After the international hiatus, many football fans will be relieved to welcome the return of the Premier League. It is not a bad game to kick things off again as Arsenal travel to Old Trafford to take on sixth place Manchester United in the early 12:30pm fixture live on Sky Sports.
Arsenal were held to a 1-1 draw in the North London derby last time out as Harry Kane’s penalty cancelled out Kevin Wimmer’s first half own goal. Meanwhile, United gained a much needed three points with a comfortable win away to struggling Swansea where Paul Pogba scored a cracker and Ibrahimovic ended his goal draught with a brace.
The rivalry between these two clubs has softened in recent years since Roy Keane and Patrick Vieria left both clubs. Arsenal struggled to challenge after the break up of the invincibles team as United reached new heights under Ferguson. Since Fergie’s retirement its been downhill for United as David Moyes and Louis van Gaal both tried and failed to bring the club back to the top of English football. The task has fallen now to Jose Mourinho.
The infamous Mourinho and Wenger hatred of each other is sure to add some spice to this game. Both teams could also do with a big win, particularly Mourinho’s men in order to close the gap to the top four but this fixture is also a huge test of Arsenal’s title credentials.
Last season, they went to Old Trafford expecting to win against a weakened United side but Rashford’s two goals helped condemn Arsenal to a surprise 3-2 defeat and derailed their title aspirations. Even at this early stage, Arsenal need to set it right.
In terms of team news, Hector Bellerin has been ruled out for up to four weeks for the Gunners while Arsenal supporters will be hopeful star man Alexis Sanchez is fit and raring to go. For Mourinho, United will be without the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It will be intriguing to see who starts up front instead of the big Swede.
Wayne Rooney’s place could be in doubt due to the well publicized story of his late night partying last weekend with which Mourinho is believed to be furious with. This could present the opportunity for Marcus Rashford to start in his favorite striking position rather than being out on the wing.
In order to assess the strength of both sides squads, here is a potential best combined IX if all were fit and available.
David De Gea
The Spanish shot stopper edges out Petr Cech here. The best piece of transfer business for United has been miraculously holding on to their prized asset from the clutches of Real Madrid. People have criticized De Gea for some of the goals conceded this season but that is down to a very shaky defence which got cruelly exposed against Chelsea.
Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Luke Shaw
Arsenal have looked a more solid defensive unit than a Mourinho team and that is something that nobody would expect. In the opening game of the season, Liverpool put four past the Gunners rearguard at the Emirates but the signing of Mustafi has helped tighten things up since and he has formed a promising partnership with Koscielny.
Eric Bailly does look like a promising acquisition for United though and they will look to get him and Smalling back as soon as possible. Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo is not the safest defensive pairing. Barcelona target Bellerin will be a big loss for Arsenal as he is one of the best full backs in Europe. Shaw has been perhaps unfairly publicly left hung out to dry by Mourinho but if he can keep himself fit, he is an excellent left back.
Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera
Both teams possess a wealth of options in midfield but individually, these two United men are the best midfielders. Pogba arrived with a massive price tag on his head and has been ridiculed already by many people. Let’s be honest, Pogba was never worth £89m in the first place but that is not his fault. It is easy to forget he is just 23 years of age and it will take him time to settle. There is no doubt he is a brilliant player and a magnificent athlete. He has floated in and out of games and has not stamped his authority in a game yet but he has not done bad either.
Anybody who has watched Pogba this season will agree he has shown flashes of what he can do through his passing range and goal scoring. Pogba has become a very influential player for France scoring big goals in recent World Cup Qualifiers. Fan favorite Ander Herrera adds invention and energy to the midfield as well as some nasty aggression as Eric Dier found out during the week.
Juan Mata, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez
Any team with this attacking trio would be almost unstoppable. These three players guarantee a limitless supply of goals and assists. Mata is United’s most creative player and they are a better team when he plays. Ozil is the king of assists while Sanchez is one of the most exciting players in world football. This is the strongest part of the pitch in this combined XI.
The 35-year-old has struggled in games this season but nobody can deny his pedigree and as he proved against Swansea, if the chances keep coming, it is only a matter of time before he finds the back of the net. United will miss him but Rashford up front can cause Arsenal problems with his pace and movement. However, Ibra forms the spearhead of a very strong looking XI.
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