Both respective managers have been in the headlines recently for their inability to say anything nice about well, anyone. Inevitably, it’s going to be billed as a feisty affair – they always are. But off the back of recent results for both clubs, is this Saturday’s game more than just a cup-tie? Could it shape the rest of their season?
From being in the hunt for four trophies, Arsenal’s season has taken a dramatic nose-dive. If the Carling Cup final defeat to Birmingham wasn’t hard enough to take, a draw against Sunderland in the league, which could have put them right on United’s heels, was just a damn right kick in the teeth. Throw on top of that being outclassed once again by Barcelona and denied European glory for at least another year, and you’ve got yourself a pretty miserable week, if you’re an Arsenal fan. Yes, I know, it was all the referee’s fault, apparently, but the fact remains that the Gunners were chasing four trophies, and it’s now only two. United haven’t imploded quite so dramatically – yet – but the warning signs are definitely there. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have lost three of their last five and have let their rivals back into the title race when it seemed all but destined to end in another championship winning season for the Red Devils. It isn’t unusual for any team to hit a blip, and yes, you could argue that is what United are experiencing. The problem is, more worryingly than anything else, for the first time in years, United’s strength in depth doesn’t look good enough, and their ageing stars is a topic which we seem to spend half of our lives debating.
Both sides are in need of a massive pick-me-up before this weekend’s clash. A win for either club could really rejuvenate their season. Arsenal are still very much in with a shout of winning the league, but given the past week or so, everything points to another year of disappointment. Arsene Wenger’s men have a bit of a reputation for failing to see the league through, despite their unquestionable quality. Imagine what another defeat, and another competition passing by would do to the team?
Similarly, if United lose to another of one their closest rivals, it could be the beginning of the end of their season. Old Trafford expects trophies. What the fans don’t expect is below par performances against Chelsea and Liverpool, and an away record which would be better suited to that of a mid-table team. Saturday is a must win – for both teams.
It all makes for a pretty interesting spectacle for the neutral. Both teams dare not lose for the sake of the rest of their season, but we can’t forget that this is a cup-tie. Maybe not on Saturday, but it will have to be decided one way or another, and with Manchester United still fighting on the European front, I’m sure they would rather not have to squeeze another fixture in, especially with it being a reply at the Emirates.
For whichever team that loses, it will take one almighty effort to restore the belief in the side and bring back the form which has kept them both hunting Premier League glory. It’s a bold statement, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the winner of this Saturday’s tie go on to clean up on the domestic front. For the other, it could be a long end to an already drawn-out Premier League campaign.
More than just a game? United-Arsenal normally is. But this one is definitely more than just a cup-tie.
Blog courtesy of James Ireson from FootballFanCast