Preview by Numbers: Manchester United v. Arsenal, FA Cup Sixth Round

Old Trafford, Manchester
Monday, March 9
3:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Michael Oliver
    • Assistants: Jake Collin and Gary Beswick
    • 4th Official: Craig Pawson
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 79 Arsenal wins, 93 United wins, 48 draws
  • All-Time in the FA Cup: 5 Arsenal wins, 7 Manchester United wins, 2 draws
  • Arsenal's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Hull City, 2-0
    • Fourth Round: Beat Brighton & Hove Albion, 3-2
    • Fifth Round: Beat Middlesbrough, 2-0
  • Manchester United's Path Here
    • Third Round: Beat Yeovil Town, 2-0
    • Fourth Round: Drew Cambridge United, 0-0; won replay 3-0
    • Fifth Round: Beat Preston North End, 3-1
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-W-W-W-W
  • Manchester United's League Form: W-D-W-L-W-W
He's not a guitar, man...
It's the FA Cup sixth round, the quarterfinals, the winner-goes-to-Wembley stage. So, of course, Arsenal are awarded a Monday night trip to Old Trafford.

When the drawing was made during the end of the fifth round, we all sort of had that oh, of course we got United away feeling. And now, here it is.

So, honestly, what is there to say? Arsenal are the defending FA Cup champions and in order to continue that cup defense, they will have to win in a stadium where they have not won since 2006. Or, they could hold out for a draw and force a replay.

Then again, this isn't the same United team (read: Fergie) that has held its voodoo over Arsenal for years and years. It's time to break that hex once and for all, grab your yellow ribbons, and go to Wem-ber-lee.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Gabriel (hamstring,) Wilshere (ankle,) Flamini (groin,) Debuchy (shoulder,) Arteta (calf,) Diaby (calf)
Doubts: Monreal (back,) Szczesny (illness)

At least we have French Zorro.
Having done his hamstring in the 2-1 win over QPR on Wednesday, Gabriel Paulista is now officially an Arsenal player. I hope the 37 minutes of rest Laurent Koscielny got before being called into action was enough of a vacation, as he and Mertesacker will have to continue together through at least four matches; it's "three weeks" for Gabriel on initial diagnosis.

In addition, there may still be some doubts over Nacho Monreal's and Wojciech Szczesny's availability after both missed the trip to West London via a back injury and illness, respectively. Considering it's a cup tie, it's likely the Pole will start between the poles if he's fit to.

Elsewhere, it appears there's no change to the injury list, with Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini likely out until at least next weekend, Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta still out until April, and Abou Diaby last seen in orbit around the Arctic Circle.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Cazorla, Giroud.

Manchester United Squad News

Out: Van Persie (ankle)
Possibly Suspended: Evans (possibly first of possibly six, possibly spitting)

Louis Van Gaal said that Evans was "maybe spitting on the
floor," which is why Cisse is shown here wiping his face.
It's finally happened! Arsenal will face Manchester United at a time when Robin van Persie is out injured! I've been waiting for this day for so long! The ex-Arsenal striker injured his ankle in the loss to Swansea on February 21 and could miss up to a month.

Unfortunately for Arsenal, he's the only United player absent through injury. Jonny Evans, however, is facing a six-match ban for spitting at Papiss Cisse on Wednesday; Cisse will be suspended seven matches as he has been banned once already this year. The FA officially charged both yesterday, and Evans has until 18:00 GMT today to respond to the charge; Evans has maintained his innocence, while Cisse has already accepted his ban. If Evans is unavailable, it'll be Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the center of defense.

My predicted XI includes a mix of Angel Di Maria, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, and Radamel Falcao which, even with Robin van Persie injured, leaves Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata available from the bench.

Predicted XI: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Blind, Herrera, Di Maria, Young, Rooney, Falcao.

Current Form

**takes vigorous notes**
To discuss this section, we must first answer the question, "What is form?" The Oxford English Dictionary defines form as "The essential determinant principle of a thing; that which makes anything (matter) a determinate species or kind of being; the essential creative quality."

All right, I might have picked the wrong one of the 21 definitions.

Point is, Arsenal and Manchester United are both currently in runs of form (or, essential determinants) where they are winning matches almost in spite of themselves. Arsenal have won four straight in the league for the first time this season and none of them have been convincing: a nervy 2-1 over Leicester, a nervy 2-1 over Crystal Palace, a bumpy 2-0 over Everton, and a nervy 2-1 over QPR.

Manchester United have been leaving it late, like they always have. Ashley Young found the winner in the 89th minute on Wednesday against Newcastle. Last weekend, United needed a penalty and red card in the 66th minute before they led at home against Sunderland. A few weeks back, they needed an injury time equalizer to take a point from West Ham in London. They're still getting the results to stay in the top four, but they haven't been winning convincingly.

Why do I get the feeling this is going to be an ugly match of football?

Match Facts

Arsenal's only FA Cup tie win at Old Trafford came in a
turbulent 2-0 win in 2003. Afterward, Sir Alex Ferguson
allegedly kicked a boot in the locker room, cutting
David Beckham.
Manchester United have had the better of Arsenal in recent meetings, which you probably know already (possibly because I copied and pasted a lot of this section from several previous previews.) In 2006/07, Arsenal won both league meetings between the sides. Since that year, across all competitions, United have met Arsenal 19 times. Arsenal have won two of those matches, drawn four, and lost 13.

United are unbeaten in their last ten home matches against Arsenal, winning nine of them (and clinching the league title with the one draw.) September 17, 2006 marks Arsenal's last win at Old Trafford, during that aforementioned season when Arsenal took six points from United. That match ended 1-0; Emmanuel Adebayor had the 86th minute winner. Since then, in ten matches at Old Trafford, United has outscored Arsenal 23-5.

These sides have already met once this season, at the Emirates, with United winning 2-1. Arsenal had over 61% of the possession and generated nine shots on target, but a Kieran Gibbs own goal in a massively unlucky sequences gave the visitors the lead against the run of play. Wojciech Szczesny was injured in the sequence, forcing Emiliano Martinez into his first Premier League appearance; United made it 2-0 from a counterattack in the 85th before Olivier Giroud, himself returning from injury, pulled one back in injury time to make the scoreline more respectable.

These two clubs have met in the FA Cup 13 times previously; United have won seven ties to Arsenal's six, with two matches drawn (including the 2005 final which Arsenal won on penalties.) United's victories have come in 1951, 1962, 1983, 1999, 2004, 2008, and 2011. Arsenal's victories, which include two finals, have come in 1906, 1937, 1979, 1988, 2003, and 2005. Arsenal have only once won an FA Cup tie at Old Trafford; that was in 2003 when Edu and Sylvain Wiltord scored in a 2-0 win.

The Referee

Bad hair is a bookable offense.
The referee is Northumberland-based Michael Oliver. Arsenal have seen Oliver four times already this season, with a record of two wins and two draws in those matches. Oliver worked the very first Arsenal match of the season, the 3-0 Community Shield win over Manchester City. He's also already worked one of Arsenal's three previous FA Cup ties, specifically the 3-2 win over Brighton. In the league, he was in the middle for Arsenal's 1-1 draw with Spurs and 2-2 draw at Liverpool.

For Manchester United, Oliver has worked their 1-0 loss at Manchester City, from which Chris Smalling was sent off, as well as their 1-1 draw at Stoke on New Year's Day.

Oliver was in the middle for the league meeting between Arsenal and United at Old Trafford last year, which ended 1-0 to United.

Around England
  • Saturday (early): Bradford City v. Reading; Coral Windows Stadium, Bradford
  • Saturday (Premier League): Queens Park Rangers v. Tottenham Hotspur; Loftus Road, London
  • Saturday (late): Aston Villa v. West Bromwich Albion; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Sunday (late): Liverpool v. Blackburn Rovers; Anfield, Liverpool
John Painting is a contributing writer to The Modern Gooner and terrified follower of the Church of Darmo, Devourer of Souls. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat. Hail Darmo.