

His link up play is exceptional and his technical ability should make him one of the first names on the team sheet. 



Aubameyang gets all the applause but Lacazette is the driving force of this partnership.

He is the more rounded performer and although Aubameyang is undoubtedly world class, he can’t bring the others into play in the same way as his strike partner.

Between them, they are a potent force and if Arsenal are to go on in this competition, they need to be fit and focused.



The two managers will be keen to get the win and we will see how astute Ole Gunnar Solskjær is with the tactics he employs. 

Emery is apparently someone who goes into excessive detail but he gets results where none were expected. It’s the age old saying that the ‘devil’s in the detail ‘



Perfectly balanced and delightfully poised, these two FA cup specialists go head to head in what we can only hope is a clash that reinvigorates this battered and less valuable competition.

Global fans may not get a repeat of the glory days of the 90’s but will settle for a well fought game and a moment or two that is worth the admission price on what looks to be, a devilishly cold evening. 





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