Manchester United v Arsenal: Match Preview

Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford (Photo by ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford (Photo by ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images) /

Old Trafford, Manchester, UK | On paper, this titanic clash of traditional “Big 6” clubs is one that supporters and neutrals will have circled.

Historically when Manchester United and Arsenal meet, the matches are full of drama, excitement, and goals. There’s been bad blood between managers, club captains, red cards, fines for violent conduct, and basically all the things that football fans want to see in a match.

However, fortunes for both clubs have been a mixed bag in recent years. Man United has won trophies (FA Cups and a Europa League title) since Sir Alex Ferguson left the dugout, but the consistency United experienced under his charge has failed to be replicated despite being big spenders in the transfer market and having big managerial names at the helm.

Man United as a club, along with their supporters, expect to be competing for the title every single season. Players and managers, however, have failed to live up to this billing. To make matters worse they have seen their two biggest rivals in the ascendancy, namely Manchester City and Liverpool.

The big headline going into this fledgling season for Manchester United was that of transfers—the will-they-won’t-they drama of the silly season. United needed some reinforcements to push on and truly challenge for honors, but the COVID-19 pandemic made finances uncertain, and tricky transfers turned into impossible ones.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left without his preferred targets (apart from Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles), and it’s been clear to see that the beginning of this campaign has been stop-start at best. The team needed an injection of talent and it has suffered without it.

Arsenal, on the other hand, finished strong during Project Restart, beating soon-to-be-crowned Champions Liverpool, and eventually winning the FA Cup. With a Europa League place secured and silverware in his maiden season, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta would have felt like Arsenal could kick on and move from strength to strength.

More from Analysis

Arsenal made some astute transfers bringing in defender Gabriel and midfielder Thomas Partey, two key areas needing improvement, as well as Cedric Soares and Willian on free transfers. Signing Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng to a renewal of contract terms may have been the most important piece of business of the summer, however, and Arsenal looked set to push hard for a Champions League place and a top-four finish.

To begin the new campaign, Arsenal won the FA Community Shield, besting Liverpool once again. Hope was high, but it didn’t last long. A few disappointing results against Liverpool, Leicester, and Manchester City show there’s still work to be done to truly challenge Arsenal’s top-four rivals.

It is precisely the current fortunes of these clubs that highlight why this fixture matters, even so early in the season. Arsenal are in 11th place with 9 points from six games played and Manchester United are currently 15th on 7 points from five games played.

This is not a title decider as it may have been in past years when the rivalry was at its zenith, but it has the potential to be a season-defining victory or defeat for both teams currently looking up at teams further up the table and behind at the teams in the rearview threatening to overtake stuttering giants of yesteryear.

Next. Are Kane and Son the best forward pairing this season?. dark

This match is still a huge global draw, featuring two of the biggest and most storied clubs on the planet. They both feature exciting attacking players in the shape of Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang, Bukayo Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Bruno Fernandes.

Expect goals. Expect drama, especially of the VAR variety. Expect season-defining results and the pressure that accompanies it.

Match prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal