Manchester United v Arsenal, Premier League, August 29, 2009
The eyes of the world will be on Old Trafford on Saturday in a game that should give us an early indication of each teamâ€™s ability before the international break. Besides the technical quality on show combined with what is usually a game full of pace and aggression, this fixture has had a chequered history in recent years.
United thrashed Arsenal 6-1 in February 2001 and in October 2004 saw off the â€œInvinciblesâ€ in a match that preceded â€œPizzagate.â€ The Gunners have also had their moments in recent years, winning the title at Old Trafford in May 2002 and who could forget Martin Keownâ€™s reaction to Ruud van Nistelrooyâ€™s penalty miss in September 2003.
The most recent Arsenal-United match at Old Trafford saw Sir Alex Ferguson win the Premier League title again in a cagey 0-0 draw in which Arsenal had the better of the chances. This came just 11 days after Ronaldo and Rooney had put in an irresistible performance at the Emirates to secure a place in the Champions League final.
With historical precedent out the way, it is almost impossible to predict how this game will go so early in the season. Arsenal should be in confident mood after a fine start to the campaign that has seen them win four out of four in the Premier League and Champions League and the Gunners look like a team that has significantly improved on last season.
Arsenal fans have been purring over new signing Thomas Vermaelen (16/1 to score) and the former Ajax central defender will be tested at Old Trafford. In truth the Gunners seem to be reveling in the departures of Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor and a collection of players improving game by game.
Alexandre Song has started the season in fantastic form, many Gunners fans were worried that they lacked a dominant â€œPatrick Vieiraâ€ and the Cameroon international could be that man. Similarly Denilson, Fabregas (5/1 to score), Eboue, Diaby, Arshavin (11/4 to score) et al all look like they will just get better and better.
Arsene Wengerâ€™s switch to 4-3-3 also looks like being an inspired move but the â€œProfessorâ€ may ditch the new look formation as the Gunners face their toughest test of the new season.
Manchester United have had their ups and downs already this season and clearly are still coming to terms with the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo. The 5-0 win at Wigan did prove they still have an abundance of attacking talent and it will take a strong defensive performance from the Arsenal to stop Wayne Rooney (11/2 to score first) scoring his 102nd goal for the club.
The home side have the advantage of a weekâ€™s break whilst Arsenal had their Champions League exertions. Much of the build-up is likely to focus on Cesc Fabregasâ€™ likely absence and whether Eduardo (8/1 to score last) can stay on his feet. We can say with certainty that we should be served up better fare than the 0-0 draw last May and it feels like a game where someone could make a name for themselves.
101gg predicts: Manchester United 1 â€“ Arsenal 2 (10/1)
Full match odds here.