By Toyin Akiode
As Arsenal battles Mourinho’s Manchester United on Sunday at the Emirates, an unfamiliar sense of reality will be up in the air – both teams are not competing to win the league!
Similarly, they are off a pace or two in the battle for Champions League places.
Except that Manchester United could make it through another route if they manage to win the Europa league. No one can bet against them doing that with the fantastic result they obtained in Spain away to Celta Vigo in the first leg of the semifinals.
Wenger has not managed to beat Mourinho in the Premier League. In 11 league matches, six were drawn and Mourinho won the remaining five. It is a dreadful head to head record to say the least!
It will take a miracle and total collapse of both Manchester clubs and Liverpool for Arsenal to qualify for the Champions League.
Manchester United are in fifth on 65 points while Arsenal are sixth with 60 and a game in hand. It is certainly not looking very bright for Wenger and his Gunners!
The Manchester United manager presided over a narrow Europa League semi-final first leg win over Celta Vigo on Thursday and believes winning that competition represents his side’s best chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season.
United remain in contention for a top four finish – they currently sit just a point behind Manchester City – but with trips to Arsenal and Tottenham to come during the run-in, Mourinho has made the Europa League his clear priority.
The Special One will be protecting a proud unbeaten Premier League record against Arsene Wenger when his side travels to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, but he is ready to jeopardize that to ensure his team are fresh for Thursday’s second leg against the Spanish side at Old Trafford.
Despite Mourinho’s sentiments, he will be more than happy to get another win over his bitter rival, Wenger.
- Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over United at the Emirates last season is their only win in 11 Premier League games against them (D4 L6).
- United haven’t lost consecutive away Premier League games against Arsenal since November 2001.
- Alexis Sanchez is two goals away from scoring his 50th Premier League goal for Arsenal, becoming the 8th player to do this for the Gunners.
- Sanchez needs just one goal to register his best-ever return from a single campaign in Europe’s big five leagues (currently on 19, tied with 2013/14 for Barcelona). However, just six of his league goals have come at home this season in the Premier League (32%) despite playing at the Emirates on 16 occasions in 2016-17.
- Wayne Rooney has scored more Premier League goals against Arsenal than any other player in Premier League history (11).
- This will be Arsene Wenger’s 58th match as Arsenal manager against United in all competitions. It’s the side the Frenchman has faced most often with the Gunners, but also the side he’s got the lowest win rate against (29% – minimum of 15 games).
Not much will change in past Wenger – Mourinho match-up. Arsenal will usually hold the larger percentage of possession but end up conceding silly goals to lighting fast counters from the Portuguese teams.
There are many dimensions that command heightened interest in this encounter.
Will Mourinho overstretch his playing personnel by committing his big stars on Sunday rather than sacrificing this match to fully focus on the Europa competition?
Is it expecting too much to even think that Arsenal will be able to beat a potential second string Manchester United team that could be put up buy Mourinho?
How will Mourinho react to a possible defeat of Manchester City by Crystal Palace? One can only try but the answers are so difficult to obtain.
One thing is certain; Arsenal won’t play with handbrakes at the Emirates. This s may play very well into the hands of Manchester United.
However, on a good day and at the Emirates, Arsenal should be able to beat any opposition and that includes Manchester United!