Three key battles in Man Utd v Arsenal

Jens Raitanen takes a look at three key match-ups ahead of Monday's FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford

By Jens Raitanen

Rooney v Arsenal back four

Wayne Rooney is one of those players that just keeps coming back to haunt Arsenal time and time again. Along with Didier Drogba, he has caused Arsenal plenty of pain over the years. Rooney’s goal-scoring record against the Gunners shows what a quality goal scorer he is, and he is likely to be at the forefront of Manchester United’s attack yet again on Monday night. The 29-year-old may not be as prolific as he once was, but he is still a threat against any opposition. His ability to take on opponents and finish from all areas of the pitch just shows how dangerous he can be and it will be crucial for United to have him start up front. Van Gaal prefers to play him in midfield but with Radamel Falcao having a poor season at United and Robin van Persie out injured, he is left with few options in attack. Rooney has scored 13 goals against them in all competitions. He will be United’s biggest threat on Monday against a side that have lost nine times and drawn once in their last ten matches at Old Trafford.

Sanchez v Rojo or Valencia

Big players are expected to turn up in big games and Alexis Sanchez is certainly known for doing so in the past. The 26-year-old was excellent in the first half of the season for Arsenal, having scored 19 goals in all competitions. And although he has struggled to rediscover his fine form since returning from injury a month ago, he will take confidence from his goal at Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday. He has shown glimpses of his old self in recent matches and that goal will drive him to go one better in what will be one of Arsenal’s most important matches of the season at Old Trafford. With Luke Shaw potentially returning to the starting XI for United on Monday, Marcos Rojo may be moved to the right side of the back four. When it comes to defending, he is better than Antonio Valencia, who has often featured on the right this season. But regardless of whoever starts on that side, they will come up against a beast in Sanchez, who has torn defenders apart all season. Neither Rojo nor Valencia have been convincing at the back and they will need to step up if they are to stop Sanchez from exploiting them.

Giroud v Man Utd centre-halves

Olivier Giroud may not have the greatest of goal-scoring records against the top sides in England but that doesn’t mean to say he can’t cause them problems. His power and presence in the penalty area are always a danger to any side and this will be something United’s central defensive pair need to look out for. Van Gaal is likely to stick with Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans but he may switch one of them for Phil Jones to add more physically into the back four. This will be needed if they are to deal with Giroud and it may be wise to bring that extra bit of physical presence against a strong centre-forward. United’s defence has struggled throughout the season and it will be vital for Van Gaal to address this problem against an Arsenal side that possesses plenty of pace and power in their forward line. Giroud might still be suffering from a Champions League hangover after his abysmal performance against AS Monaco, but he will take plenty of confidence from his goal against Queens Park Rangers on Wednesday.

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