With the (mostly) tedious round of international fixtures thankfully over and done with, a welcome return to the Premier League beckons as Manchester United and Arsenal kick off the bill in fine style on Saturday.
Formerly the bitterest of enemies in their annual tussle for top division supremacy, it is fair to say that this once-fierce rivalry has gone off the boil in recent seasons – but that looks set to change this weekend as old hostilities are resumed between Arsene Wenger and newly-appointed Red Devils manager, Jose Mourinho.
There’s certainly no love lost between the pair, with Mourinho memorably branding his opposite number a “voyeur” after the Frenchman’s comments on what he perceived to be a negative Chelsea side in the 2005 season. Wenger allegedly considered legal action before responding with a withering put-down of his own.
“He’s out of order, disconnected with reality and disrespectful,” the long-standing Arsenal manager said in riposte to what he deemed to be one personal attack too many from his venomous Portuguese opponent. “When you give success to stupid people, it makes them more stupid sometimes and not more intelligent.”
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Although there have been numerous other flare-ups between the pair over the years, both Mourinho and Wenger will surely prefer that their teams do the talking for them on the pitch this Saturday – and the bad news for the visitors is that the statistics make for grim reading as far as an away win is concerned.
Not only do the Gunners have an abysmal record at Old Trafford in recent years, but Wenger is also winless against his opposite number in 13 attempts; with Mourinho drawing six of the pair’s competitive meetings and winning the remaining seven, including a notable 6-0 demolition at Stamford Bridge in March 2014.
That being said, a stuttering start to life as Manchester United boss means that the bookmakers think there is little to choose between the two teams on this occasion, with United seen as narrow favourites at 31/20 by William Hill, and Arsenal not far behind at 23/10 with Sky Bet. The draw, meanwhile, is available at a best price of 19/10 with Bet Victor, meaning no one is entirely sure what to expect from Saturday’s early kick-off.
No PL Audition For Ibrahimovic
One thing that is for certain, however, is that Mourinho’s men will be without the services of talismanic centre-forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who misses the match due to suspension. With the big Swede being responsible for six of United’s 16 Premier League goals so far, this naturally leaves something of a void in the first scorer market, with Olivier Giroud surprisingly seen as the man most likely at 11/2 with Sky Bet.
With the French striker being mostly confined to the role of substitute this season, it seems an erroneous price when you consider that Alexis Sanchez is likely to retain his position up front for the Gunners. The Chilean returned from injury to score twice against Uruguay during the international break and is seen as a 13/2 shot with William Hill to break the deadlock here, with teammate Theo Walcott also available at 8/1.
For the home side, meanwhile, Marcus Rashford is the 6/1 favourite with Coral, but there might be more value to be had in Unibet’s 7/1 quote on Wayne Rooney doubling his tally for the season. True, the United skipper has been far from convincing in recent months, but with 14 career goals against Arsenal to date, it would certainly be fitting if an old constant decided the latest meeting between these two evolving teams.
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