The next leg of Arsene Wenger’s farewell tour sees him meet two of his biggest rivals from his time in England when his Arsenal side travel to Old Trafford to take on Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in the Premier League (4.30pm Sunday live on Sky Sports).
The rivalry between Wenger’s Arsenal and Sir Alex Ferguson’s United defined an era in the Premier League. From the late nineties through the early noughts, they shared seven consecutive titles, with the other side also finishing second on five of those occasions.
Mourinho has been a consistent irritant. Arsenal’s 2-0 win at home to Man Utd at the backend of last season was Wenger’s first triumph over Mourinho in league action in 13 attempts. Mourinho’s side responded with a 3-1 win away to Arsenal earlier this season.
It was the arrival of Mourinho at Chelsea in 2004, and the heavy spending that preceded and accompanied it, that signified the end of Arsenal’s most successful years under Wenger. A side who had won three league titles in his first seven full seasons at the helm would not win any more thereafter. While contemporaries such as Ferguson changed their approach and sought new ideas to remain competitive, Wenger remained loyal to his.
The result has been an Arsenal side who have sparkled at times, including en route to their losing appearance in the 2006 Champions League final. They have threatened title challenges on occasion but have generally regressed over time, from first and second-place finishes at the start of his reign, to thirds and fourths, to fifth last season and sixth this time around.
The primary problem this season has been Arsenal’s away form. At home, they have the second best record in the Premier League, having picked up 44 points from 18 matches. Away, they have ninth worst, with just 13 points from 16 matches, comfortably less than half the number of points picked up by any other side in the top six. They just haven’t been able to find a way of competing well on their travels.
The likelihood of them pulling off a victory away to United is therefore remote. Their hosts also have one of the best home records in the league and would actually match Arsenal’s points accumulation if they take all three points on Sunday. While they lost to West Bromwich Albion in their last match at Old Trafford, it is difficult to see that being repeated.
Man Utd have not always dazzled with their style of play this season. Their failure to challenge local rivals Manchester City for the Premier League title seriously or, indeed, put together a strong run in the Champions League has disappointed. However, since the turn of the year, they have recorded home wins over Chelsea and Liverpool, an away triumph at City and victory over Tottenham Hotspur in last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final.
Mourinho’s side are now strongly placed to finish the season in second – a significant improvement on last season’s sixth. If that were to be combined with success in the FA Cup, it would be viewed as a positive campaign despite certain failings and the suspicion that the brilliance of goalkeeper David de Gea has somewhat masked their defensive fragility.
Man Utd have had a full week to prepare for Sunday’s match following the solid display that saw them recover from a goal down to win 2-1 against Tottenham at Wembley. Arsenal come into the match on the back of their 1-1 draw at home to Atletico Madrid on Thursday in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final. With the second leg to come next week, it wouldn’t be surprising if Wenger puts out a partially weakened side this weekend.
Mourinho has certainly not made a habit of losing to Wenger in their time as competitors, and he is unlikely to start doing so now. While it would be nice to think that Wenger is capable of having the final word in a couple of his longest-running rivalries before he departs Arsenal this summer, the truth is that Man Utd are likely to be comfortable victors.
Our Preview’s Man Utd vs Arsenal Betting Tips Verdict
Looking at the plethora of odds from our list of trusted UK bookies, this is the Man Utd v Arsenal betting tip for this match preview:
- Back Manchester United -1.5 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 24/19 (a little better than 5/4) with BetVictor.