Manchester United vs Arsenal Preview: Wenger set for one last Old Trafford showdown as Gunners manager

Can the French manager get one over his old rivals on Sunday?

Manchester United vs Arsenal Preview: Wenger set for one last Old Trafford showdown as Gunners manager
Arsene Wenger is often the Old Trafford pantomime villain | Photo: Getty Images / John Peters

Arsene Wenger will travel to face an old foe for possibly the last time as a manager this Sunday as Arsenal visit rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Premier League

The game comes at a time in the season with little to play for, but that will mean nothing to two teams who are known for providing a fiery encounter. 

Earlier in the season Arsenal wasted a host of chances at the Emirates as they succumbed 3-1 to United in December

A rivalry with plenty of memories

When Wenger finally leaves Arsenal at the end of the season he will leave behind both good and bad memories, none less so than those which were created in encounters with United.

The Frenchman's vicious rivalry with Sir Alex Ferguson will be one of the most poignant and everlasting memories of his time in North London and that specific period of time at the beginning of the millennium threw out its fair share of memorable ties between the two. 

Ferguson and Wenger in their primes were at it like cliche high school jocks, competing for the prize of top dog in the Premier League.

Both had their wins, but more often than not it was football who would triumph from some of the great clashes between two of the country's most coveted sides. 

From Sylvain Wiltord scoring to win the league at Old Trafford in 2002 to a horrendous 8-2 defeat in 2011, there have been some truly memorable encounters - and Wenger hasn't half had his hands full when visiting Man United's famous ground. 

A Ruud van Nistelrooy penalty miss in 2003 will be a memory that many Arsenal fans will look back upon. The United forward had a chance to win the game and stop ultimately Arsenal going unbeaten in their Invincibles season.

However, he missed, sparking wild celebrations from Martin Keown.

It was rather typical, therefore, that the Gunners 49 game unbeaten streak was ended the following season by United, at Old Trafford, by the very player who had missed the season before - Van Nistelrooy. 

Against Ferguson, Wenger won 16 of their 49 meetings, but since the former's departure, he has won just two from ten matches. 

Current times

In the modern day Arsenal's rivalry with United is still very much there, but for how long we must wonder? Without Ferguson and Wenger there will not be that same hatred, even if a war of words has been created by Jose Mourinho and the Arsenal manager in recent seasons. 

Wenger has beaten Mourinho just twice and fuelled by a desire to finish on a high, there would be no better time for the French manager to improve that record on Sunday. 

The two teams go into the match with little but pride to play for.

Manchester City have already wrapped up the Premier League title despite United's best efforts to ruin their procession a few weeks ago, whilst the Gunners only opportunity of getting back into the Champions League now is through winning the Europa League - a task which still seems a hugely difficult one. 

At present, the Red Devils sit in second place, an incredible 17 points ahead of their opposition this weekend in sixth position. 

Team news

With Arsenal's visit to Madrid on Thursday night in mind, there could be a host of changes to the Gunners side.

Confirmed absentees are Mohamed Elneny who suffered an injury last weekend against West Ham, whilst Santi Cazorla still remains out. The Spaniard was able to train at the Emirates on Thursday though.

Former United player Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be back after a spell on the sidelines, and he could match up against the player he was swapped for, Alexis Sanchez, as the two prepare to face their old teams for the first time. 

Arsenal could give opportunities to a few of their academy players, with the likes of Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock having played in recent weeks. Eddie Nketiah may be called upon having been on the bench several times too, whilst 17-year-old Emile Smith-Rowe is set to be included in the first team squad for the first time. 

For the hosts, Antonio Valencia will be fit despite being substituted with a muscle problem in United's semi-final win over Spurs - but they will be without goalkeeper Sergio Romero who will miss a sixth consecutive fixture.

Aside from that, Mourinho will have a fully fit squad at his disposal.