Manchester United not taking wounded Arsenal for granted
The past few weeks have not been kind to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side, with the Gunners losing to promoted Stoke City and being held to draws against Tottenham and Fenerbahce.
To make matter worse, the London side will be entering Saturday’s contest against Manchester United without the services of Emmanuel Adebayor (ankle) and Emmanuel Eboue (knee), while Robin van Persie is out through suspension and Mikael Silvestre (nose), William Gallas (hamstring), Bacary Sagna (ankle) and Theo Walcott (shoulder) are each struggling with injuries and will be late fitness checks.
Wenger has started to feel a little bit of heat around the Emirates Stadium with his team’s recent lack of form, but the boss does not believe that his team enters Saturday’s encounter as underdogs.
“I don’t feel we are underdogs at all,” Wenger said at a pre-match press conference on Friday. “I go into this game with the desire to win it and that’s all the belief I have.”
The Gunners currently sit six points behind joint-leaders Chelsea and Liverpool, and one point back of United, but Wenger refuses to label the game as a “must-win” and thinks that his club has the potential to climb right back into the race.
“It depends how many games the other contenders lose,” said Wenger. “I believe in my team and I’m very proud of the job I’m doing as well even if at the moment we are not as good as I want them to be. There is no alarming sign of the team not having the potential.”
United will be without defender Wes Brown (ankle), but Gary Neville is expected to take his place, while midfielder Darren Fletcher (knee) is doubtful to take part in the game.
However, the team is more focused on leaving the Emirates with three points after conceding late goals to Arsenal in the past two years.
The Red Devils yielded two goals in the final 10 minutes two years ago to lose 2-1, while they conceded a goal to William Gallas in the dying seconds last year that forced the team to settle for a 2-2 draw.
“We’ve thrown away some points there in the last two seasons, despite them being really good games,” United striker Wayne Rooney told the club’s official website. “I think we should have maybe won at least one of them.”
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson is also a bit irritated at the two late goals in the team’s loss two years ago.
“We’ve thrown points away,” Ferguson said. “We were 1-0 up with six minutes to go and ended up losing it two years ago. That’s crazy.”
Ferguson is fully aware of Arsenal’s struggles in recent matches, but he has seen too many United-Arsenal games to think this one will be easy.
“If you think we’re going there thinking it will be easy because they have players out, you’re wrong,” said Ferguson. “This will be as tough as it always is. Look at United-Arsenal games, they’re always very competitive, played at great speed and high on emotion.”
Chelsea leads the league on goal difference ahead of Liverpool and the Blues travel to Ewood Park to meet Blackburn on Sunday, while Rafael Benitez and his Liverpool side host relegation-battling West Bromwich.
Stoke City has moved two points clear of the drop zone after their win over Arsenal, and they meet a Wigan side that is clear of relegation on just goal difference.
Bolton is third from the bottom and travels to surprising Hull City, Sunderland hosts Portsmouth, Everton invades West Ham, Aston Villa tries to rebound from a defeat to Newcastle when the Villains host Middlesbrough, Tottenham sits on the bottom of the table but the team has earned seven points from its last three games and visits Manchester City, while Newcastle travels to Fulham having won two straight.
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