The Engine Room: Why the midfield will be so crucial in Man United v Arsenal
A real throwback to the blood and guts of the Premier League era resurfaces this week as Manchester United host Arsenal.
Arsenal are 15/8 to win and give United even more nightmares at the Theatre of Dreams.
There’ll be a host of attacking talent on show, but it’s the midfield that could be so crucial.
We breakdown where the match could be won and lost…
No Xhaka No Party?
Xhaka is ruled out of the trip to Old Trafford after picking up his fifth booking of the season in the derby win over Tottenham Hotspur.
He has prospered this season alongside new signing Lucas Torreira. It has allowed new freedom for Xhaka to move further up the pitch and control the tempo of games.
Torreira provides the bite and then passes it on to the Swiss who has impressed with his diverse range of passing in Arsenal’s 19-match unbeaten run.
Youngster Matteo Guendouzi has been trusted in some testing ties already this season and could take his place in the midfield.
Aaron Ramsey will be buzzing off his two assists in the win over Spurs. But may be better served causing chaos in the second-half.
Fellaini to strike again?
Jose Mourinho has previous of shutting down games before they’ve even begun.
Take their 0-0 draw at Anfield last season as an example. Or the Manchester derby stalemate in April 2017.
A common denominator is Marouane Fellaini. Mourinho isn’t afraid to start when he feels the need.
The Belgian could well be paired with live-wire Ander Herrera in the middle. Fellaini seems to be the man for the big occasion under Mourinho.
He has scored some crucial goals for United this campaign and plundered a last-gasp winner in this fixture last season.
Paul Pogba is not a shoe-in to make the starting line-up. Mourinho could opt for the 6ft 3in Nemanja Matic alongside Fellaini to suffocate the flowing Arsenal midfield.
The Belgian may not be the poster boy that Pogba represents at the club. But in this complex era at Old Trafford he could well be the most important.
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