Weekend Preview: Gunners v Mancs Redux

I've got that old feeling...

As rivalries go, Arsenal v. Manchester United down the years has been among the most intense and hard-fought in world football, and certainly in England. The Kings of the South v. the Dark Lords of the North . Paddy v. Keano. Keown v. Horseface. Wenger v. Ferguson.

Yet, over the past few seasons, as United has dominated the Premier League and Arsenal have fallen off the pace for trophies, has the conflict lost some of its lustre? Certainly not to supporters of either club. And despite the count of silverware at season's end, we've seen some cracking matches between the two. A fantastic match in January 2007 saw United in their first match at Emirates undone by late goals from Robin van Persie (who broke his metatarsal at the time, ending his season) and a rare header from Thierry Henry. William Gallas nicked a point for the Gunners with a late goal at the Emirates the following season, and last season saw Samir Nasri score twice to sink United in November, when it looked as though they'd fallen off the pace for the title... which, alas, was not the case.

On the other hand, we Gooners have suffered much as well. The home defeat to the Mancs in the Champions League semifinal last season, a systematic dismantling of the Arsenal by Ronaldo & Co. that elicited the infamous "men against babies" comment from Evra (and for which he still needs to catch a fucking slap), still particularly stings my heart. Yet we seem to be gaining while United flag ever so slightly. While Rooney's dive and Diaby's OG earlier this season doomed us to defeat at Old Trafford, we were certainly the better side, and Arshavin's strike is still one of the goals of the season. And even with United beating City in the Mickey Mouse Cup, you had better believe that Arsene can smell blood in the water.

Despite a rash of injuries the likes of which I can't recall Arsenal ever enduring, we're a point behind United and 2 points back of Chelsea at the top. For all that, United don't seem as strong as they once did, nor Arsenal as week. The draw with a tough Villa side on Wednesday was disappointing, but not crushing; O'Neill's side are a quality team, particularly at home. What it does, however, is make the points up for grabs on Sunday that much more crucial. And we can take all three.

Not a believer? I can't say as I blame you; pessimism often comes with the territory of the football fan, particularly when United come to town with an English referee. But I just can't shake the optimism I'm feeling right now, nor can I explain it. I just have a feeling about this one.

As far as team news goes, Vermaelen will most likely be out after being forced to leave Wednesday's match by a lower leg injury, which x-rays proved was not a broken bone. Most likely we'll see Sol slot into place at the back, where he excelled after replacing Tommy V. I must state that I'm a bit more optimistic about having big man back after his performance at Villa Park. Of course, the prospect or keeping out Rooney is certainly more daunting that trying to shut out Heskey or Agbonlahor, but let's hope Sol, Willy G, Sagna and Clichy will cope well.

Song is back in the side after returning from the ACN, and should be back in his familiar holding role, which should free up Cesc as well. There's no telling what exactly Arsene will do of course, but if healthy, logic would dictate Song and Sol in the side. I'd like to see Nick Bendtner in the side as well, although it's hard to predict how match-fit he is after his long layoff and only about 30 min. against Villa. With Eduardo nursing a hamstring injury, we're still very thin up front, but we have the quality there to do the job. I would expect Arshavin, Nasri and Rosicky up front to start, with Bendtner available as a sub. Cesc and Song will hopefully be rejoined in midfield by Diaby, but it's hard to say at this point. While we have injuries to cope with, so have United, and they will also be missing Ferdinand due to a ban. Can we win? Absolutely. Will we? That we'll see on Sunday.

I've got that old feeling... home against United. Cesc v. Fletcher. Sol v. Rooney. Wenger v. Ferguson. COME. ON. YOU. GUNNERS.

One last thing... I may be an American, but I'm no Noob; not that there's anything wrong with that. We all have to start somewhere, don't we? What I am is someone with faith in the Arsenal and appreciation for every Arsenal supporter in NYC and anywhere else. We have a strong, dedicated fanbase here now, and we're growing, which is down to each of you turning out every week and cheering on the Arsenal, and singing down ManUre, Chelski and everyone else. You could have all stayed home, playing World of Warcraft in your mom's basement for the last two years, but you made a choice to belong to something special, and for that, I thank you.

What I don't appreciate is when respect is not reciprocated, or when outright disrespect is shown to myself, our group, or even individuals in it. We are all of different age groups, backgrounds, careers, etc. But what we all have in common is love for Arsenal Football Club. Respect yourself, respect each other, leave egos out of the equation. Any bile we have should be directed towards the opposition, not each other. In many ways we're like a family... even if one of your brothers or sisters makes you so mad you want to tear your hair out, you remember we're all in this together. I guess what I'm trying to say is, stay classy. And I direct that to all of my brothers and sisters in Arsenal.