In a huge English Premier League clash, Manchester United host Arsenal on Sunday at Old Trafford, with places tight at the UEFA Champions League automatic and qualifiers spots in the league table.
United, who have guaranteed a 4th-placed finish or higher, are trailing by two points to 3rd-placed Arsenal, who look to catch Manchester City at 2nd for an automatic Champions League qualification spot, who are a further three points ahead, although the Gunners do have a game in hand.
United manager Louis van Gaal has claimed that his side’s opponents this weekend have a better team than this season’s Premier League champions Chelsea, but believes the Blues’ clinical edge has led them to title glory this term.
The Dutch boss admitted that he was impressed with the amount of quality Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has at his disposal, although he said that he would rather have a team with a ruthless instinct like Chelsea.
“I have not given the team a winning mentality yet because we are not champions and I think that is a quality of the champions,” he told reporters.
“We have improved lot, but we have to learn to do what Chelsea have done in the way they can play and finish the games – that is the big difference now between us and them.
“I think Arsenal maybe have a better team but they cannot finish off opponents like Chelsea. That is also about talent and experience like John Terry and Gary Cahill. That is the difference.”
Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla as called for an improvement in his side’s record of key matches away from home, including this weekend’s trip to Old Trafford, if they are to claim the elusive Premier League crown.
“In our eyes, Arsenal are always a candidate to win the Premier League, the players really believe that,” the Spain international told the Mirror.
“But over the years we have dropped key points in stadiums where we need to win. That’s our handicap and the thing we need to change.”
While the Emirates Stadium outfit’s quest for league silverware is over for another season, they still do have a chance to lift a major trophy this campaign, with an English FA Cup final against Aston Villa to come on May 30, an opportunity for Arsenal to claim back-to-back FA Cup titles.
Cazorla added: “I would say the season for Arsenal is positive.
“We are in the FA Cup final and we are fighting for second place in the Premier League.
“Being knocked out of the [UEFA] Champions League was painful because we played our worst game of the year at home against Monaco. That was the low point. But overall it’s been good.”
Manchester United’s form in the last six league games has ended in three wins and three losses, the latest result being a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Selhrust Park.
Arsenal, on the other hand, three wins, one draw and one loss in their previous five league matches, as well as a 2-1 win over Reading in the FA Cup semi-final, with their last match finished in a 1-0 home loss to Swansea City.
The previous six meetings between the two sides have ended in United winning three, Arsenal victorious in one and two draws.
The most recent meeting between the two Premier League heavyweights was when Arsenal knocked United out of the FA Cup by winning 2-1 at the ground they are to visit on Sunday, with the Red Devils victorious by the same scoreline in North London in the first league meeting between them in the 2014/15 season.
Skippering forward and United’s top goalscorer this season Wayne Rooney is sidelined due to injury, followed by Michael Carrick and Rafael, while doubts for Van Gaal’s team for this weekend’s clash with Arsenal include first team left-back and centre-back Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo respectively, as well as key goalscorer Robin van Persie.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s key winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta are unfit for this weekend’s match, with Danny Welbeck and Mathieu Debuchy being doubts for Wenger’s selection on Sunday.