Pre-Match Report

Preview: Manchester United v Arsenal

Preview: Manchester United v Arsenal

We head to Manchester United on Sunday for our penultimate game of the season, looking to seize the win to ensure our fight for the title goes right to the final day.

Old Trafford has not been a place we’ve enjoyed visiting over recent years, but the biggest stages carry the greatest rewards. A win at the Red Devils’ home on Sunday would sit alongside our best-ever away days should results affecting the blue half of Manchester fall the way we wish during the run-in.

We’ll be taking on a United team at a low ebb during a poor run of form that has seen them slip 29 points behind us in the standings. But they are still fighting for European qualification and have a cup final to look forward to as they seek to salvage some positivity, albeit potentially aiding their city rivals’ title hopes in the process.

United’s season to forget

Manchester United react to conceding against Crystal Palace

A hugely disappointing campaign has seen United unable to break into the top five at all, and a run of two wins from their last 10 matches has seen them slip to eighth spot, flirting with their lowest-ever Premier League finish and even missing out on UEFA Conference League action next term.

Erik ten Hag’s team are setting all sorts of unwanted milestones. They’ve been beaten 18 times in all competitions, last losing more in a single campaign in 1977/78, while you have to go back to 1970/71 for the last time they conceded more than the 81 goals they’ve shipped in that time.

Monday night’s 4-0 thrashing at Crystal Palace was a real nadir for the Dutchman’s reign, and with new ownership overseeing all aspects of the club, perhaps only European qualification via the league or an FA Cup final win over Manchester City could see his two-season stay extended.

What the managers say

Arteta: “My brain always takes me to the players lifting the Premier League,” he stated. “That's what my brain is doing at the moment. I just follow my brain and my gut and this is how I feel, and this is the way that I want everybody to think and hopefully we can achieve it.

“We have to think that it’s going to work. We try to be better than our opponents and beat them. The final outcome is something else. At the moment it’s not in our control." - read every word from Mikel’s pre-match press conference

Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag: "I think [the new owners] have common sense. They see when you have 32 different backlines, when you lose eight centre-backs, when they see we use 13 different partnerships at centre half, when we don’t have a left-back, when we have so many injuries - they know that will have a negative impact on results.

"But still we are fighting and it’s a huge FA Cup final. We are very happy to be there, it can still be a highlight for this season. Of course, we are not happy but we know the reasons why we are underperforming in the rankings now and that of course is the injuries. I am a realistic person, I see this when I analyse and no team will perform when you have so many injuries in key areas."

Team news

Takehiro Tomiyasu

Mikel Arteta is hoping to have Takehiro Tomiyasu and Bukayo Saka fit and available for this match, but won't know for sure until our final training session on Saturday. 

Our Japanese defender missed training in midweek, while Saka picked up a knock against Bournemouth and is being assessed. Meanwhile, Jurrien Timber continues to build match fitness after two appearances for our under-21s.

That is the complete opposite scenario for Ten Hag, who has an injury crisis on his hands which was added to when Mason Mount picked up a training ground injury in midweek. However Scott McTominay (knee) and Bruno Fernandes (wrist) are back after missing the Palace match, as has Marcus Rashford who has missed the last three matches with an ankle issue.

Lisandro Martinez is back on the grass after being out for three months with a knee injury but isn't expected to feature just yet, adding to Ten Hag's defensive headache with Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof, Willy Kambwala and Tyrell Malacia all out.

Talking tactics

Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford

Adrian Clarke: Ten Hag has yet to implement a clear tactical philosophy, so it is not easy to pin a label on United. In some matches they dominate possession, but in others they play on the counter. On occasion they press, but they don’t consistently apply that approach either. What we do know is that they usually start in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and looking at their other home fixtures against the leading sides, I would expect us to dictate the pattern of the game.

Ten Hag does have a plethora of talented players, and that is the biggest cause of concern. Fernandes has created more chances than anyone else in the Premier League this term so needs shackling, Rasmus Hojlund and Rashford have pace to burn on the counter, and no-one across the league has created more chances from ball carries than Alejandro Garnacho.

However, conceding chances and goals has been a huge problem, and the Red Devils have at times looked disorganised and very uncertain in their off-the-ball work. Opta’s expected goals against metric claims they should have conceded at least 15 more times than they have - this is the largest discrepancy of its kind in the division.

United’s defending has been poor in recent weeks, with many players looking disillusioned and way below their best. If we can move the ball at a high tempo, with as much quality as we have seen of late, then I would expect us to comfortably create 20-plus shots. It feels like a great opportunity for us to claim a rare win at Old Trafford.

Facts and stats

Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring against Crystal Palace

We are looking to complete the league double over Manchester United for the first time since 2006/07, while we last won three in a row against the Red Devils between November 1997 and September 1998.

United have won just two of their last 11 against us in the Premier League.

We have won seven of our eight away league games in 2024, scoring 27 goals and conceding just three (the most goals scored and the fewest conceded away from home in that time). We have also scored in all of our last nine league visits to Old Trafford.

We haven’t trailed for a single minute in any of our last eight Premier League away games. Only between December 1998 – May 1999 have we gone longer without trailing on the road in the competition’s history.

We haven’t lost a single game in the north-west this season, winning two of our four visits, as many wins as in their previous 19 such games.

We have kept 10 clean sheets away from home in the Premier League this season, last keeping more on the road in a single top-flight campaign in 1990/91 (13).

Having lost four of their first nine home Premier League games this season, Man Utd have since lost just one of their last eight at Old Trafford.

Across the last three Premier League seasons, the Red Devils have won just two of their 10 Premier League games against sides starting the day in the top two.

Marcus Rashford has scored in each of his last three games against us (4 goals), and has netted four of his team’s last five Premier League goals against us.

Kai Havertz has been involved in seven goals across his last six away league games (4 goals, 3 assists), both scoring and assisting in three of those.

Against no side has Bukayo Saka been involved in more Premier League goals than against Man Utd (5), registering a goal or assist in each of his last four.

Match officials

Paul Tierney

Paul Tierney swiftly reappears at one of our fixtures, having been the man in the middle for our 2-0 win at Wolves three weeks ago. We are unbeaten in the four matches he has overseen this term, beating Newcastle United and Crystal Palace already in 2024, and drawing with Fulham.

He has refereed United just once this season - a 3-0 Manchester derby loss back in October, having also overseen their FA Cup final defeat at the hands of their neighbours 12 months ago. They have though won 14 of the 24 games Tierney has taken charge of, and he has awarded no team more penalties than United’s seven.

Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistants: Scott Ledger, Mat Wilkes
Fourth official: Darren Bond
VAR: John Brooks
Assistant VAR: Constantine Hatzidakis

Recent trips to Old Trafford

Trips to Manchester United have traditionally been tough going. We have won just four of 31 Premier League games there, and have tasted defeat at the Theatre of Dreams more than any other away venue in the competition.

Our last visit in September 2022 saw us suffer a 3-1 defeat when Gabriel Martinelli controversially had a goal chalked off which would have given us an early lead, and the season before saw us edged out by a 3-2 scoreline as Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty secured a topsy-turvy win for the hosts.

You have to go back to November 2020 for our last victory when a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang penalty clinched a win for Arteta’s team behind closed doors. Indeed, all four wins of our Premier League wins at Old Trafford have come via a 1-0 scoreline.

Remember them all by reliving five of our best games away at United

Live coverage

Breakdown Live

For the penultimate time this season, Nick Bright and Adrian Clarke will be hosting Breakdown Live on and the official app (download now) an hour before kick-off.

With the campaign due to go down to the wire, they’ll be across all the title race permutations, and analysing where this game could be won and lost as we aim to keep pace with Manchester City.

Adrian will also pick out the key themes from our victory over Bournemouth last week to see what might work against United, while there will also be an academy round-up as the under-21s and under-18s’ seasons head to a conclusion.

Then at kick-off, live commentary will be provided by Dan Roebuck and Jonathon Rogers at Old Trafford, allowing you to stay as up-to-date as possible during this titanic clash.

You can also find out which broadcasters are showing the action live on TV wherever you are in the world.

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