Pre-Match Report

Preview: Arsenal v Manchester United

Arsenal v Manchester United

After our north London derby success last weekend, the big games keep coming as an in-form Manchester United visit N5 aiming to close the gap between us and subsequently pull them into title contention.

Erik ten Hag’s team head into this one having won nine games in all competitions before drawing 1-1 with Crystal Palace on Wednesday, with the result moving them into third in the table, eight points behind us.

However Emirates Stadium isn’t a venue they’ve enjoyed playing at in recent years, losing five of the last seven meetings on our turf - a stat we hope to extend as we seek a fourth consecutive clean sheet at the start of a year for only the fourth time in our history.

Red-hot Rashford behind United's rise

Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring for Manchester United

After a disastrous start to the season that saw embarrassing defeats to Brighton and Brentford, Ten Hag has quietly been turning things around by winning 12 of their last 17 league encounters to climb into the top four and remain in all three cup competitions.

Since the World Cup break, they beat Nottingham Forest, Wolves and Bournemouth, before knocking Everton out of the FA Cup. That was followed by a controversial victory over Manchester City on derby day, atoning for a 6-3 defeat back in October, before they were denied a six-straight league win thanks to Michael Olise’s stoppage-time free-kick in midweek grabbing Palace a point.

This turnaround in fortunes has been powered by the goals of Marcus Rashford, who has scored eight times in his last eight matches.

Talking tactics

Manchester United celebrate

Michael Cox, writing in the official matchday programme: Ten Hag has used a four-man defence this season, in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shape. In midfield, Casemiro was the most eye-catching summer recruit and at times he has been used in conjunction with two playmakers, but against us, Fred may deputise in his absence.

That could see either Bruno Fernandes or Christian Eriksen fielded wide and asked to drift inside. Antony, a more natural winger, offers a wide range of tricks, while 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho is increasingly an option from the start. 

At their best, United move the ball excellently. They’re particularly effective at dragging the opposition towards one side of the pitch, before suddenly switching play to the other flank and attacking into space. Antony’s goal against us at Old Trafford featured four consecutive backwards passes, drawing our press before cutting through the lines. We must be wary of that threat.

What the managers say

Mikel Arteta and Erik ten Hag

Arteta on United: “I think [Ten Hag] turned things around pretty quickly. He has implemented a very clear way of playing. I think the players seem like they've bought into it, they have really good energy around the place. And a lot of things have changed in a very short period of time so credit to him and the coaching staff for what they've done.

“When you look at the squad that they have, it's just incredible. The individuals and the collective organisation can beat any opponent in this league." - hear everything Mikel said in his pre-match press conference

Ten Hag on us: “It’s obvious they are in a really good run, I think they deserve the position where they are now. It’s a really good structure, there’s a really good mentality, winning attitude in the team, and that’s why they are now top of the league. 

“You see really good structures in the team and I think that they even improved during the first half of the season. There is a really good spirit as well in that team. 

“We know what to do and we have to be really good, we need a really good performance. If we do, I think we have a good chance to get a good result.”

Team news

Bukayo Saka picks up a yellow card

New signing Leandro Trossard may be available, and while Gabriel Jesus, Mohamed Elneny and Reiss Nelson continue to be our only injury concerns, three more of our players are treading a disciplinary tightrope.

A booking in this game for William Saliba, Gabriel or Bukayo Saka would be their fifth of the campaign and rule them out for the upcoming Everton game. The suspension threshold rises to 10 bookings after this match.

That particular rule has caught out Casemiro who received his fifth of the season against Palace and will miss this one. Diogo Dalot is struggling with a hamstring issue that saw him miss the games against Manchester City and Crystal Palace, while Anthony Martial was taken off at half-time in last weekend’s derby and sat out the game against Palace.

Jadon Sancho hasn’t been seen in a United shirt since October as he deals with personal and fitness issues, and Donny van der Beek is out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury earlier this month.

Facts and stats

Gabriel Martinelli celebrates against West Ham United

Manchester United are looking to complete only their second league double over us since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, doing so since then only in 2017/18.

United beat us 3-1 in September when we topped the table. The only side they've beaten twice in the same Premier League campaign when the opponent was top both times is Newcastle United in 1995/96.

This is just the third time we are hosting United in a Premier League match while top of the table, with the previous two meetings ending in draws – 1-1 in March 2004 and 2-2 in November 2007.

We have scored in 17 of our 18 league games this season, though the exception was our last home game against Newcastle. We’ve not failed to score in consecutive home league matches since November 2020.

We are yet to concede a goal in 2023; only in three calendar years have we not conceded in any of our first four competitive matches, doing so in 1935, 1994 and 2021.

Bukayo Saka has scored in his last two Premier League games against Man Utd – only Freddie Ljungberg (1998-2000) and Thierry Henry (2000-2001) have netted in three in a row.

Marcus Rashford has been involved in eight goals in his 10 Premier League starts against us (4 goals, 4 assists) – against no side has he produced more goal involvements.

Gabriel Martinelli has been involved in 10 goals in his last 10 Premier League home games (6 goals, 4 assists), only failing to either score or assist twice in this run (vs Fulham and Newcastle).

Match officials

Anthony Taylor

It’s a quick reunion with Anthony Taylor, who previously took charge of us on New Year’s Eve when we beat Brighton. He has been a good omen for us this season, as he was also in charge of our opening-day win at Crystal Palace, and October’s derby success over Tottenham Hotspur. 

In fact, we have lost just six of the 46 games he has overseen, which includes the 2017 and 2020 FA Cup final wins over Chelsea, and have won the last seven. It is the second time he refereed this fixture, having overseen our 3-0 win at Emirates Stadium in 2015.

  • Referee: Anthony Taylor
  • Assistant Referee 1: Gary Beswick
  • Assistant Referee 2: Adam Nunn
  • Fourth Official: Andre Marriner
  • VAR: Michael Salisbury
  • Additional VAR: Daniel Robathan

Recent visits from United

We are unbeaten in our last four home games against the red half of Manchester, after last season’s 3-1 triumph when strikes from Nuno Tavares, Bukayo Saka and a goal of the season strike from Granit Xhaka grabbed the three points.

The previous year brought a 0-0 draw, but on New Year’s Day 2020 we claimed a 2-0 success with Nicolas Pepe and Sokratis getting on the scoresheet - the same scoreline we recorded six months earlier when Xhaka and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang netted.

See some classic home encounters against United in our retro playlist

Breakdown Live

Breakdown Live

Tune in from 3.30pm on and the official app for all the best pre-match build-up, where Nick Bright and Adrian Clarke will be joined by former Gunners Emmanuel Petit and Sebastian Larsson, as well as DJ Locksmith from Rudimental.


They will look back on the win against Tottenham last weekend, and focus on where we can target Manchester United.

Then at 4.30pm, they hand over to Dan Roebuck and Perry Groves on commentary, who will guide you through all the action on the pitch.

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