Why Arsenal are under more pressure than Jose Mourinho and Man United
Arsenal will be looking to win their first Premier League game at Old Trafford since 2006 when the Gunners travel to Old Trafford this Saturday
“Sir Alex Ferguson came in and said: ‘Lads, it’s Tottenham’, and that was it. Brilliant.”
Roy Keane’s Tottenham anecdote was certainly a crowd-pleaser during the former Manchester United captain’s question-and-answer session after the release of his second autobiography in November 2014.
The Irishman’s story served to highlight Manchester United’s dominance over Tottenham during the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Perhaps Jose Mourinho, who appears to be struggling to motivate some members of his Red Devils squad, could borrow Ferguson’s line ahead of Manchester United’s return to Premier League action this weekend.
“Lads, it’s Arsenal.”
The Gunners make the trip to Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon in a better position than previous seasons – Arsenal are unbeaten in 10 Premier League games. Manchester United, on the other hand, have notched up one Premier League victory in their last five outings. It’s hardly title-winning form.
But Mourinho can draw confidence from the Red Devils’ record against Wenger’s inconsistent Arsenal side over the past decade. You have to go back to September 2006 to find the north London side’s last win on the red half of Manchester. Emmanuel Adebayor’s 86th-minute goal sealed a 1-0 victory.
Arsenal remained competitive until perhaps 28 August 2011.
Indeed, Manchester United’s dominance of this fixture can be traced back to their 8-2 win at the Theatre of Dreams in the third game of the 2011-12 season. Wayne Rooney scored three goals as Wenger’s young Arsenal side endured a chastening experience in front of 75,000 rival supporters.
Less than 12 months later, Arsenal’s captain Robin van Persie had done the unthinkable and moved to the north London side’s bitter rivals. The Netherlands striker took just three minutes to score against his former club to the delight of the home crowd in a 2-1 win – a scoreline that didn’t reflect the hosts’ dominance.
Even during the dark days of David Moyes’ miserable reign at Old Trafford, Arsenal still conspired to lose 1-0 to an out-of-sorts Manchester United side. Van Persie’s winner led to inevitable questions over Wenger’s decision to hand their long-standing Premier League rivals their prized asset.
Perhaps the most disappointing result of all was a 3-2 loss at Old Trafford earlier this year. While a one-goal deficit doesn’t have the shock value of an 8-2 defeat, the circumstances surrounding the Premier League clash possibly render this the most unforgivable defeat.
Manchester United handed an 18-year-old striker his Premier League debut such was the extent of their injury problems. Marcus Rashford has Arsenal to thank for kick-starting his fledgling career after the youth product scored twice in a five-goal thriller at Old Trafford.
Guillermo Varela, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Jesse Lingard were all part of an inexperienced Manchester United side that lost a full-strength Arsenal outfit, containing the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
It came a fortnight after Arsenal’s 2-1 win against title rivals Leicester City at The Emirates appeared to suggest that Wenger’s side meant business in the title race. It wasn’t the case as Arsenal failed to recover their stride and extended their winless run at Old Trafford.
‘This could be Arsenal’s year’ is a thought that most Premier League supporters will have entertained after 11 games this season. The Gunners were impressive 3-0 winners to highlight that perhaps Wenger’s players are ready to step up this season, bolstered by summer signings Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi.
Beating Manchester United at Old Trafford for the first time in a decade would really underline Arsenal’s title credentials.
Expect the Manchester United manager to be calm, however.
The Red Devils ended a four-game winless run with a 3-1 victory at Swansea City. Of greater significance is his record against Wenger. He’s unbeaten in 13 games against the Frenchman.
Maybe Mourinho will put his own twist on Ferguson’s team talk: “Lads, it’s Arsene Wenger.”
Arsenal need to get their fear-factor back and a confident performance resulting in a win at Old Trafford this Saturday would help to do just that.