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Arsenal vs. Manchester United match thread: bona fides

The Gunners face another test to demonstrate they are the real deal this season.

Arsenal FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal host Manchester United at the Emirates today in a top of the Premier League table clash worthy of the fixture’s storied, acrimonious history. The Gunners will look to maintain / extend their lead over Manchester City. United will be trying to keep pace with the teams at the top. Both clubs need the full points. A draw isn’t a great result for either. It should be a cracking game.

The Arsenal-United contest earlier in the season felt like a kitchen sink match for Erik ten Hag’s side given their abysmal start to the season. And today’s matchup at the Emirates feels the same for the visitors. There will still be half a season left after today’s match, but an Arsenal win feels as if it would extinguish the faint hopes of a United title challenge lit by their massive win over City last weekend. It’s a bit annoying to catch United at key points of their season, but when you’re top of the Premier League, you’re going to get everyone’s best every time out.

I do not like Manchester United. In fact, I despise them. It’s a different feeling than the one I have for Tottenham, too. The rivalry drives my dislike of Spurs. If I supported a team other than Arsenal, I wouldn’t feel all that strongly about them. I proper hate Manchester United, and I would feel the same way regardless of who I supported. That club and their fans convey a sense of entitlement that is extremely off-putting and makes it easy to hate them.

When Manchester United beat Arsenal 3-1 earlier in the season, the Gunners were without Thomas Partey. Sambi Lokonga started in his spot, which if Partey were out at this point of the season, wouldn’t happen. Mikel Arteta’s squad also had an opening goal wrongly taken off the board by VAR for a “foul” in the buildup committed by Martin Ødegaard. The PGMOL has since admitted the VAR made an error and that the goal should have stood.

I am convinced that Arsenal get at least a draw from the match from 1-0 up. Manchester United scored all three of their goals in transition / on the counter because Arsenal were committing more and more numbers forward to chase the game. That counterattacking threat remains from United and will be on display at the Emirates today. It will be United’s primary play pattern — I expect Arsenal to dictate the play.

Marcus Rashford is in fantastic form for Erik ten Hag. His 8-match scoring streak snapped in the midweek draw against Crystal Palace, but he’s banging in the goals left and right and (obviously) will be looking to get back in the goals column today. He scored two of the goals in the meeting between the two sides earlier this season.

United’s counterattack may be a bit less potent today because Casemiro will miss out through yellow card accumulation suspension. The Brazilian has been integral to United’s turnaround, as important to them as Thomas Partey is to Arsenal. They do many of the same things on the pitch — disrupting the opposing attack, regaining possession, ball progressing — and Casemiro not playing will be a big loss for Erik ten Hag.

Four Arsenal players are on the brink of a yellow card suspension should they be cautioned today: Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey, William Saliba, and Gabriel Magalhaes. If booked, they’ll miss the Everton match in two weeks. If they avoid a booking, the accumulated cards reset after today (the 19th match of the season).

Manchester United will likely be without Anthony Martial and Diogo Dalot, although both are close to returning and might pass fit enough to make the bench. Arsenal will be without Gabriel Jesus and Reiss Nelson, both of whom are out long-term. Mohamed Elneny is likely to miss out with a knee injury of unknown severity picked up in training last week.

Arsenal - Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Partey, Xhaka, Ødegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah

Manchester United - De Gea, Shaw, Martinez, Varane, Wan-Bissaka, McTominay, Eriksen, Bruno, Antony, Rashford, Weghorst

WHAT: Arsenal vs Manchester United
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
WHEN: Sunday, January 22nd, 11:30am EST | 8:30am PST |4:30pm BST
HOW TO WATCH: Broadcast live on the USA Network. Streaming on Peacock.

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