When Manchester United and Arsenal collide, you just know it will be special. And as a Christmas present that comes with this year’s fixture, everyone has something to say concerning the top-of-the-table clash between the Red Devils and The Gunners.
The Red Devils currently stand second in the rankings, and are hoping the presence of their home fans will prove to be a boost. A vital game for both bragging-rights and to take charge at the summit of the Premier League, Manchester United players and manager Sir Alex Ferguson believe this game is vital.
1) Sir Alex Ferguson:
The Manchester United gaffer expects Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, and Paul Scholes to feature in the clash with the Londoners.
-Rio Ferdinand suffered from a tight-hamstring in the recent clash with Valencia in the Champions League, and had to be removed after just 5 minutes into the second half. But Ferguson is sure Rio will be just fine for the game on Monday, and United fans will be hoping Rio will partner with Nemanja Vidic in the heart of the defence.
-Patrice Evra was rested in midweek against Valencia, and is sure to feature against Arsenal, with no injury problems surrounding the Frenchman, excpept a slight knock he suffered earlier this week.
-Paul Scholes was sidelined due to a groin injury picked up in the victory over Rangers last month, but the gaffer revealed that he has resumed training.
Ferguson told reporters:
“We’re quite confident everyone will be fit for Monday night, I think particularly Rio will be ok.”.
“Paul Scholes started training yesterday which is good news – we’re hopeful we’ll have him for Monday.”
“Wes Brown and Jonny Evans both had touches of that virus or flu which has been going around a bit. They both started training yesterday, so we’re not so bad.”
“Patrice Evra will be fit, he trained yesterday – full training – so it’s good to have everyone available for such a massive game.”
“Michael [Owen] is back training now, he’s been training for quite a few days now, but what we’re going to do with Michael is give him a good two week, three week intense work so that we’re quite confident that when he does come back he’ll stay back.”
2) Patrice Evra:
The Manchester United left-black slammed Arsenal with the tag “training-centre”, as he believes that Arsenal play and play, but in the end, they go out empty-handed.
It’s been 5 years since Arsenal have lifted silverware, and Arsene Wenger is looking to win the League Cup this year as it seems, knowing that Arsenal are considered to be the best in the semi-finals, and with Wenger playing his stars to secure victory.
Patrice Evra said to Canal+:
“Arsenal, a big club like that, have won nothing for five years. For me, it’s a crisis, it’s ridiculous.
“People get knocked out by Arsenal’s play, but in the end, what is there? There’s nothing. No trophies, nothing.”
However, Evra believes the Red Devils always enjoy playing Arsenal, and this game will be no different.
“We really enjoy playing Arsenal – they don’t play with 11 at the back. Difference is that we play football, but we also have power.”
3) Park Ji-Sung:
The Korean is relishing the Arsenal game, as he believes Arsenal are one of the elite clubs in Europe. Park has been hot form, scoring goals and providing assists both domestically and continentally, as expectations are sky-high.
“Everyone’s expectations are high (for the Arsenal game).”
“It’s a great game for the Barclays Premier League and it’s at Old Trafford, our home.”
“We have the chance to keep the winning mood. This season has a long way to go so we have to concentrate on the next game, every single match.”
“We can deal with these important games but we have to prepare well. I always enjoy playing against the big teams. Arsenal is one of them so I’m waiting for it.”
Park feels he is very confident following the goals he’s scored and assists he’s supplied, but knows that he should do more to help the team continue this good run.
“I’m happy with my performances and I’ve scored a few goals. But I need to score more, to give me more confidence.”
The Gunners are the leaders of the Premier League as it stands, and the Londoners will be hoping the good form they’ve been going through will help them in the visit of The Theatre Of Dreams.
1) Arsene Wenger:
The Arsenal manager has had his thoughts on what Patrice Evra slammed on him, as Wenger believes top players should respect their opponents, claiming he deserves the respect because he respects everyone.
“Personally, I believe if you are a big player you always respect your opponent and that is what we try to do.” “He gave some good stuff to make it all hot before the game. We are guided by the way we want to play football and not by the statements of anybody who plays against us.”
“We do not want to go into any unneeded talking before a game like that. We want to focus on the way we want to play and ignore any provocation before a game. We are motivated by the desire to win and by the quality of the football we want to play.”
Wenger also discussed his injury list with Cesc Fabregas(back problem) still an uncertainty for Monday evening. Kieran Gibbs (ankle problem) is also out for what is said to be 3 weeks, with Gael Clichy approaching top condition following an illness. Djourou is also expected to be available for selection after healing from a thigh problem.
“We could have Cesc Fabregas [back]. But there is a big uncertainty if he can be in the squad or not. That will be decided very late.”
“We have lost Kieran Gibbs from Wednesday night but he should be the only one. We think today that he will be out for three weeks.”
“I am very disappointed [about it]. I hope it will not put in his mind that he is an injured player. It was just an accident and you cannot do anything about it. Time will help him get over that and it is not major damage in his ankle.”
“We should have [Gael] back [for Monday]. He was in today. He was very weak still but we hope he will progress well.”
“We could have Johan Djourou available for Monday night. He should be fine.”
2) Theo Walcott:
The 21 year-old winger urges his team-mates to go onto the Old Trafford pitch with “no fear”, as he believes Arsenal are ready to battle Manchester United for the victory. Theo believes United are not at their best, and is hoping to see Arsenal take advantage of this.
Walcott told The Sun:
“We must go to Old Trafford and play without fear.”
“We must enjoy ourselves and express ourselves, then our best performance will come out.”
“United are not playing their best but are still there. They haven’t lost.”
“Hopefully, we won’t catch them on a good day because, right now, they are not playing well but are still second in the league.”
“Our away form in the league is fantastic at the moment. We find it quite comfortable.”
“This is another test for us – a big test – but we did it at Manchester City and, hopefully, can do it up there again.”
“We hardly picked up any points against the bigger clubs last season but, this term, everyone is beating each other and matches can go either way. And the way we are playing away from home, we can beat anyone.”
The young Englishman has never started against Manchester United in Old Trafford, and he also hopes to get the nod for a start following an impressive performance in midweek.
“Being 21, I want to be starting games. I want to show the boss what I can do and he probably has a headache for Monday’s game.
“So fingers crossed, I can look forward to it – as these are the games you always want to play in.”
“I’ve never started at Old Trafford so it would be another milestone for me. We need to get something there.”
EXPECTED STARTING XI:
Edwin van der Sar
Rafael Da Silva – Rio Ferdinand – Nemanja Vidic – Patrice Evra
Nani – Darren Fletcher – Paul Scholes – Ryan Giggs
Wayne Rooney – Dimitar Berbatov
Bacary Sagna – Sebastien Squillaci – Laurent Koscielny – Gael Clichy
Cesc Fabregas – Alexandre Song – Samir Nasri
Marouane Chamakh – Robin van Persie – Andrey Arshavin