The big match of the weekend is certainly Monday’s FA Cup quarterfinal confrontation between Premier League giants Manchester United and Arsenal. Both teams hold 11 FA Cup winners trophies in their history with the Gunners being the current FA Cup holders.
The last time that United lifted the trophy Roy Keane was captain and the final was being played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff all the way back in 2004. The two clubs faced off the very next year in the 2005 final which ended 0-0, but Arsenal ended up winning 5-4 on penalties. United largely outplayed them for 120 minutes, but the Gunners managed to become the first team to win the FA Cup on penalties.
Since then United has had the better of the London club winning both matches they have faced off 4-0 in 2008 and 2-0 in 2011. In fact, Arsenal has not been able to defeat United in a full 90 minute FA Cup match and have been held scoreless in the last four meetings.
Overall United hold the advantage with 7 FA Cup wins along with 2 draws compared to Arsenal’s 5 wins. It is telling that the Red Devils have a clear edge over the Gunners considering that United have yet to lose against Arsenal in their last 7 games. In this time United have 5 wins and 2 draws and have outscored the Gunners 16-6. The last loss came in the 2011 Premier League match which Arsenal won 1-0 at home.
In Monday’s match I feel that there is no clear favorite. It seems to depend more on who you talk to than anything else. In all competitions Arsenal has a slight edge in form having won 5 and lost 1 while United are 4-1-1 over the same period.
This match is a very difficult one to predict. Arsenal have been playing better lately, but that Monaco loss in the Champions League shows that they are quite vulnerable. Manchester United can’t claim to have played well during this season at all, yet somehow they have continued to scrape wins, including their 2-1 win at the Emirates back in November.
I am predicting a Manchester United win with goals on both sides. Arsenal have more than enough talent to get a draw out of this, or even a win, but either way I do see goals being scored.
Manchester United: 4-2-3-1
De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Rojo; Blind; Herrera; Di Maria, Rooney, Young; Falcao
Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Cazorla, Coquelin; Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud
Arsenal have the larger injury list with 8 players likely not available, including Wojciech Szczesny. Manchester United could have Robin van Persie available, but I think it’s unlikely either he or Michael Carrick will start, but rather be available off the bench. Luke Shaw has been listed as questionable and could also feature on the bench.
As far as tactics go, it is difficult to say exactly how Manchester United will line up. I believe it likely that both sides will play a mostly possession based game with plenty of passing. It seems more likely that goals will come late in this match and be the result of a mistake more than anything.
I would expect that Louis van Gaal will again save quick players like Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson to come on later as impact players. Likewise Arsene Wenger may opt to start Danny Welbeck out wide and have Ramsey move to the center of midfield with Coquelin being dropped to the bench. It’s also possible that Welbeck will be saved for later on, but either way, I foresee him making it onto the pitch at some point.
No matter what happens in this match it should be an entertaining one. The rivalry may have lost some of its bite since the mid 2000’s, but this could be the time for it to pick back up again.