Giggs…gets past Viera, past Dixon…GIGGS… sensational goal by Ryan Giggs…and when he needed the finish… my God did he get one… That sensational goal by Ryan Giggs gave Manchester United the win in what was one of the most famous games in the history of FA Cup. Now almost 16 years later, United face Arsenal once again in an FA Cup Quarter Final tie.
With the sides locked in a fierce battle for the Champions League spots, this tie may serve untimely distraction. However this is the only real chance for silverware for Louis Van Gaal and a big chance to silence his critics. United have also not won the trophy since 2003/2004 and with Liverpool being the only so called ‘bigger’ club left in the competition this is a great opportunity to end the drought. Arsenal and Wenger on the other hand tasted the flavour of wining it for the first time in several years and will want to keep going, giving their Champions League run is almost at an abrupt end.
When the two sides last met, United ran out winners. The Devils notched four wins in five games, their best stretch of the season so far. With games against Tottenham, Liverpool and City coming thick and fast, another run of such magnitude would certainly put United in a pole position for a Champions League spot.
Recent form however has been questionable. The run of two defeats in twenty-two games is shadowed by unconvincing performances. The narrow midweek win against Newcastle was nothing short of that. However Manchester United have always known how to perform in big games and the tradition has been kept under LVG with only City beating us this season.
In full contrast are Arsenal performances: an absence of mental strength, defensive frailties, and tactical naivety at the big grounds in the big games against the big teams.
The last one coming against Monaco in the Champions League. Apart from this result, this season has seen a bit of change with away win against Manchester City and a draw at Liverpool. Arsenal’s performances at Old Trafford since their last win there in 2006 have been pretty lamentable: 10 games, nine defeats, one draw, 23 goals conceded and four scored.
However The Gunners are one of the inform teams in the league with seven wins in the last eight games and with front three of – Alexis, Giroud and Ozil firing on all cylinders they could easily change the daunting statistics.
United will be without former gunner Robin van Persie, who misses this one through injury. Defender Jonny Evans will also miss out after he was banned for six matches for spitting at Newcastle’s Papiss Cisse. The tie could see the return of Luke Shaw.
Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista has been ruled out for two to three weeks with a hamstring problem. Elsewhere Wilshere, Arteta ,Flamini and Debuchy are missing. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (illness) and defender Nacho Monreal (back) could return for the Gunners.
Manchester United (3-5-2) DDG; Valencia, Smalling, Rojo, Blind, Shaw; Carrick, Herrera, Di Maria; Rooney, Falcao.
Arsenal (4-3-3) Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil; Wellbeck, Sanchez, Giroud.
Last Meeting 22nd November Arsenal 1 :2 Manchester United
United were deadly in front of goal taking their only two chances to steal a win. An own goal by Gibbs and a delightful Rooney dink overcame a late beauty by Giroud for a flagship victory, which kick-started United’s season. The Iron Tulip and his men are in dire need of another one.
Score Prediction: Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal
Despite emphasising the importance of Champions League qualification spot, Louis Van Gaal knows the importance of winning a trophy in his first season. It’d be a lovely way to silence his critics and prove that he is a winner. United and Louis Van Gaal have come up big in big games and hopefully we can fully expect that tradition to continue tonight.