The much-anticipated arrival of Ralf Rangnick has been completed at Manchester United, with the German boss joining the Old Trafford-based club on an interim role. However, he will not be at the helm of things on Thursday night to oversee the fixture against Arsenal, as he is yet to receive his work visa from the British government.
This means Michael Carrick will be in charge for another game, and there is a possibility he could get a fourth game in charge against Crystal Palace if Rangnick’s work visa isn’t stamped by Saturday. The former United midfielder, who had plenty of memorable duels with Mikel Arteta during their playing days, will be up against the Arsenal unit who haven’t lost to Manchester United in over two years.
Arsenal were off to a terrible start this season, losing their opening three games to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City. But after that, the Gunners picked up some form after the arrival of Aaron Ramsdale, and have looked a much-stronger unit defensively.
Since losing to City 5-0, Arsenal have won seven games, lost once, and drew twice. They were nine points adrift of United at one point in the league, and currently, they are five points ahead of the 20-time champions.
The Red Devils have been struggling to make a living on home turf, taking just one point in their last four fixtures, and scoring just once against Everton. This run includes defeats to Aston Villa, Liverpool and Manchester City. However, things seemed to have taken a turn for the good since the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who picked up two positive results in the two games Carrick was the caretaker.
Having picked up a 2-0 win at Villarreal that sealed their place in the round of 16 of the Champions League, United nearly had a lucky win at Stamford Bridge but will consider themselves incredibly fortunate to even grab that one point, which came courtesy of Jadon Sancho’s first Premier League goal.
Both sides have their European ambitions for the next season at stake going into this fixture, although it is quite early to say their fate resides entirely on this as it is just game week 14.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been scoring some pivotal goals for the club in the Champions League, and has done a decent job thus far, bagging four goals in the league. He is yet to get on the scoresheet since scoring at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. He continues to be their talisman, and having started on the bench against Chelsea he is bound to start on the field this time.
Jadon Sancho, who did not make a goal contribution in his entire time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer despite showing some flashes of brilliance, finally got his first goal at the club against Villarreal, and followed it up with a second a few days later against Chelsea. He has looked threatening, and will be a cause of concern for Arsenal.
Aaron Ramsdale is enjoying the time of his life since moving to Arsenal. The former Bournemouth goalkeeper has made some stunning saves, and kept six clean sheets since getting started with the Gunners. Only Jose Sa among the top six clubs has made more saves than him, and he might cause some headaches for the United frontmen.
Emile Smith-Rowe was handed the club’s number 10 jersey after the departure of Mesut Ozil, and has proven himself to be immense for the side. He has made 6 goal contributions in the league, where he scored 4 times and assisted twice. He has been creating a lot of chances going forward as well, making him a player to watch out for in the Arsenal mix.
Martin Odegaard returned after a brief spell away due to an injury, and replaced Lacazette in the playing XI last game. He was instrumental in driving the Gunners forward in their 2-0 win over Newcastle United, playing a part in the build-up to both goals. The Norwegian scored just one goal this season, which was through a brilliant freekick but has shown some flashes of brilliance for Arteta to give him a start once again.
It looks like a game where both teams cannot afford to drop points, but at the same time, neither would be disappointed to take one point each. That mindset could be palpable in their approach, which could be a bit conservative. Arsenal registered their first win at Old Trafford in the Premier League since 2006, and they had approached this game with a great amount of caution as well.
Both sides will be desperate to not concede than eager to score, and not many can blame the managers for thinking so. We could be heading in for a stalemate at Old Trafford, with Arsenal continuing their unbeaten run against the Red Devils.
Match Prediction: Manchester United 1 – 1 Arsenal