Arsene Wenger’s side were humbled at Old Trafford in the opening weeks of the season as crisis gripped the Gunners following the departure of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Since then the Frenchman has steered the club into calmer waters and to within four points of the top four despite suffering losing two of his key players and having to deal with a never-ending succession of injuries. One defeat in 12 since mid-October had put Arsenal in with a great chance of achieving Champions League football next year but two defeats on the trot has seen them drop further behind Chelsea in the New Year. Wenger will have been unhappy with his side after they were blown away by Swansea at the Liberty Stadium last week and they’ll need to cut out the reckless mistakes that cost them in South Wales. With Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miquel continuing to fill in at full back they’ll need Andriy Arshavin and Theo Walcott to double up and minimize the threat of United’s wide players if they are to exact retribution for the embarrassing defeat suffered six months ago.
The Red Devil’s will be well aware that Arsenal will be vengeful going into the game but need to approach their trip to North London with a sense of trepidation. A 3-0 win at home to Bolton came after two consecutive defeats with Paul Scholes scoring on his return to Old Trafford. Whilst the vetran midfielder will probably be relegated to the bench at the Emirates his return to the club has provided a visible lift. Michael Carrick’s improved performances in central midfield will have delighted Sir Alex Ferguson who will more than likely recall Ryan Giggs to the starting lineup. The 38-year-old continues to defy the ageing process and his experience will be key to beating the Gunners who have been forced into fielding a number of teenagers and young players this season. Getting Wayne Rooney into the game will be key for United along with Antonion Valencia and Nani on the wings. The duo will come up against two inexperienced full backs on Sunday and Ferguson will make it clear to Valencia and Nani that they could be the difference in the game. Keeping Van Persie quiet will also be a high priotity fo the Scot and it’s anticipated that he’ll charge Phil Jones with marking the prolific Dutchman.
Arsenal 5th : 36 points
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Team news: Thierry Henry and Thomas Vermaelen are both doubts for Arsenal who have 11 players out injured.
Key Player: Robin Van Persie
His first goal of 2012 wasn’t enough for Arsenal to see off Swansea last week but there is no downplaying Van Persie’s importance to Arsenal. The Dutchman will be going all out to gain revenge after playing and scoring in the 8-2 thrashing back in August.
Manchester United 2nd : 48 points
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Team news: Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Danny Wellbeck are all doubts for Manchester United who have 10 players on the sidelines.
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Despite having failed to score in the league since before Christmas the Red Devil’s forward still poses a major threat up front. Rooney’s playmaking ability, energy and determination to win will be key to United’s chances at the Emirates Stadium.
Two defeats in a row has threatened Arsenal’s confidence after a positive Christmas and with so many injuries they will be wary of United. The Red Devil’s also have a ton of injuries to contend with but their strength in depth hasn’t made it much of an issue. They’ll be going all out for victory as they continue to chase rivals City.