Preview by Numbers: Manchester United v. Arsenal

Old Trafford, Manchester
Sunday, May 17
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Dean
    • Assistants: Lee Betts and Simon Long
    • 4th Official: Michael Oliver
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 1 - 2 Manchester United
  • This Match, Last Year: Manchester United 1 - 0 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 80 Arsenal wins, 93 United wins, 48 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-D-W-L
  • Manchester United's League Form: W-W-L-L-L-W
"Well, joke's on you. These are chocolate."
"Nothing gold can stay." --Robert Frost Me

Arsenal's 10-match unbeaten run has ended after a 1-0 loss to Swansea in which Arsenal had pretty much all of the chances and conceded stupidly. "C'est la vie." --France Me

The bad news is, Arsenal no longer controls their own destiny for second place thanks to Manchester City's absurd goal difference advantage (thanks, QPR!) If both clubs win all of their remaining games, Arsenal will need to make up a nine-goal swing in the process, which is preposterously unlikely, considering City is winning too in this scenario.

Arsenal can, however, lockup third place (and thus, avoidance of the Champions League qualifier) with a win at Old Trafford on Sunday, a place at which Arsenal proved in March that they actually can win. Arsenal can also clinch third with a loss on Sunday, provided they win their remaining two games against Sunderland and West Brom, but how high would their confidence be to do that on the back of two losses?

No, Arsenal would be best served by righting the ship now. Demand the best. Take all three points and put the question of the qualifier to rest.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Debuchy (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin,) Arteta (match fitness)
Doubts: Welbeck (knee,) Ramsey (ankle)

Welbeck's involvement is likely 50-50. I'd like to see him
score another winner at his former place of employment.
There are no major injury concerns in the squad right now, which is probably a first in my four-plus years of writing for this blog. That is, obviously, not to say that Arsene Wenger has a totally full squad to choose from. Mikel Arteta and Abou Diaby certainly do not have the match fitness right now to be selected; if they were in the 18-man squad, I would be more than shocked.

Meanwhile, there are still doubts over the more recently injured: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and his wonky groin, Danny Welbeck and his banjaxed knee, and Mathieu Debuchy's utter unluckiness. Of those three, only Welbeck could be in line for a return. Aaron Ramsey has been out of training for a while as well, but will more than likely be good to go.

As such, I would expect no changes to the XI. Monday's loss to Swansea was the fifth straight match for this XI, the first time Arsenal went five matches unchanged since 1994.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil, Alexis, Ramsey, Giroud.

Manchester United Squad News

Out: Rafael (rib,) Carrick (calf)
Doubts: Shaw (head,) Van Persie (virus,) Rooney (thigh,) Rojo (groin)

"What's the Mata with you?"
Lot of doubts after United's win last week at Crystal Palace. Robin van Persie missed the match through illness, Luke Shaw came off on a stretcher with a probable concussion, and Wayne Rooney could not continue past halftime with a thigh injury and potential dead leg.

Rafael da Silva is out, for sure, with a rib fracture, while Michael Carrick will miss out with a calf problem. There are also doubts over Marcos Rojo with a groin problem, as well as maybe Chris Smalling.

Even with some injury questions up front, Arsenal will have to worry about a revitalized Juan Mata. Mata returned to United's XI when Angel Di Maria served his suspension for the red card in the FA Cup and took his chance well, meaning his resurgence is partially our fault. Careful what you wish for, I guess?

Predicted XI: De Gea, Valencia, Jones, Smalling, Shaw, Blind, Fellaini, Herrera, Young, Mata, Rooney.

Current Form

This came up on a Google search for "losing streak."
Well, nothing lasts forever. Arsenal's 10-match unbeaten run in the league (and 11-match unbeaten run overall) came to an end on Monday against Swansea. It was Arsenal's longest unbeaten run in the league since the end of the 2012/13 season (incidentally, both of those streaks came after losses at Tottenham.) Anyway, let's hope this is a blip and not a roadblock.

Manchester United carried a six-match league winning streak into Stamford Bridge on April 18 and lost 1-0. A week later, their blip became a tailspin, losing 3-0 at Goodison Park. A week after that, they lost at home to West Bromwich Albion (for the second straight year!) extending their losing streak to three. United rebounded last week with a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace that was not entirely convincing.

Match Facts

In case you forgot what happened in the FA Cup tie...
Arsenal broke their terrible streak at Old Trafford (more on that below) with a 2-1 win in the sixth round of the FA Cup on March 9. Nacho Monreal opened the scoring in the 25th minute, but Wayne Rooney equalized within four minutes for the hosts. In the second half, United castoff Danny Welbeck took advantage of a mishit back pass and slotted the winner past a stranded David de Gea to give Arsenal the lead just past the hour mark. United melted down in their attempts to get back into the game by diving, which referee Michael Oliver was having none of. After Angel Di Maria attempted to grab Oliver to protest a simulation call, Oliver rightly showed Di Maria a second yellow. Manchester United received seven bookings in the match.

Prior to March's cup tie, United were unbeaten in 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 league win at Old Trafford. That match ended 1-0; Emmanuel Adebayor had the 86th minute winner. Manchester United had outscored Arsenal 23-5 during that ten match unbeaten run.

United won the reverse fixture 2-1 at the Emirates in November. Arsenal had over 61% of the possession and generated nine shots on target, but a Kieran Gibbs own goal in a massively unlucky sequence 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 added time to make the scoreline more respectable. David de Gea, playing with a recently dislocated finger, made eight saves.

The Referee

Well, that hair is a bookable offense.
The referee is Wirral-based Mike Dean. Arsenal had Dean for the reverse fixture in November, which might not bode well, and of course you'll recall Arsenal's struggles with Dean in recent seasons. However, November's loss to United marks Arsenal's only loss with Dean in the middle of their last eight such matches. The voodoo very well may be broken; Arsenal have already won once this season in Manchester with Dean as the referee, 2-0 at the Etihad in January. He even awarded Arsenal a penalty! Dean was also in charge of Arsenal's 1-0 win at Burnley last month.

Manchester United's record with Mike Dean is starting to look a lot like Arsenal's old record with Dean. The match at the Emirates in November is United's only win with Dean in the middle this season. They lost the opening day fixture to Swansea at home with Dean as the ref, they drew 2-2 at the Hawthorns in October, and they lost 1-0 at Stamford Bridge last month. United were winless with Dean in the middle last year, drawing at Spurs, losing at home to Swansea in the FA Cup, and drawing at Southampton on the final day of the season. So, Manchester United have now won one of their last eight matches with Dean in charge.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Southampton v. Aston Villa; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Burnley v. Stoke City; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Saturday: Queens Park Rangers v. Newcastle United; Loftus Road, London
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. Leicester City; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Hull City; White Hart Lane, London
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Everton; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday (late): Liverpool v. Crystal Palace; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Sunday (early): Swansea City v. Manchester City; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Monday (night): West Bromwich Albion v. Chelsea; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and an extinct species of fish. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat, which doesn't really sound like a fish at all, does it?