By ABRAHAM OLUWATUNMISE (@OluwatunmiseAOF)
This weekend battle at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Arsenal FC is iconic due to the following reasons:
- It may be the final face-off between the two intense rivals in Jose Mourinho and outgoing Arsenal French manager, the 68-year old Arsene Wenger.
- It may re-route who becomes the ‘first of the last’. A quote accredited to Jose Mourinho in conceding the title to city rivals, Guardiola’s Manchester City.
- It could also serves as a pointer for many Arsenal players, Nigeria’s Iwobi inclusive on their future on whosoever becomes the next Arsenal manager.
For Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, this season is already a failure except if they end it by winning the only realistic title they are in, the UEFA Europa League. However, they will still need to negotiate the Semi-final 2nd leg at the Wanda Metropolitano against Athletico Madrid. Diego Simeone side holds the upper hand going into the second leg of the competition. The first leg had already ended 1-1 apiece at Arsenal’s Emirate stadium.
Coincidentally, their rival Manchester United was in similar situation last season and has to fight off another Spanish opposition at the same stage of the 2017 competition. Remember, Manchester United needed to rally round to outlast Celta Vigo en route to winning the competition last season.
They were also rooted in the 6th position on the EPL table. Arsenal fans will be hoping they can repeat what their rivals did at the competition last season. It is their only way to qualify for Europe elite cup competition, the UEFA Champions League next season.
ANOTHER PUSH OR A FRIENDLY PAT ON THE BACK?
We all remember what happened back in October 5, 2014. Then Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho was pushed by the seemingly quiet Arsene Wenger during one of their heated touchline exchanges. It went down in the first half when Wenger who later said he feels provoked by Jose clashed in the aftermath of a challenge by Gary Cahill on Alexis Sanchez.
And in this one last battle between the two managers, the Frenchman has begged his Portuguese rival not to goad him.
Historically, Old Trafford has not been a happy hunting ground for Wenger. In 2011, he was handed one of the heaviest defeat of his managerial career when his Arsenal side was humiliated 8 goals to 2 with Rooney scoring a hat-trick. In 2009, Wenger was sent to the stand at Old Trafford during another Arsenal defeat.
KEY BATTLE AREAS
It could be a re-union galore for both sides. Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan could face former employers. There is also a Danny Welbeck who scored last season in Wenger’s first league triumph over his rival. In January, both players move in a swap deal. The former Arsenal player is a man to look forward to in matches like this.
Defensively, Manchester United has the safest hand in Europe in David de Gea. Their defensive unit has held its own when under onslaught and siege. Wins against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal (during the 1st half of the season) shows how compact this team could be.
There could also be a Paul Pogba show like the one on show against at the Mancheter derby.
Arsenal’s defensive frailties may be on show once again. It cost them what could have been a ‘easy’ win against a 10-man Athletico Madrid side. The team lacks leadership and desire. I think that is why Wenger’s decision to step down is highly welcomed by fans all over the world. The team needs a new urge, a new direction and sense of urgency.
If Manchester United do a ‘park the bus’ tactics, then they will be outrun by Arsenal’s pacy forwards. Aubameyang will come good in matches like this in future. The early exchanges will determine where a game like this will swing.
WENGER VS MOURIHO – One Last Time?
Wenger has an appalling record against his Portuguese rival. Wenger has only won once against his rival in seventeen attempts excluding the win in the Community shield which could be classified as a friendly game, coming last season in a game which Arsenal won 2 goals to nil.
The Arsenal manager wants his last game at Old Trafford to go peacefully but his rivals may have other ideas like spoiling Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of Arsenal by hammering them 6 goals to nothing while at Chelsea.
Mourinho W9, D7, L1
Wenger W1, D7, L9
DEVIL VS GUN
Whatever the result of tomorrow’s match, one sure thing is there will be an end to Arsene Wenger’s era. We may need to switch our attention to another rivalry next season.
Surprisingly, Arsenal has won more in these games that their rivals. They have won 97 as against Manchester United’s 82 in all competition. 47 matches have been drawn between them.
In the last 6 matches in the Premier League, there has been two wins apiece and two draws.
I see a score draw written all over this match. 1-1
Author: For The Goal
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