These are changing times for two of English football's most historic clubs.

For over the past 24 months Manchester United and Arsenal, who clash at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, have watched their decade-long Premiership duopoly gatecrashed by a cash-rich foe from west London.

And at the same time, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger have seen their respective club captains and on-field generals-in-chief, Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira, depart for pastures new.

And so we come to the new breed: Darren Fletcher and Cesc Fabregas.

Having broken into the first team at the start of last season, Fabregas has been an automatic first-choice to partner Gilberto in the middle of Arsenal's engine room this term. And as the season wears on, the Spaniard is really beginning to motor.

Recent performances on European stages as vast and vociferous as Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu and Turin's Stadio delle Alpi have elevated the Barcelona-born playmaker to star status. The level-headed 18-year-old has claimed a first international cap and prospects of a place in Spain's World Cup squad seem to brighten by the day.

Up in Manchester meanwhile, Fletcher, 22, has drawn widespread acclaim - not least from his manager Ferguson, who clearly rates him very highly.

The Scottish international scored the winner against title rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford earlier this season, has captained his country and has a non-stop, energetic style his manager just loves in his players.

Opinions may be objective but stats, as they say, never lie. So what do the number-crunchers tell us about this prodigious pair?

Fabregas has made 30 appearances this term, scoring twice and providing five assists. Fletcher by comparison has scored just once from 27 starts and has three assists to his name.

But the United man edges the dribbling stakes with a success rate of 53 percent from his 30 attempts, compared with the Spaniard's 47 percent success rate from his 36 attempts.

Fletcher also marginally edges the tackling stakes with a success rate of 65 percent from his 57 attempts compared to Fabregas' 64 percent success rate from 57 attempts. But Fabregas' greater attacking instincts are illustrated no better than by his 22 shots on target thus far compared with Fletcher's three.

Messrs Keane and Vieira will forever be etched in the history pages of Manchester United and Arsenal Football Clubs. For Fabregas and Fletcher, their chapters are only just beginning.

Player Profile
View Cesc Fabregas player profile

Head to Head Statistics Cesc Fabregas Darren Fletcher Premiership Appearances 30 27 Minutes on pitch 2343 1907 Attacking Goals 2 1 Shots on target 22 3 Shots off target 10 3 Shots blocked 6 0 Offside 3 2 Supporting Assists 5 3 Passes made 177 147 Passes complete 95 78 Passes incomplete 82 69 Crosses successful 2 5 Crosses unsuccessful 3 28 Total dribbles 36 30 Dribbles successful 17 16 Dribbles unsuccessful 19 14 Defending Tackles made 67 57 Tackles won 43 37 Tackles lost 24 20 Interceptions 26 25 Blocked Shots 1 0 Clearances 15 18 Penalties Conceded 0 0 Own Goals 0 0 Discipline Fouls 41 32 Yellow Cards 4 3

33/1 - Man Utd v Arsenal - Thierry Henry to score first and Arsenal to win 2-1

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
7 Apr 2006