EPL: Time for Manchester United to deliver now
Old Trafford: Arsene Wenger has stressed the importance of avoiding a Champions League play-off spot as Arsenal visit Manchester United in the Premier League. Wenger’s men travel to Old Trafford today knowing that a first away league win at United since 2006 would see them secure a top-three finish ahead of Louis van Gaal’s side.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger talks to his players during the FA Cup semi-final last month. Pic/Getty Images
Arsenal, who will take heart from triumphing 2-1 at United in the FA Cup in March, have contested a play-off in seven of their last nine Champions League campaigns and squeaked through 1-0 on aggregate against Besiktas at the start of 2014-15. Victory over United would see them seal direct qualification for the group stages. And Wenger told the press: “It’s very important for your season preparations to not have that kind of stress (about the Champions League qualifier) over your head from the first day you start again -- it's vital.
Arsenal are two points clear of fourth-placed United and have a game in hand, despite Louis van Gaal’s men defeating Crystal Palace 2-1 last time out. Only a huge swing in goal difference could see United miss out on the top four due to their six-point advantage over Liverpool with two games left and Van Gaal’s men appear well set to challenge for the title next season following the signing of forward Memphis Depay earlier in May.
In the build-up to the clash, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward stated that he was satisfied with United’s season and expects more progress in 2015-16. “I and the board said the goal was to get in the first four positions and we have reached that two games before the end of the season,” Van Gaal told reporters.
“It’s not bad, I think. But it’s also dependable on how we can make a balance in our selection. It’s not good that I have had to change positions of players because players are injured.”
Van Persie fit to play
Robin van Persie is fit to feature, though, as the Dutchman has shaken off a virus in time to face his former club, while Di Maria and Marcos have both been passed fit.
Meanwhile Arsenal, are still without former United striker Danny Welbece, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mathieu Debuchy but Aaron Ramsey.
>> Manchester United are unbeaten in seven home league meetings with Arsenal (W6 D1), since a 1-0 defeat in September 2006.
>> Arsenal have lost nine of their last 11 games against Man United at Old Trafford in all competitions (W1 D1), though that win came in the FA Cup this season.
>> Wayne Rooney has 11 goals against Arsenal in the Premier League. Only against Aston Villa (13) and Newcastle (12) does he have more.