Man Utd V Arsenal at Old Trafford : Match Preview

27 February 2016 01:34
Man Utd V Arsenal - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Manchester United defender Chris Smalling could return to face Arsenal

Chris Smalling is hoping to overcome injury in time for Manchester United's clash with boyhood club Arsenal.

The 26-year-old has been one of few bright spots in a bleak season at Old Trafford, making him a genuine challenger for David de Gea's player-of-the-season mantle.

Smalling has been a mainstay in Louis van Gaal's side and Thursday's 5-1 defeat of FC Midtjylland in the Europa League was just the second match he has missed all campaign.

The defender is hoping to avoid a third absence when Arsenal arrive in the north west on Sunday, having made good progress on a shoulder complaint sustained in Monday's FA Cup win at Shrewsbury.

"Touch wood, that carries on," Smalling said, when asked about his impressive United displays.

"I was disappointed to miss the other night, but I'm hoping to be okay to play this game.

"I've not really done anything differently to the other lads but, probably from about halfway through last season, I got on a good run in the team and I've just tried to carry that on from there. Long may it continue."

United forward Anthony Martial is a doubt but De Gea is expected to make his return to action.

Martial (hamstring) was injured in the warm-up to Thursday's Europa League last 32 second leg clash - a week on from the same thing happening to De Gea (knee) ahead of the first leg.

It remains to be seen whether Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (unspecified) is able to make a comeback, while the likes of Antonio Valencia (foot) and Adnan Januzaj (hamstring) are nearing readiness.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has backed his key players to come good at the perfect time to help deliver the Barclays Premier League title to Arsenal for the first time in 12 years.

The Gunners travel to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon on the back of a goalless FA Cup fifth-round draw with Hull and a 2-0 Champions League defeat to Barcelona.

But Wenger's side remain well and truly in the mix for the Premier League crown, which Arsenal last lifted in 2004, after beating leaders Leicester in their last outing.

The trip to Old Trafford will invoke memories of the scintillating 3-0 success over United at the Emirates Stadium earlier in the season, where a brace from Alexis Sanchez and a goal from Mesut Ozil had the hosts three goals up inside the opening 20 minutes.

United were outplayed for much of that contest but, despite their lofty league position, Arsenal have struggled to replicate anything like that sort of form in recent weeks and Wenger has already spoken of his concern for the goals 'drying up'.

But he believes the likes of Sanchez, Ozil and Olivier Giroud can rediscover their goalscoring touch and impressive form to make sure they do not let a great chance to seal a 14th top-tier title slip through their grasp.

"They will all get back (to their best)," said Wenger.

"We have to raise our level at the right moment. You want to raise your level and after, individually, the players will benefit from that.

"When we attack well, Sanchez will be very dangerous so we have to focus on attacking well together and after that it's important to remember that we worked very hard to be in this position.

"At half-time against Leicester (losing 1-0), we were eight points behind them. Today we are two points behind. We have to take advantage of that."

Former United forward Danny Welbeck will be hoping to be involved for Arsenal having scored the last-gasp winner against Leicester on his return from a 10-month injury lay-off.

The England international also grabbed the decider in the Gunners' FA Cup win at Old Trafford last season but it remains to be seen if he is named in Wenger's starting line-up.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will definitely not be involved after suffering a knee injury in the defeat to Barcelona.

Defender Gabriel will undergo a fitness test ahead of the game as he looks to return from a hamstring problem, while Jack Wilshere (leg), Santi Cazorla (knee) and Tomas Rosicky (thigh) are all still missing.

Source: PAR