After our north London derby success last weekend, the big games keep coming as an in-form Manchester United visit N5 aiming to close the gap between us and subsequently pull them into title contention.
Erik ten Hag’s team head into this one having won nine games in all competitions before drawing 1-1 with Crystal Palace on Wednesday, with the result moving them into third in the table, eight points behind us.
However Emirates Stadium isn’t a venue they’ve enjoyed playing at in recent years, losing five of the last seven meetings on our turf – a stat we hope to extend as we seek a fourth consecutive clean sheet at the start of a year for only the fourth time in our history.
After a disastrous start to the season that saw embarrassing defeats to Brighton and Brentford, Ten Hag has quietly been turning things around by winning 12 of their last 17 league encounters to climb into the top four and remain in all three cup competitions.
Since the World Cup break, they beat Nottingham Forest, Wolves and Bournemouth, before knocking Everton out of the FA Cup. That was followed by a controversial victory over Manchester City on derby day, atoning for a 6-3 defeat back in October, before they were denied a six-straight league win thanks to Michael Olise’s stoppage-time free-kick in midweek grabbing Palace a point.
This turnaround in fortunes has been powered by the goals of Marcus Rashford, who has scored eight times in his last eight matches.
Michael Cox, writing in the official matchday programme: Ten Hag has used a four-man defence this season, in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shape. In midfield, Casemiro was the most eye-catching summer recruit and at times he has been used in conjunction with two playmakers, but against us, Fred may deputise in his absence.
That could see either Bruno Fernandes or Christian Eriksen fielded wide and asked to drift inside. Antony, a more natural winger, offers a wide range of tricks, while 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho is increasingly an option from the start.
At their best, United move the ball excellently. They’re particularly effective at dragging the opposition towards one side of the pitch, before suddenly switching play to the other flank and attacking into space. Antony’s goal against us at Old Trafford featured four consecutive backwards passes, drawing our press before cutting through the lines. We must be wary of that threat.
What the managers say
Arteta on United: “I think [Ten Hag] turned things around pretty quickly. He has implemented a very clear way of playing. I think the players seem like they’ve bought into it, they have really good energy around the place. And a lot of things have changed in a very short period of time so credit to him and the coaching staff for what they’ve done.
“When you look at the squad that they have, it’s just incredible. The individuals and the collective organisation can beat any opponent in this league.” – hear everything Mikel said in his pre-match press conference
Ten Hag on us: “It’s obvious they are in a really good run, I think they deserve the position where they are now. It’s a really good structure, there’s a really good mentality, winning attitude in the team, and that’s why they are now top of the league.
“You see really good structures in the team and I think that they even improved