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United v Arsenal: Preview

28 Aug 2009 11:13:32

United v Arsenal: Preview

Old Trafford Kick off: 5.15pm TV: Live on Sky Sports 1 and highlights on BBC One MotD Tale of the game: Arsenal have made a flying start to the season, scoring 10 goals in their opening two victories. The Gunners are hoping to repeat their fantastic start to the 2004/5 season where they began with five consecutive victories. United are notoriously slow starters and tasted victory just once in their first three league games last season before going on to take the top prize. TOUCHLINE DUEL: Sir Alex Ferguson v Arsene Wenger With over 30 years between them at their respective clubs, both Ferguson and Wenger know every tactic likely to be deployed by either side. Their once fractious relationship has healed in recent seasons, but Arsenal's re-emergence could see hostilities renewed. Ferguson has the upper hand having guided United to a convincing Champions League semi-final victory last season, so Wenger will be out for revenge. TACTICAL BATTLE United destroyed Arsenal in last season's Champions League semi-final with their rapier counter-attacks, but the key component in that tactic - Cristiano Ronaldo - has moved on. United no longer possess such electric pace and Arsenal will be more capable of containing the champions. The home side's challenge will be to nullify the threat posed by Arsenal forward Andriy Arshavin. The Russian was a threat on last season's 0-0 draw at Old Trafford and he could capitalise on United's defensive problems. KEY CLASHES: Nemanja Vidic v Andriy Arshavin United defender Vidic returned from injury at Wigan last Saturday, but the Serbian is yet to show that he has overcome his confidence-draining encounter with Fernando Torres last March. Recent injuries have also left a question mark. The mercurial Arshavin will roam around Old Trafford's vast spaces and leave Vidic looking for a man to mark, but when he attacks the United penalty area, Vidic must deal with the danger. Darren Fletcher v Abou Diaby Scotland midfielder Fletcher has always thrived against Arsenal and Ferguson often recalls his successful battles against Patrick Vieira. Diaby will pose a different test, but Fletcher has emerged as United's key midfielder. His energy, ability to break up opposition attacks and sensible use of possession mark him out as one of the first names on the United team-sheet. Diaby has grown in stature in recent months, however, and he will relish his battle against Fletcher. Dimitar Berbatov v Thomas Vermaelen Berbatov has yet to win over the United supporters almost 12 months after arriving at Old Trafford, but Vermaelen is already a cult figure at the Emirates just four games into his Arsenal career. The Belgian defender's physical prowess and attacking instincts offer Arsenal an option they have lacked since the days of Sol Campbell and he will pose a stern test for Berbatov. The former Spurs forward has no better opportunity to silence his critics, however. WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: Sir Alex Ferguson: "The character of the teams has changed since over the years and there are no Roy Keanes or Patrick Vieiras around now. The volatile characters don't figure and the personalities of the teams are different. But last season's 0-0 draw at Old Trafford became a bit heated in some moments, so these fixtures are no less competitive. They are just different types of games." Arsene Wenger: "I am happy to go there because it is the first big, big test. You want always to have a high level of confidence when you go to Old Trafford and we have that at the moment. For us it is most important to recover physically because Manchester United didn't play in the League Cup on Wednesday and we have to recover quickly." TEAMS Manchester United: (probable, 4-4-2): Foster, Evra, Vidic, Brown, O'Shea; Nani, Giggs, Valencia, Fletcher; Rooney, Berbatov Arsenal: (probable, 4-3-3): Almunia; Clichy, Vermaelen, Gallas, Sagna; Arshavin, Diaby, Song, Denilson; Van Persie, Eduardo. Referee: Mike Dean 5 yellow, 0 red. Last season: Manchester United 0-0 Arsenal, Arsenal 2-1 Manchester United. Stat of the game: This is the 41st meeting between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger with the United boss currently leading the way with 15 wins to the Frenchman's 14. Betting odds: Home win 23/20 Away win 5/2 Draw 11/5


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