Eight points separate Manchester United and Arsenal after 10 games in the Premier League this season, but on the pitch the two sides are worlds apart.
United, under the leadership of new manager David Moyes, have gone from Premier League champions to start of the season strugglers as the reshuffle from Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure continues to cause problems at Old Trafford.
Moyes has mixed and matched his line-ups week by week so far this campaign and that, added to the disappointment of United’s failed attempts to delve into the transfermarket before finally overpaying for Marouane Fellaini in August, have lead to some squalor results in the early part of the season. Fans began to grow restless after losing to both Manchester City and Liverpool, while the 2-1 loss to West Brom and their 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad have left the club in dour spirits.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are in high spirits as they sit atop the Premier League table and the confidence brimming from them after their gritty win in Germany on Wednesday night will only help propel them into Sunday’s big fixture against the Red Devils.
Wenger is a wily old fox when it come to these big encounters and is, as we all know, a tactically astute manager, especially when pitted against is fellow title rivals. He’s been to this arena time and time again with the Gunners and knows how to pull off victories away at the top six in the Premier League. Moyes is new to this occasion and hasn’t faired well in his first two big league tests against, arguably, United’s two biggest rivals and few would put it past the Gunners grabbing their first victory at Old Trafford since 2006.
United, with the chips down, need to look for a source of inspiration. One of the greatest attributes Sir Alex Ferguson possessed as a manager was his ability to rally his troops for the big occasion and give his side the mental lift they need for these big ties. His ability to man manage and get the best out of players is what made him so successful at the club for so long and was one of the big reasons he was able to achieve so much with possibly the worst United side to ever win a Premier League crown.
Moyes, during his first few months in the United dugout, lacks that inspirational feel and the United attitude of never being beaten until the final whistle, appears to be fading away from the side’s mentality. Inspiration must come to this dressing room on Sunday and the man to provide it is the man who many expected not to be at the club after last August.
Rooney has been a workhorse so far this season, driving the team on and playing almost box-to-box at times with a drive and a passion that few of his United teammates have been able to replicate. When others seemed happy to sit back against Chelsea in the second game of the season, Rooney was there fighting for every lose ball. He produced moments of brillianc in the defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad and he lead the charge as United came from behind, in Ferguson fashion, to beat Stoke two weeks ago.
United fans may have been unsure if his heart was with the club at the start of the season, now they must hope that Wayne’s heart can help pull United up to Arsenal’s level on Sunday. If anyone can grab the game by the scruff of the neck and disrupt Arsenal’s majestic style of play, it’s him and he will be the x-factor that could decide if United’s early season slump ends this weekend.