United Preview: Here We Go Again

Unai Emery, you get the feeling, is the sort of manager who would pin an article disparaging to the side on the dressing room wall. He’d point to it and tell the players, “This is how we will prove them wrong…“. And when it doesn’t work in the first 45 minutes, the half-time team talk is “Hang on, lads; I’ve got a great idea.

So, to Old Trafford we go.

Sunday laid to rest a demon with the fightback to claim a victory which merited no sense of humility given the shushy-divey-cheaty nature of the opposition’s performance. When respect is given to Arsenal, the players I’m sure will return the favour. But when the level of cheating is close to stratospheric, don’t expect respect or any common courtesy.

Which is relevant given the manager of tonight’s opponents. If there is a coach who is willing to look at the dark arts and consider them too lightweight, it is Mourinho. His third season implosion is playing out publicly with the sanctity of the dressing room gone. Every word he says is betrayed, published in the dailies as they begin to scent blood.

Tonight’s excuses are already written. United, the narrative goes, are struggling to find a centre-back worthy of the name due to injury. They struggle to find a centre-back worthy of the name when everyone’s fit so this is nothing new. But Jose will bemoan his lack of good fortune, you can be sure of that.

And for us, it’s an uncomfortable reminder of the past. When United previously suffered poor form or injury crises, we made them look world-beaters. Even when we put out good sides. Old Trafford, even before Arsene, was a graveyard of dreams more than once or twice.

Throwing Down The Gauntlet

None of this weighs heavily on Unai Emery’s mind. He knows we’ve suffered in the past but is plotting his own course. Which currently sees Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as its’ focal point. Top scorer in the Premier League and a ridiculous 100% record for his last ten shots on target. Quite literally, he shoots, he scores.

But that isn’t enough for Emery:

I want him to continue improving, and his challenge is also collective and individual. I want his challenge to be that he has the opportunity to be the best scorer in the Premier League. We want to help him achieve this and that is because, if he is scoring, he is helping us.

A challenge laid down yet finished with unspoken menace: if he isn’t scoring, he’s no good to me…

The striker’s versatility isn’t lost on Emery – “he has played as a winger on the right, on the left and like a striker” – but so is the part confidence plays:

I want to say to him and also to everyone: ‘Don’t stop, continue with this commitment every match.’ It is also important that he takes confidence from matches like [Tottenham], not only from scoring but also from helping with pressing against them and [competing] well with the head against them. Now is the moment to say to him: ‘Don’t stop’.

Indeed. Emery inherited two world-class finishers who are equally adept at playing solo or as a duo. Fitting them into the same team has been his biggest headache; Sunday gave him the answer. The question is whether they both play tonight or is there a shot at redemption for Mkhitaryan and/or Iwobi.

Emery’s thinking is clouded by Granit Xhaka’s suspension. Presumably, Mateo Guendouzi fills that void with Aaron Ramsey taking the #10 role. Has Sunday’s Plan B become Plan A?

Not Another Test…!

It would be adventurous to start with both Lacazette and Aubameyang, especially if he sticks with 3 – 4 – 3. United’s full-backs like to push forward so there is the vulnerability of Kolasinac to consider – and to a lesser extent, Bellerin. Iwobi and Mkhitaryan were ineffective as the first half wore on but worked hard defensively as we imposed ourselves on the game in the opening 30 minutes.

In all honesty, I expect the starting line-up tonight to be similar to Sunday:

Leno; Mustafi, Holding, Sokratis; Bellerin, Torreira, Guendouzi, Kolasinac; Mkhitaryan, Iwobi; Aubameyang

If we start with the XI which finished, more or less, we need the same intensity for it to be effective. While we have faced top six teams at home, this is our first big away game since the lunacy at Stamford Bridge. As ever, tonight will tell us how much we really have improved.

We were strong at home last season and are proving the same again this time around. However, our durability on the road is improving. It’s time to test that in a big match, to see what we have really learned in the past 19 games.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

104 thoughts on “United Preview: Here We Go Again

  1. Jimmy B:
    Devoid of anything resembling insight.Well done.

    How about just watching how we’ve been playing recently?….does that fit your narrative?

  2. I’m always cautious about United away. They’ve turned us over so many times up there, even when they’ve fielded a team of 11 Lepers.

    This has to be the best opportunity for some time to inflict damage, but I’ll be happy with a draw.

  3. Damon,

    Strange things happen when we go up to OT in recent years but maybe this time under Emery will be different. I certainly feel more excited and confident after watching this team utterly dominate and humiliate Spurs. I rewatched it last night. A thrilling display. I wish we could enjoy it a little longer before facing another big test. But how great would it feel if we win these two matches?

  4. Given our re-discovered aggressive streak could we see a repeat of the 1990 battle of Old Trafford (and the same result would be nice)? I see a lot of parallels between the way Graham turned the club around and how Emery is going about his business. Organisation? Check. Tactical Awareness? Check. Aggression? Check. Team ethic? Check. Disregard of reputations? Check.

    Wouldn’t it be great to drive another nail into Maureen’s coffin?

  5. We owe them a beating. Can’t believe we haven’t won in 12 visits to Old Trafford in the league. Some of those MU sides, certainly in the last six years, have been appalling.

    Time to tear up the reputations for good, imo

  6. If Emery needs any advice on how to keep Lukaku in check, should be play, all he needs do is keep an unhealthy supply of sugary sweets and cakes near each corner flag all night.

    Man, is he out of shape at the moment

    Disgraceful really in this day and age with the science and help players are given with their well being. Pretty much any kid who played the game would give (almost!) anything to be given the chance to be MU’s number 9. And he can’t even stay close to fit? It’s a joke

  7. Still in an euphoric state from Sunday result.

    Am I confident Pour c Soir ? No as YW has noted we’ve not been at our best at Old Trafford for years.

    I’m hoping that the Team will put on a display c sour that will be the catalyst to sacking the Portuguese Man of War..

  8. I think same team with Ramsey in for Mkhitaryan.

    I just can’t predict tonight. I’ve met worse man united teams and as stated above made them look like Barcelona. There is now teo huge differences which is Jose is at war with everyone, including his own team and we have Emery. The latter is huge because a massive part of our lacklustre performances came from Wengers mental block. Moyes and LVG took it upon themselves to break several unwanted records whilst managing Man u but losing to us at OT wasn’t one them came even close to.

    The attitude we are showing as a team seems completely different and we have lucas Torriera to do a job. Add in they’ve an injury problems they’re having. But I still get the feeling this is a game Jose has been preparing for. I full expect Fred, Mata, Martial, Rashford and Lingard to start and to start full throttle. The tactics write themselves, we don’t start most games well, so hit us straight off the bat and then score and park the bus for 70+ minutes.

    With everything that happened with Klopp at weekend. I feel a last minute winner and a Jose running onto pitch to celebrate with squad oncoming. Then his usual I am the best press conference after.

  9. Damon,

    It’s too predictable. Jose always has something in his bag against us. They had injuries when they came to Emirates last season and they blew us away for 30mins and then defended well for the remaining time. We were odds on to win that as well. I just can’t see it being a predictable result. I can almost guarantee they’ll play well, and we’ll be subjected to his 3 finger waving nonsense as he exclaims how great he is and how he’s had all these bad results but they’re only 5 points away from us and in last 16 of champs league.

    I want to be wrong. I really do. My light at the end of the tunnel is that this is Emery and not Wenger and I expect Emery is able to tactically change things if it’s going against us and he has the players believe they can beat these teams.

    I was nervous about the spurs game but I was extremely anxious about this one purely for the timing (3 days after a NLD) and because its at OT. Spurs met them at OT fairly early on, there is a lot riding on tonight for Man u players and the manager. If we run away with it, Jose could be gone. Its why I can’t see us winning. Previous form means nothing in these games.

  10. Damon,

    As someone who works with athletes. I find it staggering when a professional can’t keep themselves fit. It’s why, for me l, Ronaldo and messi are still the best players in the world, when Ronaldo was out with a shoulder injury 2 seasons ago he was still in the gym every day still doing what he could so when he came back he lost no fitness straight to playing. Messi is exactly the same. That level of commitment is rarely seen these days. I had two u18s unfortunately brake their fingers so I wrote them a programme they can do to stay fit and they did absolutely nothing for 1 month but gain a bit of weight.

  11. In UE we trust. He will understand that it is important in the first 20 mins against any big team not to give anything away. However he came up against Mourinho enough times at Valencia and didn’t get the result. You can say what you like but MU are a different beast when you think they are down they come out screaming and fighting. Also the MU player’s will not want to lose to us and as bad as they have been playing, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will raise their game another notch tonight. They have pace and will capitalise on any mistake we make. The important thing is not to concede early on, as there will be no way back into the game once they go ahead. Mourinho will see to that. Expect, Pogba, Lingard, Mata and Rashford to have an absolute worldy. I’ll take a draw begrudingly. Unfortunately form goes out the window if this fixture is anything to go by in recent years. Come on you Gunners!

  12. MesutLeftFoot and Damon, totally agree on the fitness front. I said the other day, fitness and hard work is what brought the EPL title to Leicester and folks like Jamie Vardy. He doesnt have nearly the same talent as some of our magicians on the pitch. It’s a shame honestly. This is their job to be athletes. We have 40year old Lichtensteiner bombing up the flanks , these youngins must feel embarrased to see that old man with more stamina and fitness. Or maybe they dont care? Hell they have millions in the bank already just go home and play fifa with ur mates instead of getting to practice early and staying late.

    Hoping for a performance today! I made up some BS appointment at work so i can leave early in the afternoon and get some cold adult beverages in me while enjoying the match!

  13. A question for you @MLF: As you work with athletes you may have inside knowledge on this…how drug fuelled is football? (we all know about cycling, running and gridiron)

    In my opinion football is riddled with drugs. Very little testing goes on. Messi & Ronaldo are top of the tree at this and Wenger was one of the pioneers in England.

    MesutsLeftFoot:
    Damon,

    As someone who works with athletes. I find it staggering when a professional can’t keep themselves fit. It’s why, for me l, Ronaldo and messi are still the best players in the world, when Ronaldo was out with a shoulder injury 2 seasons ago he was still in the gym every day still doing what he could so when he came back he lost no fitness straight to playing. Messi is exactly the same. That level of commitment is rarely seen these days. I had two u18s unfortunately brake their fingers so I wrote them a programme they can do to stay fit and they did absolutely nothing for 1 month but gain a bit of weight.

  14. Yogi. I was about to post this last night, to save having to correct you. But
    First half against Cheating bastards. Iwobi to Sean to Auba in front of goal, first time, into Loris legs.
    I don’t know where this ‘record’ has come from ,and it doesn’t mean he’s fuckin dynamite, but it’s NOT True.
    Rant over. I’m going to finish reading now, jolly good so far. Wot

  15. Have to expect a continuation of the diving and cheating. Our players need to be ready for this ahead of time, and dont get baited into something stupid. Against spurs it was a needless foul on Son (soft as hell) who was really going nowhere, Sokratis had him completely marshalled over there. I can just see it, Rashford has the ball in penalty area, baits Mustafi over who gives him a slight touch in the back with his pinky finger, Rashford goes down like someone just stabbed him in the back with a kitchen knife…

    As always, thanks for the post and daily content YW we love it. And thanks to all the posters here, yall make my work day slightly less horrible! Up the gunners come on boys!

  16. We all have bad memories of OT games but surely this is the time to bury them. Jose is reeling and must fear a bad result tonight. He is running out of wriggle room.

    Finish them tonight and erase the memory of Denis’s failure to do so all those years ago.

  17. The build up and anticipation for MU is killing me. If we draw, I’ll still be glad the unbeaten run continues and MU make up no ground on us. If we lose, I’ll be disappointed but still believe Emery is doing quite well after 19 unbeaten including Pool draw and NLD win at home. But if we win… every Gooner is going to be deliriously ecstatic and believe the future under Emery could be special. This fan base is so hungry for proof that fortunes can change in the league, that the club can be restored to being competitive and eventually challenge again. A win puts MU 11 behind 4th.

    I think Mou will play for a draw and hope to get a lucky score on the counter. Interested to see what Emery Arsenal approach will be.

  18. RE: the Auba ‘record’. It sounds amazing but ignores all the good opportunities he had where he skies the ball or sends it wide of the net. I feel like in each game Auba is getting 2 or 3 really good chances and has consistently been putting away 1 of them. Lets hope this fortune continues, streaks and records be damed just dont get blitzed today and i think we have a shot.

  19. consolsbob,

    Hear, hear! I’d love Arsenal to take it to them but equally happy for a cagey tactical battle leading to a late Auba or Laca winner. Either way, how glorious to bury Mourinho, kill the OT hoodoo, and announce this new era?! Come on you gunners!

  20. This may come to be known as the TorreiEra. Signing of the season so far and the one signing I really was genuinely excited about this summer. The others have all been pretty decent and I may yet think Guendouzi is ultimately the best of the 5 but there is time yet. In terms of instant impact, he represents everything about what has been missing in this team since 2008.

  21. I just think Jose knows if he gets hosed down badly it could be curtains for him. I think he’ll be ultra defense and think that a 1 or 2 goal defeat is probably defendable.

    If they open up against us from the word go with a makeshift defense, they could get knocked for a heavy defeat. That might be the end of him?

    I think if we get to be 3 up, their heads will drop

  22. Great preview yogi

    Years of wengerball have left me skeptical but we have exceeded my own preseason expectations to date. Thankful for our new front office brain trust who brought in PEA, Lacazette last season and Torrierra this season. Emery has tirnrd this current group of players into a team who seem to have become more then the sum of their individual parts.

    I am filled with an overwhelming sense of cautious optimism regarding the game today and our chances of finishing in the top 4.

  23. Damn it feels like this day is dragging, need time to speed up cause the anticipation is killing me.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing either Guendouzi or Maitland-Niles partner Torriera in midfield.

  24. C,

    Fair call. But can’t see UE taking the risk with AMN, having never played him there yet. Did he do a half against Vorskla? .?

  25. Damon,

    The way Maureen 😭, has been behaving this year, he is practically begging for his severance. Wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him press hard early. He got away with it last year, however annoying it was.

  26. Evening,

    I worry about starting Gwendoozi, a little too much confidence sometimes. Manure under Maureen like to capitalise on mistakes, they’ll be aware he’s good for holding onto the ball a bit too long or trying to dribble out of a danger zone.
    OTher than that we should be teaching them a lesson. 3-1 only because there’s still a bit of clown juice lurking around.

  27. Colts,

    He is starting.
    Leno
    Mustafi, Sokratis, Holding;
    Bellerin, Torreira, Guendouzi, Kolasinac;
    Ramsey, Iwobi;
    Aubameyang

    Bench: Cech, Lichsteiner, Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette, Nketiah

  28. Is it beyond reason that Ozil is actually injured.
    I’ve had back spasms since August and I haven’t been selected either.

  29. ferkov,

    Could even take off a CB and Ramsey(if he isn’t having a good game) and go to a 433 with Maitland-Niles and Lacazette coming on to partner Torriera and Guendouzi in midfield and Iwobi and Aubameyang in attack.

  30. ferkov:
    Lacazette and Eddie on at half time. That’d be Plan C or D surely. But who knows?

    Have you been at the cider already?😉

  31. Manure team: De Gea, Dalot, Bailly, Smalling, Rojo, Darmian, Herrera, Matic, Martial, Lingard

    Bench: Romero, Valencia, McTominay, Fellaini, Mata, Lukaku, Pogba

  32. LSG,

    Yeah thought he might, think unai is correct though, I prefer him to El nino. Just hope he’s a little more mature today.

  33. Mourinho such a killjoy. Have to say that I think he has set up the team with a decent plan to cause us problems. Stifle and catch us on counter is his plan. We’ll see how we deal with this big test.

  34. It’s have started brightly. Hold your nerves lads and let’s grow into the game. They won’t be able to sustain this intensity for 90mins. Let’s get in half time 0-0 and then tear them apart second half. Mourinho is so predictable. He’s told them to get at us and get an early goal. Then shut up shop. Come on you Gunners!

  35. It’s not in Arsenal’s character to park the bus.
    Otherwise I would suggest we park the fucking bus and come back to London with one point.
    Mourinho is a son-of-a-gun.

  36. C,

    To a man they’re still more physical than us, which makes me wonder how unai will build this team out over the next two windows.

    And as I suspected, a mistake by Gwen leads to a manure goal unfortunately.

  37. You can’t argue with the results so far this season and it’s great to have an impact sub like Lacazette or PEA on the bench but I really wish emery would find a way to use them both in the starting line up. Iwobe has had a few good games but forwards need to produce more end product then he does.

  38. Well, I’d say Mariner lost control of that around the 40 minute mark and never got it back.
    Neither side hugely enhanced their reputation but at least we fight these days.

  39. Jaded.
    Glad for the final whistle.
    Decent point at OT. Would’ve taken it before the game ,so not gonna moan too much about the performance.
    Suffice to say. Manure , with an easy game at weekend, and an extra day to recover. They Are Shite.
    And Chelski got beat . Happy daze.
    Plenty cider now fella

  40. I shouldn’t be disappointed with a draw at old toilet but I am. Played well overall given it was just after the nld and was forced into subs early due to injury.

  41. 1 point is fine, didn’t expect more. Tiredness resulted in injuries and defensive mistakes. A rest and some regrouping needed now. Top 4 has to be a target for the season.

  42. Bill,

    Iwobi was poor tonite I agree. And I like him alot. I’ve noticed that he doesn’t recover well after quick ,big,games….. and he only played a half. Still there’s a point in there somewhere. Goodnight

  43. Nutso match but have to agree, will take that draw any day. We showed up, we fought. Auba had great chance to put us up 3-2 in some of our last ditch efforts and hit it straight at De Gea. I’m still proud, although a bit silly. We didnt blow up and lose the points. I mean, we kind of did in a sense that we should have held 2-1. Weird match though, we got some gifts and gifted them some right back.

  44. What a likeable team.

    This is a doomy fixture, one which we always watch from behind the sofa. But here we were looking like wining it again…. you can see the plan that our matador is instilling in them.

  45. Dukey:
    What a likeable team.

    This is a doomy fixture,one which we always watch from behind the sofa. But here we were looking like wining it again…. you can see the plan that our matador is instilling in them.

    Indeed, I was impressed how playing out from the back seems to be almost second nature. Manure’s pressing was pretty hyper and we, for the most part looked comfortable. Drilled, at last.

  46. A good game spoilt by petty fouling, particularly in the second half, with too many injuries.
    The real culprits were the idiots compiling the fixture list. 😉

  47. Ferkov

    Iwobe is a decent player but he should not be a regular starter and he should be a central midfielder. He has played a lot of minutes but has not scored since early September and he only has 2 assists this season. We need a lot more production from any player who is a regular starter as a forward if we ever hope to do more then compete for 4th place. We need to buy a wide forward who can give us more end product.

  48. Dammit.
    2-2 = 4
    My 1-3=4….I’m clutching at straws here…we could’ve/should’ve won.
    Unai’s next window will be focussed on defence not attack.
    Guendouzi…..well..not bad,but really could’ve done with Granit tonight.

  49. Tony Adams is an embarrassment…laughing at Unai’s English….which is better than his own.
    How’s your Spanish Tony?….prick…football’s moved on mate.

  50. I don’t have the time or energy to actually do the research and someone should correct me if I am wrong but it feels like we often start slowly but we are a much better team in the second half of games this season. I suspect we have a much much better goal differential in the second half of games compared with the first. The fact that either Lacazette or PEA have come on in the second half of almost every game and the significant improvement in our effectiveness is probably not a coincidence. Iwobe is a nice player but he is not a difference maker. Neither are Mkhitaryan or Ramsey or even Ozil. PEA and Lacazette are our match winners and I am not sure why Emery always seems to play the first half with one of them on the bench when its seems clear that we have been more effective when they are both on the field.

  51. Bill,

    I think we have started quite a few games with Pea on left and Lac CF of a 3. He obviously likes Iwobi workrate and constant dribbling to soften them up first before coup de grace?

    I just think he is doing his best with imbalanced team and despite a draw my favourite part was finishing strongly. Matteo and Torre were knocking it around, bossing the middle and by the end probing a winner.

    We did not face a final 10 minutes of OT relentless pressure sticking it in mixer for Felatio and HW boxing champ up front as I feared.

    We were the better team with 55% possession at OT. And probably all our players were NLD jaded and nobody played particularly well. So a point is satisfactory but performance brings more optimism for top 4.

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