Manchester United (Old Trafford, Manchester)
FA Cup 5th Round
Saturday 16th February 2008
Kick Off: 5.15pm – Live On BBC 1
It’s the game we’ve all been waiting for ever since the draw was made.
And while this is a massive game, you wonder if failing to progress into the next round is actually that important when you look at the bigger picture.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love nothing more than to beat the Mancs on their home ground good and proper – but all I’m saying is a defeat is far from disasterous.
Obviously, whoever wins will have bragging rights and will be praised in the media but if I had to chose a game to win and a game to lose, I would take the 3 points in the Premier League fixture over the FA Cup tie every time.
And with Arsenal fighting for the Premier League and the Champions League, that one less fixture could help us push on further. Remember this is hardly the FA Cup Semi-Final here, and if we beat Manchester United we are likely to have to get passed Chelsea and Liverpool to win the cup.
Our form going into the weekend is much better than United’s, but we have seen in the past that form means nothing when these sides meet. At the start of last season United were flying and Arsenal were stuttering at their new home, drawing games at the Emirates and concededing the first goal on more than one occasion – but Arsenal turned up to Old Trafford and won 1-0 thanks to a late Adebayor goal. We also missed a penalty and Lehmann made one of the best saves I have ever seen from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer towards the end.
And talking about Lehmann, the early news is that he could be continuing in goal for Arsenal for the FA Cup game depending on whether Almunia can shake off the bug he’s had all week. Kolo, Eboue and Rosicky may be back too, so that will give Arsene some selection options which he really struggled with against Blackburn.
Usually I would say that the first goal will be massive but even if Arsenal concede first I still believe that we can get back into the game. If Spurs can score against them, and even Darius Vassell then surely Arsenal can cause United problems at the back – especially if Rio ‘Merked’ Ferdinand continues his shocking form from the City game.
I really hope Eduardo and Adebayor start for Arsenal because they will be too tricky and strong for Rio, but Arsene could revert to 5 in midfield which he’s done at Old Trafford in the past.
Well obviously I think Arsenal will win and generally a 1-0 or 2-1 scoreline would be the obvious prediction but throughout this season this young Arsenal side has done nothing but surprise me every time. Who really thought that with 12 games remaining Arsenal would be 5 points clear at the top of the Premier League?
This season I have been taking each game as it comes and Arsenal just keep on performing. And the difference from previous years is that with a fully-fit Gallas Arsenal can actually defend. They can see out games now and Blackburn was a prime example.
United will be under pressure to attack, especially with their recent form but I think Arsenal can do what City did but better and counter-attack with pace, purpose and penetration. If Arsenal can get the breaks they need then I can see us leaving with a 2-0 victory.