Manchester United v Arsenal: How can the Gunners hurt Van Gaal's Red Devils?

Arsene Wenger's side head to the North West hoping to end a poor run at the Theatre of Dreams.

Manchester United v Arsenal: How can the Gunners hurt Van Gaal's Red Devils?
Photo: espnfc

After a disappointing result on Tuesday in the Champions League against Barcelona, the big games continue to come for Arsenal.

On Sunday they head to Old Trafford to face their old nemesis Manchester United. The Gunners don’t have the greatest record up there, having not won at the Theatre of Dreams in the league since 2006.

There have also been some horrendous results and performances up there, including a 6-1 defeat in 2001 and the 8-2 demolition in 2011.

This year however, for the first time in a while, Arsenal travel to Manchester higher in the table than their rivals, and face probably the weakest United side since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

Because of this, the gunners should be confident going into the game, and there are a number of ways they can go about trying to frustrate and defeat the red devils.

Start fast, Score Early

One of Arsene Wenger’s sides best performances this season was the reverse fixture at the Emirates. The Gunners pressed explosively, and scored three times in the opening twenty minutes.

Two Alexis Sanchez goals, with a Mesut Ozil finish in-between, meant the plan for the rest of the game was simplified; defend as a unit and fight for the clean sheet.

Sanchez scored two stunning goals to shock United. Photo: the Guardian
Sanchez scored two stunning goals to shock United earlier this season. Photo: the Guardian

The early goals also meant United would have to come out and play higher up the field to get back into the game, leaving more room for Arsenal to counter attack.

The Gunners have shown in other big matches that they can soak up pressure after taking the lead, for example their 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich earlier this season, and there's no reason why they can't do the same thing to United, who don't have the same quality as the German champions.

So scoring early would obviously be a huge advantage of the rest of the game, and it could also change the atmosphere among the home fans.

Frustrate the crowd

On more than one occasion this season, the home fans at Old Trafford have vented their anger towards their team for slow, sideways football without any penetration.

This has usually happened when teams packed the midfield and don’t allow any of United’s creative players in-between their midfield and defence.

Unless something drastic happens, its likely that Arsenal will set up with their usual three-man midfield. This means they can get plenty of players around the ball when Van Gaal’s men have it, and can counter in numbers when they win it back.

Another positive of packing the midfield to try and frustrate is that when the attacking team do get frustrated, they are more likely to have shots from distance, and with Arsenal having Petr Cech in between the posts, it would take something special to beat him. Unrealistic, rushed attempts only add to the frustration of the crowd.

Expose inexperienced full-backs

Injuries to Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian have seen some fresh faces enter the Manchester United side. Cameron Borthwick Jackson, 19, has been a reasonably solid replacement at left back, showing good pace and crossing ability.

However, he has been caught out on a couple of occasions. In United’s clash with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, he was caught out of position for Diego Costa’s extra time winner.

On the other side, 21-year-old Donald Love only made his debut for the first team in the defeat to Sunderland on the 13th of February, so his lack of Premier League experience is definitely something that Arsenal can exploit.

One of the positions where Arsenal have an abundance of pace and quality is in wide areas, with players such as Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Joel Campbell. Not forgetting Hector Bellerin at right back, who has 44 Premier League appearances to his name, who could easily cause the young full-backs a large amount of trouble, by getting in behind and making late runs past the wingers.

The game might not have the same prestige it had when Wenger and Fergurson were locking horns, however it is still a big game, with United hoping to end a disappointing season with a positive run of results and Arsenal well in the fight for the league title.

It is a must win game for Wenger's men with title rivals Leicester City playing the day before.

But this isn’t the complete Manchester United they have come up against in the past, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Gunners head back to North London on Sunday night with the three points.