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Omar Othman, MUSCUAE
United come into this game on the back of a resounding 5-1 win in the Europa League that secured a huge round of 16 match against Liverpool next month. Although the win came from a good performance, it will not be that easy against an Arsenal side looking to keep what little title hopes they have left alive by trying to come to Old Trafford for a win. United on the other hand are currently 6 points away from 4th, with that being the minimum required achievement from them this season.
Injuries have plagued United over the past few weeks with the list so big a window of opportunity opened up for more players to come through the academy and have debuts with some media organisations labeling them, “The new class of ‘92’”. While most aren’t getting carried away with that hype, nothing should be taken away from the performances of the likes of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Jesse Lingard, Paddy McNair, and James Wilson have put in this season. And young Marcus Rashford’s two goals on Thursday night attracted many headlines. With Rooney still injured and Martial a doubt, he very well might have another chance to shine.
A win against Arsenal will not only further enhance the squad’s confidence but would also provide a very valuable three points towards a strong finish in the last 12 games and the two Cups in which United are still competing.
PREDICTION: Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal
LIKELY MUFC XI: David de Gea; Gustavo Varela, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo; Morgan Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera; Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Memphis; Marcus Rashford
UNITED PLAYER TO WATCH: All eyes will be on 18 year-old striker Marcus Rashford whose two goals on Thursday suddenly raise hopes and expectations that there could be something special here.
ARSENAL PLAYER TO FEAR: Mesut Ozil’s 17 assists so far this season make him a big threat to watch out for. He could definitely cause problems with any lapse of concentration or provision of space.
FAVOURITE UNITED VS ARSENAL MOMENT: I would 8-2 have to rub this one in, but August 2011 springs to mind…
WHERE TO WATCH: MUSC UAE members have three locations to choose from which they can call home. In Dubai matches are shown at Harvesters Pub, Crowne Plaza and Yamo Café & Restaurant, Sidra Tower (Near Media City). As for Abu Dhabi, the matches are shown at Coopers Bar in the Park Rotana.
Richard D’cruze, ARSENAL UAE
After a goalless FA Cup encounter against Hull City and a hard fought (until the 70th minute) loss to reigning Champions League holders Barcelona just days later, Arsenal’s hopes of challenging on three fronts brings them to Old Trafford. The Theatre of Dreams was arguably the most difficult place for any opposition to leave with three points, until Sir Alex Ferguson moved upstairs.
Excluding last season’s FA Cup victory (courtesy of ‘Dat Guy Welbz’), the last time Arsenal won at Old Trafford was during the 2006/07 season. Interestingly, it was also the last time the Gunners did the double over United. A win on Sunday will not only give Arsenal a sigh of relief for finally breaking the hoodoo of beating their once fierce rivals away from home, but also keep them on course for a shot of winning the Premier League title for the 14th time.
Given the long list of first-team injuries for United, as well as their appalling domestic display recently, you would think this match will be a walk in the park for Arsenal, but it’s not. Arsenal have dropped seven points from winning positions away from home this season, and if United play the same ‘horny football’ they did against FC Midtjylland, it’s going to be an even harder task for Arsenal.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back on the treatment table after his horrific clash with Javier Mascherano, while Gabriel Paulista’s back in training after missing the match against Leicester due to a hamstring problem and could have a seat on the bench. Long term injury duo, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are in light fitness programmes and are a few weeks away from making their respective returns.
PREDICTION: Manchester United 0 – Arsenal 1
LIKELY ARSENAL XI: Petr Cech; Nacho Monreal, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Hector Bellerin; Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey; Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Joel Campbell; Olivier Giroud
Arsenal player to watch: Laurent Koscielny – The Frenchman was in amazing form against Barcelona despite the defeat and has been Arsenal’s best defender this season – arguably even the best in the Premier League. He’ll be tasked with manning Marcus Rashford and will also need to pull the same performance that he did against the Spanish champions.
Manchester United player to watch: Marcus Rashford – Little was known about this starlet until the Europa League encounter against FC Midtjylland. For someone so young scoring a double on his debut match – especially if you’re playing for an illustrious club like Manchester United – as well as breaking the club’s 51-year-old record of being the youngest goal scorer speaks volumes of what the teenage sensation will have to offer against Arsenal on Sunday, and for years to come.
Memorable Manchester United vs Arsenal moment: May 8, 2002 – We won the league at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season, and did The Double for the third time in our history – the second one under Arsene Wenger. Enough said!
WHERE TO WATCH: Arsenal UAE’s Dubai branch gathers at Velocity Bar JW Marquis in Business Bay. For Gooners in the capital, the Arsenal UAE Abu Dhabi chapter gather at Harvester’s in Holiday Inn Downtown.
Substitute Leonardo Ulloa scored an 89th-minute winner as Leicester City breathed fresh life into their improbable Premier League title challenge by edging Norwich City 1-0 on Saturday.
Two weeks on from a last-gasp 2-1 defeat at Arsenal, Leicester were on course to drop points again until Ulloa tapped in at the death to send Claudio Ranieri’s side five points clear at the summit.
The Argentine’s goal, only his third of the season, puts the pressure on Leicester’s closest rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, who host Swansea City and visit Manchester United respectively on Sunday.
Norwich’s approach at the King Power Stadium gave Leicester an indication of the puzzles likely to await them over the final 11 matches of a dizzying campaign.
Alex Neil’s visitors lined up with a back three and sat back, forcing Leicester, who had previously averaged just 44 percent of possession in their home league games, to take the initiative.
Thanks, Leo! Five points clear at the top thanks to a big winner from the big man! #LeiNor— Leicester City (@LCFC) February 27, 2016
Marc Albrighton went close for Leicester with a free-kick from wide on the left, but the best chance of the first half fell to Norwich’s Cameron Jerome, who headed inches wide from Robbie Brady’s corner.
Encouraged by Riyad Mahrez, Leicester took hold of the game in the second period, with visiting goalkeeper John Ruddy saving from Jamie Vardy and Albrighton.
Nathan Redmond went close to snatching victory for Norwich when he flashed a shot wide, but the hosts had the last word when Ulloa ghosted in at the back post to apply the finishing touch to Albrighton’s right-wing cross.
Meanwhile, Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea extended their unbeaten run to 11 league games in a 2-1 comeback victory at in-form Southampton, who had won five and drawn one of their previous six league matches.
Southampton took a 42nd-minute lead when Shane Long intercepted Baba Rahman’s header and ran into the box before coolly dinking a shot past Thibaut Courtois.
Home goalkeeper Fraser Forster established a new Southampton top-flight record of 708 minutes without conceding a goal, but he was finally beaten in the 75th minute when he allowed Cesc Fabregas’s cross to beat him.
Branislav Ivanovic headed in an 89th-minute winner from Willian’s corner, lifting Chelsea — who lost Pedro Rodriguez to an early thigh injury — one place to 11th.
The result prevented Southampton from keeping pace with West Ham United, who had moved into fifth place earlier in the day by beating second-bottom Sunderland 1-0.
Michail Antonio settled the game in the 30th by scuttling infield from the right and firing home left-footed, as Slaven Bilic’s men supplanted Manchester United in the Europa League berth.
Marko Arnautovic scored twice as Stoke City won 2-1 at home to bottom club Aston Villa, who replied through Leandro Bacuna, while Watford and Bournemouth drew 0-0 at Vicarage Road.
West Brom defeated Crystal Palace 3-2 at the Hawthorns.
Vincent Kompany has been hurting this season.
The scars of the previous campaign, where Manchester City failed to win a major trophy, were still fresh as the captain’s pain was compounded by injuries that have restricted him to just 12 starts.
But Kompany remains defiant and driven as he bids to lead his team to glory in today’s League Cup final against Liverpool.
“I play for a club that has big expectations and one of those expectations is for me to immediately start putting in performances that are worthy of this team,” says the Belgian, who has been plagued by calf problems.
“I haven’t been eased back in. I have played in some very big games in the last two weeks and this is another huge occasion on Sunday.
“I am fit and focused. My whole life at the moment is about forgetting what has gone before and making sure that this ends up being a successful season for the club. Setbacks are a part of life and I like to think that my nature means I can rise to any challenge.”
It is the same for the club too. While their standing globally has grown, so have expectations since they claimed the FA Cup in 2011, ending a 35-year trophy wait since a League Cup win in 1976.
And Kompany adds: “Last season hurt a lot – and that’s a good thing. This is a club that wants to get into the habit of winning trophies every single year and when that doesn’t happen, you want to feel a big sense of disappointment.
“You want it to hurt. If it hurts, you know you are doing something good. If it doesn’t hurt, then something is rotten.
“When I came to City, the game that all the fans talked about was the Wembley game against Gillingham (in 1999). Winning a Second Division play-off was the biggest thing that many of our fans had seen. I’m not dismissing how important that game was, because it is a big part of who we are and where we have come from.
“But, in the last few years, City fans have lived their dreams. They are now supporting a club that wants to win trophies every single year and are disappointed when it doesn’t happen. That’s a good environment to be in.”
City fans often chant ‘We’re Not Really Here’ and that also reflects their amazing transformation since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan bought them in 2008. Previously invisible, now among Europe’s leading lights.
Kompany joined shortly before the Abu Dhabi takeover. Only Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta have been there as long.
“This is a great period, but this is a club that will never forget where it has been,” he adds, recalling his knowledge of that penalty shoot-out win over Gillingham.
“It is easy to talk about the good times, but it is the bad times that make you strong – and our fans have been through things that supporters of other clubs would only have nightmares about.
“When I came here, I wanted to learn about our history. The players we have now will always be remembered for the things we have won, but what is just as important is to remember what others have also done for the club.
“People like Paul Dickov and the Goat (Shaun Goater) are an important part of our history. You go back a few more years and you get to Mike Summerbee, Tony Book and Colin Bell. Our success doesn’t put those guys in the shadows. If anything it gives them an even more prominent place.
“Globally, it is obvious that people only see the Manchester City of the last six or seven years. They mistakenly see us as a new club. Those people mistake trophies for history. Our fans, the people of Manchester, know that our club has an unbelievably rich history.
“Winning trophies is an absolute must for us now, of course, because of the investment that has been made. But Manchester City isn’t a new club. It’s an old club, with a lot of history, a club that has had a lot of ups and downs.
“That’s why I love City and why I love being the captain. I don’t need other people to tell me what Manchester City means because I feel a part of it.”
Having lifted the Premier League twice, and gained FA Cup and League Cup honours, Kompany is the club’s most successful captain alongside Tony Book, but is he the greatest ever?
“Look, not yet,” he says.
“I am far too ambitious to stop now. I want to win more. I also think that the next City captain will overshadow everything I’ve done or will do because this club is going to achieve seriously great things. What I think this team will be remembered as is the team that brought success back to Manchester City.
“Myself, Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart were there when the rebirth of Manchester City began. No matter what comes in the future, it will all have been built on the platform that we left behind.
“When a player signed for United or Liverpool they would talk about how much they loved the club when they were a kid.
“In recent years, when a player joined Manchester City, it was claimed he had signed for different reasons. Maybe that was the case, but I think that is changing and will change even more quickly in the coming years.
“I talk to the kids at the Academy, and so many of them are local Mancunian lads who are City fans and want to be here for emotional reasons. It’s always more satisfying to be a part of a club when you feel you are playing for something you love, rather than being there just because it’s your job.”
Kompany was among those rested for the 5-1 FA Cup fifth-round loss at Chelsea last weekend, but a full-strength City responded with a 3-1 midweek win at Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
But, having witnessed inconsistent performances that have dented their league title hopes, the skipper warns: “Let’s not make too much out of the win in Kiev.
“Yes, we were very good and it was a huge result for the club, but we need to put a few more performances like that in a row before we can make statements about being at our best. For us, it was a fantastic standard that we would like to reproduce at Wembley and for the rest of the season.”
Wembley, though, can be a lonely place for any losing side as City found out when Wigan upset them in the 2013 FA Cup final. Liverpool have also triumphed in their last two league meetings, including a crushing 4-1 win at the Etihad in November.
But Kompany says: “I don’t live to lose. Losing isn’t even at the back of my mind because I don’t allow negative thoughts.
“Of course, the reality is often very different. But that Wigan defeat was a great example to us that there are no easy games at Wembley.
“I think that playing a big name actually helps us. If anything, a lot of people will be backing Liverpool to win the cup based on the game at the Etihad this season. Every time we play Liverpool we always see the best that Liverpool have. We have to rise to the challenge.”
Victory would also provide boss Manuel Pellegrini with a trophy he craves before he makes way for Pep Guardiola in the summer.
“Winning a trophy would be good for Manuel, it would be good for the players, and it would be good for the club,” says Kompany. “We all want to leave a legacy.”