MX23RW : Thursday, January 24 13:50:27
May 7, 2017 at 4pm UK at ​Emirates Stadium
Attendance: 60,055
Man UtdManchester United
Xhaka (54'), Welbeck (57')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Preview: Arsenal vs. Manchester United

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester United from the Emirates Stadium.

Sixth will welcome fifth in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon when Arsenal host Manchester United.

Neither Arsene Wenger nor Jose Mourinho will be pleased with their respective positions in the table entering the final run-in, but both teams can still finish in the top four this season.

Man United will seemingly focus on the Europa League rather than the Premier League over the next month, but victory for the Red Devils would leave them firmly in the hunt entering their final three fixtures.


Arsenal fans hold up 'Wenger Out' signs during the Premier League clash with Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on April 17, 2017© SilverHub

For the first time under the stewardship of under-pressure manager Wenger, Arsenal risk the possibility of failing to finish in the top four in the Premier League.

A record of 18 wins, six draws and nine defeats have brought Arsenal 60 Premier League points, with that total leaving them in sixth position in the table – six points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, but with a game in hand.

Victory for the Gunners this weekend would put them right back in the race for a Champions League finish, but even a surge into the top four would seemingly not be enough for the majority of Arsenal fans, who continue to air their displeasure with the direction that the club is heading.

Indeed, the future of head coach Wenger is still undecided, while key players Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are preparing to enter the final 12 months of their contracts, with both believed to be intent on leaving the Emirates this summer.

The Gunners will face Chelsea in the final of the FA Cup later this month, but failure to show any progress in the Champions League - losing in the round of 16 once again - has led to widespread criticism of Wenger, although the Frenchman, who is out of contract this summer, has thus far refused to walk away.

Three wins over Middlesbrough, Man City and Leicester City between April 17 and April 26 boosted confidence, but last weekend's 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur ensured that they would finish behind their bitter rivals in the Premier League for the first time since 1995.

Seventeen points currently separate sixth-placed Arsenal from second-placed Tottenham, while Chelsea are 21 points ahead of the Gunners, which is an indication of just how far the team has fallen in 2017.

Arsenal will enter this weekend's fixture boasting an impressive record at the Emirates this season, however, winning 11 of their 16 matches and suffering just two defeats. It has been a disappointing 2016-17 campaign, but landing the FA Cup and securing a late top-four finish would at least give the supporters something to cheer.

Recent form: DWLWWL
Recent form (all competitions): WLWWWL

Manchester United

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho watches on during his side's EFL Cup final with Southampton at Wembley on February 26, 2017© SilverHub

On Wednesday, Man United boss Mourinho claimed that he would prioritise the Europa League over the Premier League in the final weeks of the season.

Indeed, the Red Devils took a big step towards the Europa League final on Thursday night when they recorded a 1-0 victory in the first leg of their semi-final away to Celta Vigo, setting them up nicely for the return at Old Trafford next week.

Lifting the Europa League title would bring an automatic spot in the group stage of the 2017-18 Champions League, but Man United are still very much in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League entering the final run-in.

Indeed, just one point separates fifth-placed Man United from fourth-placed Man City, while the Red Devils are only four points off third-placed Liverpool, who have played one game more.

It is a tough end to the season for Mourinho's side, however, who will travel to Tottenham Hotspur on May 14, before visiting Southampton three days later. They will finish at home to relegation-threatened Crystal Palace on May 21, but the top four could have already been decided by the time that match rolls around.

Man United have drawn 10 of their 18 Premier League games at Old Trafford this season – which has cost them the chance to consolidate a spot in the top four – but they have an impressive away record.

Only Chelsea (39) and Man City (35) have collected more away points than Man United (34) this season, with the Red Devils winning 10 of their 16 fixtures, suffering just two defeats in the process.

No team has lost fewer Premier League games than Man United (3) this season, but no team has drawn more (14). Mourinho does seem to be putting together something potentially special at Old Trafford, but defeat at the Emirates this weekend might well end their hopes of a top-four finish this season.

Finishing fifth and winning the Europa League would be seen as a successful finish to the season, but missing out on the top four, in addition to failing to land the Europa would be a disaster for the 20-time English champions.

Recent form: DWWWDD
Recent form (all competitions): WWWDDW

Team News

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney in action during the Premier League clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 15, 2017© SilverHub

Wenger is expected to make changes from the defeat to Tottenham last weekend, and the return to fitness of Shkodran Mustafi could see a return to a 4-3-3 formation, with Hector Bellerin also coming into the back four.

Granit Xhaka is unavailable after suffering a calf injury against Spurs, which could open up a spot in central midfield for Francis Coquelin, while Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck are also pushing for inclusions in the final third.

Olivier Giroud and Alex Iwobi are also options for Wenger as part of a front four, although Welbeck's pace is expected to be preferred against his former club.

As for Man United, Mourinho is expected to make wholesale changes following Thursday's Europa League semi-final first leg away to Celta.

Marouane Fellaini will miss out through suspension, while Ashley Young is a doubt after picking up an injury in the latter stages of the clash in Vigo.

Marcus Rashford also picked up a problem during the European tie, and it is unlikely that the England international will be risked ahead of the second leg at Old Trafford next week.

Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are in line for starts after recovering from a knee injury and toe injury respectively, while Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata are also pushing for spots as Mourinho prepares to rotate once again.

Arsenal possible starting lineup:
Cech; Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Coquelin; Walcott, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck

Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Blind; Carrick, Herrera, Pogba; Martial, Rooney, Mata

Head To Head

Sunday will bring the 225th meeting between Arsenal and Man United in all competitions, and it is the Red Devils that lead the head-to-head 96 wins to Arsenal's 81, while the remaining 47 fixtures have finished level.

Incredibly, Arsenal's 3-0 victory over Man United in the corresponding fixture last season was the London club's only win in 11 Premier League attempts against the 20-time English champions – losing six times in the process.

Man United's last league win over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium was in November 2014, although the points were shared in a 1-1 draw when the pair met at Old Trafford earlier this season.

Should Arsenal triumph this weekend, it would be the first time since November 2001 that Man United have lost consecutive Premier League away games against the Gunners.

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We say: Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United

Had Man United been involved in a difficult European tie on Thursday night, backing Arsenal would have been the sensible call. The Red Devils were far superior to Celta, however, and not too many were forced to overexert themselves against the La Liga side.

Mourinho, who will make wholesale changes to his XI, knows what it takes to pick up results on the road, and we are backing the master tactician to grind out a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium.

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Who will win Sunday's Premier League clash at the Emirates Stadium?

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Luke Shaw is substituted in Manchester United's match against Sunderland on April 9, 2017
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