With international football now well and truly behind us until March the focus shifts back to the world of club football and this lunchtime the return to Premier League action doesn’t get much bigger than Manchester United vs Arsenal at Old Trafford.
But not only is it two old adversaries going head to head there is also the sub plot of another face off between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger. Mourinho may have swapped the blue of Chelsea for the red of Manchester United but that doesn’t mean that the rivalry between these two managers has lessened since The Special one’s Stamford Bridge depature last December.
Even with a misfiring Chelsea Jose Mourinho still managed to mastermind one of the few victories that Chelsea earned last season against The Gunners and in doing that continued that all important record of never losing to Arsene Wenger
Arsenal have had some classic run ins with both Manchester United and Mourinho so this could very well be a chance to settle two scores and although the rivalry between these two sides isn’t quite what it used to be you get the feeling the Mourinho factor could very well flare it back up again.
Arsenal travel to Old Trafford knowing that a win would take them top for at least a couple of hours and they will look to return to winning ways after having to make do with a share of the points when they faced their arch rivals Tottenham just under a fortnight ago.
It was a hard fought and well earned point against Tottenham but that draw has seen Arsenal slip to 4th in the Premier League table but with just two points separating them and leaders Liverpool it is ground that can quite easily be made up
It’s the hosts Manchester United that have more ground to make up as they find themselves in 6th place and a further 6 points behind Arsenal. Although there is a lot of football still to play, defeat for them this lunchtime would see The Gunners open up a 9 point gap and make the task of returning to the Champions League a lot harder.
Today’s task is also going to be tougher for United as they have to make do with Zlatan Ibrahimovic who is out through suspension. The mercurial Swede picked up his 5th booking of the season away at Swansea before the international break and he now has to carry out a one match ban.
With Ibrahimovic out injured the focus will now be on Marcus Rashford to once again step up to the plate, last season he announced himself to the world with a first half brace against Arsenal and the 18 year old will look to take this opportunity of starting from the off with both hands
That trip to Swansea saw United return to winning ways as they eased to a 3-0 win over Bob Bradley’s men. That win for The Red Devils was a very welcome one as it ended a run of four league matches without a win and that’s not forgetting a Europa League defeat away to Fenerbahce.
For Arsenal they have to make do without Hector Bellerin who is out for four weeks with an injury and there will be a big question mark as to whether or not Alexis Sanchez starts this game. He bagged a brace on Tuesday for Chile but the travelling coupled with the fact that he played with a heavily bandaged calf could see him rested to the bench. Will Wenger be prepared to roll the dice.
There is no doubting the magnitude of this fixture and much will undoubtedly be made about the Mourinho vs Wenger battle. They say all records must come to an end at some point and I have a feeling that Today could very well be the day that Wenger gets that first ever win over Mourinho. I’m going to nail my colours to the mast on this one and go with an Arsenal win/