Just over a month ago an away trip to Arsenal in the FA Cup would have filled most United fans with the sort of indifference normally reserved for a Hollyoaks Omnibus. United fans had began to look upon fixtures – especially away ones – with apathy after a series of uninspiring results left many of us trudging to games out of habit rather than expectation. You can only watch your team draw against the likes of Southampton, Wolves, Crystal Palace and lose to such giants as West Ham so many times before you lose the will to live let alone attend games.
On The March With Ole’s Army
Now though things are different, as thanks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his cheerful, positive ways the Reds are now on the up, with a run of seven wins on the spin and goals flying in from all angles. Hurrah. Even in the darkest days of the latter day Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho era’s United still managed to do well in the FA Cup, winning it under the Iron Tulip and reaching the final in Jose’s last game in the competition.
While it’s easy to get carried away with Ole’s revolution and believe we can now win the treble, the more sane among us know that any form of success is likely to be a fairly modest one, at least by the historic standards of Manchester United. Finishing in the top four after the worst start to a season since 1784 would be a massive achievement for Solskjaer and his coaching staff, but for may Reds lifting silverware would be even better. Realistically the chances of United winning the Champions League are slim at best, even through the romantic haze of Ole’s amazingness, whilst obviously the league is a non-starter, meaning the best chance of adding to the trophy cabinet is via the FA Cup.
It’s the Trophies, Stupid.
Finishing the season with something tangible to show for it would be huge when you consider the struggles the team, club and fans were enduring a couple of months ago. Yes, Jose Mourinho is a born winner and even in his darkest days was capable of getting his teams to produce a surprising result – Turin anyone? – but the chances of winning something look far more likely under Ole than they did under his predecessor.
The big news ahead of the game is that David De Gea hasn’t travelled with the squad down to North London, which is absolutely great news – if you’re an Arsenal fan. United have a real chance of winning the FA Cup and while Sergio Romero is an excellent goalkeeper he simply doesn’t operate in the same stratosphere as Spanish Dave. It’s a bold move by Ole and who are we mere mortals to doubt him, but ‘resting’ De Gea for a game at the scene of his greatest ever performance – in this writer’s opinion – seems an unnecessary risk.
Arsenal will be feeling positive after a critical league win over Chelsea, one that came after an indifferent run of form that had seen Unai Emery’s side lose four of their last eight games. Arsenal have been something of an enigma this season, enjoying long unbeaten runs and deflating defeats that show while the new manager is slowly moulding the team into his own vision, it is taking some time.
No Love Lost
Solskjaer has already stated Alexis Sanchez will feature against his old club and now it’s up to the Chilean to prove the doubters wrong and show his move to Old Trafford was a big mistake for all involved. Historically the two clubs have had their fair share of battles, some involving pizza, others good old fashioned fists, and even the occasional bit of actual football. There’s an added edge to tonight with the home side lowering United’s allocation below the obligatory 15% required for an FA Cup game.
With Sanchez set to receive the most hostile welcome since Pogba popped round to Jose’s to wish him good luck in his next job, United fans feeling the pain of a long Friday night journey and low allocation, not to mention two new managers with points to prove – this could be the mother of all cup ties.
Let battle commence…