The stage is set at Emirates, North London. Both sets of players would be pumped up for different reasons. A nostalgic moment awaits, as Robin Van Persie returns for the first time since moving to Arsenal’s long term rivals, Manchester United. As a fully geared up Arsenal side get ready to battle out yet another time, for their Champions League qualification is on the line; many a player from their Manchester United counterparts would be cherishing this moment, for their dream of winning a League title and the moment of experiencing a Guard of Honor awaits at the Emirates.
Arsenal v Manchester United – Guard of Honor & its History
Many a permutation and combination discussed by the Manchester United fans about when and where the title would be won were put to bed in style after a 3-0 thrashing of Aston Villa at home last Monday. Thus came the talks about the dreadful moment if you were an Arsenal Fan, while the most memorable moment if you are an Manchester United Fan – the Guard of Honor!
Although the Guard of Honor is not compulsory to be given, Arsenal’s Prolific Manager Arsene Wenger did confirm during Friday’s press conference that United would indeed be given the Honor! We heard a humble Arsene Wenger stating, “I want the traditions of English football to be respected”. If not England, Sir Alex Fergusson was taken aback and proud of this gesture that his lone surviving long term rival has decided to bestow upon, as Sir Alex was heard stating, “I’m glad Arsene has done that, When they came to Old Trafford some years back, we did exactly that and that’s what great clubs should do.” Yes, accept it or not, Arsenal and Manchester United have been two great clubs in modern era with two Greats for Managers having survived for 4 decades put together.
Manchester United as a club have a history of respecting opponents by forming a guard of honor for the champions. They did it for Arsenal at Highbury in 1991, while they did it again in 2005 when Chelsea under Jose Mourinho had won the Premier League. While this will be the 3rd time they will be getting a Guard of Honor in the 20th century, while the other two have come during 2003 and 2007 when Everton and Chelsea gave them the much followed and respected English’s football’s tradition.
As this is being written, we hear that many Arsenal players are not happy of extending this gesture to their captain of last years; they are still expected to perform it. To top it all, we hear reports that a social media campaign has been actively running to get Arsenal supporters to do an “infamous Poznan” and turn their backs on the newly crowned champions. We just hope it would be a rumor, if not would put a sad start to what is expected to be a prolific match at the Emirates.
Arsenal hitting a purple patch
Just as Wenger had brought in Oliver Giroud, Lucas Podolski and Santi Cazorla as replacements when their former captain chose to leave for Manchester United, many considered Arsenal to be finished as the two replacements where judged not to being close to world class signings that was expected. And just as expected Arsenal’s stuttering start to the season continued much longer, to the point where their champions league spot was threatened for the preceding season, there came a night at Allianz arena where they almost pulled off the impossible; defeating their hosts 2-0. This was the start that put them on their purple patch of winning 6 of their last 7 matches in all competitions. Thereby, yet again rising to highly 3rd position from a position of being 5th or 6th for most of the season, just proves how grittier are Arsenal as a side towards the end of the season.
Their back four has to be given the due praise for just having let in 3 goals in their last 7 matches. Although there were situations where they had to come from behind to win, their attacking display has been formidable finding the back of the net 14 times in the last 7. Having given time and putting that much needed belief on Giroud which Wenger is most famous for, certainly has reaped in rewards as Giroud has been their 2nd top scorer with 17 goals in all competitions just a goal behind the detonator Theo Walcott. Not a bad start to his 1st season at all, eh? Not at all. Their midfield has been most pleasing to watch this season, especially with the presence of Cazorla who is the pass master, can certainly hurt his oppositions with his passing display and Arteta supported by Podolski and Walcott from the wings who are clinical finishers on their day, just as Norwich city had found a few weeks back. With Jack Wilshere set to return next season, with this confident team in Wenger’s hands and with a few more decisive summer transfers; things can only get better for Arsenal and the trophy days could be back sooner rather than later if only they can maintain this period of consistency for a greater part of the season. That’s what teams with Champions Material do – being consistent, as Manchester United have been this season.
Manchester United – Champions again
Champions for the unprecedented 20th time in English Football, Manchester United have had a fantabulous season yet again. Having claimed last season that his troops would never lose it again by goal difference, Sir Alex Fergusson has been a man of his words. Their current goal difference is 13 clear of 2nd place Manchester City and Manchester United as a team have had a stroll in the park to claim their title. Having beaten City in acquiring the services of last season’s golden boot winner Robin van Persie signaled their intent at the start that they were hurt by that dramatic finish at the Etihad stadium last season. As Mancini had rightly said, “Manchester United won the title last season when the whole world saw them hurt on how dramatically we had won it. That’s what Champions do”.
And according to Wenger, “Manchester United would have won the championship even without the services of Robin, as they just lost to goal difference last season and Manchester City as a team have let slip. If QPR didn’t know they were safe, Manchester United would have been the Champions”. To an extent the above words are true, but RVP’s injection has been tremendous at the front at the start of the season where the back four was stuttering at the pin’s drop. Consistency has been the call of the day and United have been consistent; be it scoring goals with a volatile back four at the start (or) a solid back four with a stuttering forward towards the end of the season. Carrick has been the ruler of United’s midfield this season with tremendous stats having made 92% successful passes going forwards; fitting enough that he has been shortlisted for PFA award this season. With another record in United’s sight of collecting record points for a season which has been held by Chelsea with 95 points, if Manchester United win their remaining 4 matches they would eclipse Chelsea’s record by 1 point to finish on 96, which would be a difficult yet fitting tribute to achieve.
Arsenal would be without the services of Oliver Giroud which is a big blow considering his form, until the final game of the season as he starts his 3 match ban. Lucas Podolski could well be starting in a central attacking role. While Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski remains sidenlined with a Rib Injury and mid fielder Abou Diaby has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Cazorla, Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta, Walcott, Podolski, Mannone, Vermaelen, Rosicky, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs, Coquelin.
Having wrapped up their 13th Premier League title, we expect Sir Alex to give chances to the other players yet put a strong lineup against Arsenal. Paul Scholes is back in training and there are no injury layoff’s except for Darren Fletcher who has been ruled out for the season.
Man United (from): De Gea, Lindegaard, Rafael, Smalling, Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Buttner, Nani, Valencia, Powell, Carrick, Anderson, Cleverley, Giggs, Kagawa, Van Persie, Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck.
The stakes are high for the North Londoners as anything less than a win might harm their prospects of Champions League qualification. Having wrapped up the title would mean more freedom to play and expose their other squad, but that wouldn’t stop Manchester United to give out a pretty hard time for their counterparts. Whatever be the scoreline, this is a big match and considering that it a great history is at stake for both the clubs, it would certainly be played in the spirit of the game.
Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal
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