01 Dec Arsenal v Manchester United talking points
Arsenal host Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday, pitting old foes Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho against each other once again.
Wenger’s Gunners are currently fourth in the table, two places and four points worse off than Mourinho’s United, who are eight points behind leaders Manchester City.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at some talking points ahead of the game.
A must-win game for United?
There are still plenty of matches left this season, including the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on December 10 – but after 14 rounds of league fixtures, unbeaten City are looking strong favourites for the title. Their lead over United is considerable as it is, and with Pep Guardiola’s men facing struggling West Ham at home on Sunday, it seems highly likely it will be even greater by the end of the weekend should the Red Devils not take maximum points at the Emirates Stadium. Certainly it appears that nothing other than victory will do for United.
Will Mourinho park the bus?
Given that situation, it will be interesting to see if Mourinho takes the approach for this fixture that he has tended to on similar occasions. The manager has been criticised for having negative tactics in United’s away games against fellow ‘big six’ clubs. There have been seven of those in the league so far during his tenure and United have won none of them, scoring only one goal across the games, with three ending in 0-0 draws.
Lukaku looking to shine
Someone who will certainly hope to give United some cutting edge in attack is Romelu Lukaku, the big-money summer signing trying to rediscover some scoring form. Lukaku started life with his new club superbly, netting 11 goals in his first 10 United appearances, but the 11 outings that have followed have seen the Belgian score just once.
While there has been plenty of talk about Lukaku’s struggles, Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil has been earning plaudits for his excellent recent displays and it will be particularly interesting to see how the German fares on Saturday given he has been linked with United. Ozil, who played under Mourinho at Real Madrid, is out of contract next summer. Wenger has said both he and Alexis Sanchez will not be leaving in January – “unless something unbelievable happens”.
Wenger v Mourinho: the rivalry resumes
The fixture brings about the resumption of a managerial rivalry that has featured many memorable moments on and off the pitch over the years. Among the eye-catching remarks the two bosses have made about each other, Mourinho famously labelled Wenger a “specialist in failure”, and the Portuguese has the far superior record from matches between them. However, the last meeting, United’s visit to the Emirates in May, saw Wenger finally register a league victory over a Mourinho team at the 13th attempt, triumphing 2-0.