Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Louis van Gaal has been in charge of Manchester United for three-quarters of a season, but it's still somewhat difficult to deduce his favoured starting XI. United's recent results have been impressive, their performances less so, and realistically this is still a team in transition.
Van Gaal previously seemed determined to play a three-man defence, but in recent weeks has switched to a back four. There's been plenty of chopping and changing at centre back, although United's defensive record is actually rather good. Perhaps the major weakness is at right back where Antonio Valencia, a natural winger, has often played.
In midfield, Daley Blind has established himself as a regular in the deep-lying position and is an extremely intelligent passer with a rare ability to dictate the flow and tempo of the contest. Arsenal will probably look to shut him down whenever possible, and must also be aware that Michael Carrick has returned from injury and could start alongside him, a duo which could help United win the midfield battle.
Wayne Rooney has often been used in a midfield role this season, but started upfront in the narrow 1-0 victory over Newcastle last time out, with Robin van Persie out injured and Radamel Falcao struggling for goals. This means the midfield system is unpredictable, particularly with Van Gaal using both a 4-1-4-1 and a midfield diamond in recent weeks.
Marouane Fellaini brings aerial power and can be a target for long balls if United fall behind, Ander Herrera is a useful box-to-box player, while Juan Mata has regularly collected goals and assists without sufficient praise.
Perhaps the most intriguing player, however, is Angel Di Maria, who made a superb start to his Manchester United career but has faded in recent weeks. He's been used in a midfield diamond, as a conventional wide midfielder, and even up front in the reverse fixture, a 2-1 Manchester United victory at the Emirates where he drifted out wide. His dribbles were often unsuccessful, but he was a huge threat.
He's a superb counter-attacker, and while Arsenal will look to dominate possession in this game, they must be wary of the Argentine turning defence to attack quickly.
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