What: English Premier League
Who: Manchester United vs Arsenal
When: Sunday 28th August, 2011, at 16:00 UK time
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester, England

Sigh of Relief

Premier League title holders Manchester United received a massive boost last weekend with an impressive win over Tottenham Hotspur. After a tricky start to the season at West Brom the week before, United can now continue on the path towards retaining their crown with a good result against a wounded Arsenal.

Largely depleted in defence, Manchester United’s back four against Spurs comprised mostly of second-string players; the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling nonetheless greatly impressed for the side against their London adversaries.

With that in mind, Sir Alex Ferguson stressed that nobody at the club is immune to a spell on the bench, as his first-choice defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic battle respective injury lay-offs: “Rio and Nemanja are aware of the abilities of the young players. There is no question about that. When they are both fit, or one of them is, I will have a decision to make”, said the Red Devils boss.

And Ferdinand is not far away, and could well make a recovery in time to face Arsenal in what became something of a crunch match throughout the 2000s; Ferguson’s selection problems therefore may be arriving sooner than anticipated.

Enjoying a good record against Arsenal of late – United have won four of the last five meetings between the sides – Ferguson’s men start as clear favourites.

New Era

There is no denying that Arsene Wenger is now experiences what looks to be is his toughest season to date at Arsenal. As the Gunners try to adapt to life after Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, “The Professor” will have to think long and hard in order to replace his departing duo, and with few days remaining before the closure of the summer transfer window, time is certainly not on his side.

The shouts for reinforcements have been echoed by most first team players, and new club captain Robin van Persie wasted little time stressing the importance of signing new players in the little time that remains before the end of the month, while reflecting on the club’s fine win away at Udinese in the second leg of their Champions League playoff.

“It’s vital for Arsenal [to sign new players]”, said Van Persie. “Of course we did lose Samir and Cesc which is very hard for us because those are two great players. To come up with that performance in the second half is special. If you look at our team and people did question our mental strength. We’ve shown loads of that.”

And “loads of that” is exactly what the 2004 Premier League champions will need against Manchester United should they want to be taken seriously in the title race.

Recent form

Manchester United:
Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United (07/08; Community Shield)
West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Manchester United (14/08; Premier League)
Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur (22/08; Premier League)

Arsenal 1-0 Udinese
(16/08; Champions League)
Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool (20/08; Premier League)
Udinese 1-2 Arsenal (24/08; Champions League)

Key absences

Manchester United: Rafael; Nemanja Vidic; Rio Ferdinand (doubt)

Arsenal: Laurent Koscielny; Kieran Gibbs; Abou Diaby; Jack Wilshere; Alex Song (suspended); Gervinho (suspended), Emmanuel Frimpong (suspended)

Players to watch

Manchester United – Wayne Rooney: The England international has started the new season looking hungrier than ever and he can prove the biggest threat to the Gunners here. Rooney was sublime for United against Spurs, and could replay his performance against a weakened Arsenal.

Arsenal – Robin van Persie: With Fabregas and Nasri both gone, Van Persie steps up to lead a side over which question marks still linger. The fast Dutchman can be tricky on his day, and will relish a battle against Manchester United’s young defence, and even David de Gea, who is not in the safety zone just yet.

Match Prediction

Given everything the Gunners have been through over the past ten days, it will be surprising to see them get one over their rivals, especially at the Theatre of Dreams. Depleted in the playmaking area and with Jack Wilshere missing through injury, Manchester United will likely come up with all three points and continue their fine start to the season. Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal.

Who will come out on top in this English Premier League clash between Manchester United and Arsenal? Check out OLBG.com where you can put your knowledge to use, find the best bookmakers and see the latest betting odds.