What: English Premier League
Who: Manchester United (2nd; 31 points) vs Arsenal (1st; 32 points)
When: Monday 13th December, 2010, at 20:00 UK time
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester, England

Out For First

A classic battle of English football, Manchester United play host to Arsenal at the Theatre of Dreams knowing that the Gunners will go into the game as table leaders. However, with the Red Devils themselves in fine form recently, Sir Alex Ferguson and his team will very much fancy their chances of clinching first place ahead of their London foes.

The war of words has already begun between the two clubs ahead of this much anticipated confrontation, with Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra branding Arsenal a “training centre” in reference to the Londoners’ failure to win any major silverware over the past five years. This statement wasn’t received with great joy by Arsène Wenger, who chose to ignore his countryman’s remarks: “We want to focus on the way we want to play and ignore any provocation before a game", said the Frenchman.

One man that who is making sure not to belitte Arsenal’s threat is winger Nani. The wide-man highlighted the strength of their rivals, singling out Samir Nasri as the metronome behind The Gunners’ good results of late, saying: "Nasri is the most important player in the Arsenal team. He is a very big danger for us and we have to take care of him."


Arsenal for their part go into this fixture with one objective in mind, and that is consolidating their stance as leaders of the English Premier League. With Manchester United having a game in hand, a win over the Mancunians would nullify the effect of the game in question. Add to that the much awaited meeting between United and Chelsea next weekend and the odds suddenly favour the 2004 champions stretching the gap.

It must be said that Arsenal have been on a very good run of late. A series of domestic wins meant that the capital club topped the chart last week with a win over local rivals Fulham. However, they face their greatest threat so far here, and will be certainly be hoping that club captain Cesc Fabregas will be match fit in time for the clash. Should that fail to be the case, then Samir Nasri will have to step up and be Arsenal’s go-to-guy, a role he has filled admirably in recent games.

Indeed, much has been said lately about Nasri, who seems to have finally slotted into the French national team next to Bordeaux star Yohan Gourcuff. France coach Laurent Blanc recently proclaimed the youngster as his country’s finest player, saying that he could very well be the man that will guide Les Bleus back to winning ways: “Right now, he’s on a cloud. Before, he played more laterally, today, he goes towards the goal and we see the results. He can play on one side, in the middle, further forward.”


Recent form

Manchester United:
Manchester United 7-1 Blackburn Rovers (27/11; Premier League)
West Ham 4-0 Manchester United (30/11; League Cup)
Manchester United 1-1 Valencia (07/12; Champions League)

Arsenal 2-0 Wigan Athletic (30/11; League Cup)
Arsenal 2-1 Fulham (04/11; English Premier League)
Arsenal 3-1 Partizan (08/12; Champions League)

Key absences

Manchester United: Jonny Evans (doubt); Wes Brown (doubt); Antonio Valencia; Michael Owen; Owen Hargreaves; Paul Scholes (doubt)

Arsenal: Cesc Fabregas (doubt); Thomas Vermaelen; Johan Djourou; Kieran Gibbs

Players to watch

Manchester United – Dimitar Berbatov: The Bulgarian has continued his excellent Premier League form this season, ramming home his importance with five goals against Blackburn Rovers recently in what turned out to be a seven-goal drubbing. While another similar feat against Arsenal looks practically impossible, Berbatov is still expected to make his presence felt nonetheless.

Arsenal – Samir Nasri: The centre of much of Arsenal’s fine recent play, Nasri’s stock as an important member of the team’s backbone is growing stronger by the game. Having had a terrific run against the likes of Fulham and Partizan Belgrade, a strong showing against United would definitely confirm his star status. And should Fabregas miss out, the Frenchman will be more important than ever.

Match prediction

Sparks will certainly fly as two clubs who have shared a fierce rivalry in recent years meet. Both teams go into the game in decent enough form, and both will be vying for all three points that will ensure them the league’s lead. United have home advantage, and are slight favorites for this one, but that could prove to be meaningless should Arsenal grasp the match’s proceedings from the start. Expect Ferguson’s men to grab a slight victory though. 2-1 Man Utd.