It is often easy to sensationalise games as ‘must win’ or ‘season defining’, but looking ahead to Sunday’s titanic clash between Arsenal and Manchester United and it is difficult to argue that any come much bigger or much more important than this. Indeed with Arsenal eight points clear of the defending Premier League champions, this game could even at such an early stage shape the months to follow for both clubs.
Arsenal are a club riding the crest of a wave and flying high in the league, the game on Sunday is another important stepping stone towards their ultimate goals, but for me it won’t be pivotal. By contrast, Sunday’s clash represents the most crucial of moments in David Moyes’ short tenure at Manchester United, a win could galvanise the recovery whilst a defeat could well spend the beginning of the end for the Scotsman in Manchester.
After early season disappointment United have undergone something of a revival of late. A comeback against Stoke and a more comfortable victory over Fulham has seen a return to stability at the club, with Moyes keen now to impress further by laying down a marker against a title rival.
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This is the point about Sunday; it is much too early to worry about points because even at this stage no lead is insurmountable. However, momentum is everything in football and if United are to have any chance this season then they must show themselves able to de-rail the Arsenal title charge. It is all well and good being able to overcome the best of the rest, but if United want to reassert themselves then they must beat the best, and Sunday is the perfect opportunity to do that.
Gary Pallister whilst speaking to Sky Sports emphasised the enormity of the game for United:
“It’s certainly more important for United,” he told Sky Sports News. “Arsenal are eight points clear at the moment and if they were to go 11 points clear, it’s a huge gap to try and catch up.”
“Arsenal can come with a bit of a luxury, they can afford to lose it maybe and still be top of the table at the end of the day.”
“United are desperate to win the game, they’ve got a bit of form back. They had a late comeback against Stoke, the Sociedad game and the Fulham game looks like they’re finally finding their feet. It’s up to be another titanic clash, reminiscent of the years gone by.”
Moyes may still be grappling with an inadequate midfield and the problem of asserting himself on the club, but the reality is that the Premier League doesn’t stop for anyone. Defeat on Sunday won’t mean inevitable sacking, that would be an unbelievable knee-jerk, but what it will do is continue to push United on this downward slope towards failure that even the best managers would struggle to rewrite. A loss of faith in the project and the manager can be fatal to the hopes of a club even at such an early stage and that is why I believe that a defeat at the hands of Arsenal could be good enough to end the clubs chances of achieving anything in the league this season.
Yet it works both ways, United may be standing on edge of the footballing mire but at the same time Sunday affords them the opportunity to re-invent their fortunes. Arsenal are playing well but squad for squad both sides are pretty even, there hasn’t been much change from last season when United finished well clear of the North Londoners so in that sense the advantage should be in Moyes’ favour. If Moyes can get his team prepared mentally for the game and instil some belief in his players then there is no reason why he cannot overcome his opposite number.
It will be interesting to see how brave the Scot is, will he give the exciting young Januzaj a chance or will he look to adopt a more rigid approach? My fear is that the dour traits of the man may well be his undoing; this is a game that needs an assertive approach to really get at Arsenal. If United allow Arsenal to come and play at Old Trafford it may well be to their detriment and I hope for their sakes they choose to show a little bit of bravery.
Sunday will be a defining game in United’s season. The opportunity to rebuild the fortress and carve out a new dynasty at United. Defeat could well spell the beginning of the end for Moyes at United, whereas victory will re-ignite the title challenge that has appeared so non-existent in recent months.
Is Sunday’s game season defining for United?
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