We are almost nearing the end to a banausic international break and the attention is already beginning to shift to the Premier League, particularly the much awaited, the delectable Manchester United Vs Arsenal, featuring the best of rivals in Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, which is bad news for you-know-who, and even more so considering the fixture is at the Old Trafford. Quite a grim reading if you’re an Arsenal fan.
Apart from the fact that Arsenal have the uphill task of overcoming their age-old Old Trafford hoodoo, the fixture falls in one of their unfavourable periods, the Niveous November and that too against a manager whom Arsene Wenger has failed to beat in the Premier League. The title race being as tight as it is, it’ll surely be frustrating if the Gunners were to fail to beat the Reds, having already drawn against Tottenham Hotspur in a hard-fought North-London Derby.
They could have been top of the table but instead, they currently sit fourth in the table (albeit with a minimal difference separating them and leaders Liverpool), making it even more important to get a win against Manchester United who have mostly been firing blanks all season.
However, it’s not just the standings that make the away trip to Manchester United as crucial as getting over a mental barrier does. Arsenal have a variety of bad memories from their visits to the Old Trafford, the most recent one being the 3-2 defeat at a time when Louis Van Gaal’s side couldn’t have managed a win against a Championship side. As good as Marcus Rashford was that afternoon, it was the pressure of just playing there more than anything that resulted in Arsenal’s undoing. The defeat effectively ended the North Londoners’ title hopes.
This time around, the story is just about the same for both the sides – Arsenal are among the title contenders while Manchester United are still trying to find out what they are up to. Where the difference lies is the intensity of the fixture, particularly for Arsene Wenger, whose side does have a point to prove to themselves and the rest of the clubs who are in contention.
No matter how bad does any Manchester United side play, if you can beat them away from home under the enormous pressure that the Mancunians put you under, it gives a lot of confidence to the players and the ambitions that have been set for the season. There’s something about getting a win at Old Trafford that you don’t quite experience anywhere else (maybe Anfield). Ask Arsene Wenger about his early days at the venue and he’ll tell you what it actually means.
And since the Arsenal Boss is familiar with the consequences of beating Manchester United away, he’ll know that his team must excel the Old Trafford challenge – and he the Jose challenge – to be taken seriously as the defining period edges closer.