Arsenal take on Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday night, hoping to extend the gap over their rivals to six points. The Gunners currently sit three places above United, with both sides experiencing a rollercoaster start to the season.
Former Gunner backs Arsenal to beat United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Unai Emery have come under staunch criticism since the beginning of the campaign, suffering from turgid performances and a lack of tactical identity on-the-pitch which sees them languishing around mid-table at present.
Thus, Monday’s clash is a huge occasion for both sides, giving both managers a chance to establish a foundation for the games ahead and put a frustrating start behind them.
Ahead of the game, former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit believes his old team have a great chance to put some daylight between themselves and United, a result that would offer a significant boost to hopes of a top-four finish.
“Arsenal have been thrashed by Liverpool, though Manchester United aren’t on that level,” Petit said via a feature with Paddy Power.
“That said, you’d think Arsenal have a very good opportunity to win at Old Trafford. They need a win away from home, as they’ve been dropping points so easily on the road. This match is very important for them, and it’s a good time to be playing Man United.”
“I still don’t know what United are going to do this season. It’s very hard to predict what they’ll do on Monday. The fans will be behind the team and the players will try to show character for the first 15 minutes or so – but if Arsenal defend well as a unit, that will lead to them getting opportunities to score.”
Much like Arsenal, United have had extreme troubles in their defensive structure this season, with a lack of authoritative figures leading to miscommunication across the back line. Even with summer signing Harry Maguire, Solskjaer’s side remain vulnerable – something Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be desperate to exploit on Monday.
“There will be open spaces behind the United backline and with the speed of Arsenal’s forwards, they’ll get chances. But they need to show defensive resilience to allow for that to happen. Arsenal have a good chance to win.”
Petit: Since Ferguson, United have been unrecognisable
Petit was quick to emphasise that the Manchester United of today is a far cry from the team it used to be under Sir Alex Ferguson. Under Fergie, the Red Devils represented a well-drilled, fluent, attacking side with the grit and know-how of a title winning side. Now, United find themselves with little identity, struggling to find success in the wake of Ferguson’s departure with mediocre league finishes.
“Since Alex Ferguson left I don’t recognise Man United any more. They should scare their opponents – they haven’t done that for a long time,” Petit said. “I’m very surprised because they’ve been spending so much money. Yet the profile of the players is not what Man United expect – especially when it comes to the fans and former players.”
“I remember back in the day when you had to play against United, you always knew you were going out to face the best footballers in the Premier League – and probably in Europe.”
“Some of the players at the time were among the best in the world in their position – now I’m wondering: where are those United players with character, who enjoy responsibility? Who play with imagination, creativity, and who have a great mentality on top of that. I used to see that all the time at United.”
"Now, you only ever briefly see the light of the team before it disappears straight away."