One of the most historic FA Cup clashes is taking place on Friday in the Fourth Round with Arsenal hosting an in-form Manchester United at the Emirates.
Both clubs come into this fixture having won their last game in the Premier League. Unai Emery will be especially delighted given they overcame a top four rival in Chelsea at home and kept an all-important clean sheet – something that has not come easy for the Gunners this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became the first Manchester United manager in the club’s history to win his first six league games, which extended his perfect overall record extend to seven from seven.
The Norwegian needs no introduction to how ferocious this matchup has been in the past and will be hoping to reignite those passions on Friday evening.
Alexis Sánchez To Up His Game
With Marcus Rashford suffering a fatigue-related injury towards the end of the match against Brighton & Hove Albion, as well as some rotation to occur, Alexis Sánchez is set to be rewarded with his first start under the Norwegian.
After two substitute appearances resulting in two assists for the Chilean, Manchester United’s fans are hopeful that 2019 is the year they see the reinvigorated Sánchez take to the field.
The version of Sanchez who promises excitement and delivers goals and assists – just as he did on 48 occasions in 51 appearances in 2016/17 for his former club.
Starting on the left-hand side, Sánchez is likely going to be awarded the freedom to roam inside and help Romelu Lukaku disrupt Arsenal’s defence. As seen in recent weeks, the Gunners’ defence is vulnerable – just as Manchester United’s is – and is there for the taking if the Red Devils can put together some clever combination plays.
Sánchez understands that he has a lot to prove given the size of his enormous wage and usually turns up in FA Cup fixtures.
One of his best performances in a Red Devils shirt came last season in the semi-final of the domestic competition at Wembley against Tottenham; United fans will be hoping he can do similar against the Gunners.
The Chilean forward is +160 to score at any time throughout the tie, while the best bookmakers offer enticing odds of +650 on him to open the scoring.
Back Goals, Goals and More Goals
If there is one thing that is certain in this game, it is the fact that there are going to be goals pouring in at the Emirates. Both defences are leaky at the best of times, with each team’s forward lines posing a genuine threat when moving forward.
Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang, who is +130 to score at any time, is one of the leading goal scorers in the Premier League, having netted 16 times this season already.
When Arsenal transition from defence into attack in full flow, they are a hard team to stop and should have Mesut Ozil back in the team. If the German is hungry to prove his boss wrong in leaving him out during important matches, he will certainly have the stage against top opposition to outline his case.
🏆 Latest #FACup outright odds. . .— Bookies.com (@bookies) January 23, 2019
💙 Man City - 5/2
🔵 Chelsea - 5/1
⚪️ Spurs - 8/1
🔴 Man Utd - 8/1
🔴 Arsenal - 12/1
🔴 Liverpool - Oh, wait
🔶 Wolves - 14/1
While Solskjaer is bound to rest some players, he will expect the likes of Juan Mata, Fred and Lukaku to step up to the plate and perform well. Mata rarely has a bad game and Manchester United always look smoother with him in the side, but it is Lukaku that the Norwegian will want to see light up the Emirates.
The Belgium international has struggled to start since the rise of Rashford under Solskjaer and is now rooted to being United’s second choice centre forward. If Lukaku wants to change that, he is going to have to turn up and strive for excellence. He is +160 to score throughout the 90 minutes.
This game is going to be feisty and should result in an end-to-end battle that generates goal after goal. After all, Arsenal have witnessed over 2.5 goals scored in the eight of their last 10 matches in the FA Cup, as well as Man United scoring at least two goals in six of their last seven.
Manchester United to Suffer First Defeat?
Solskjaer does not know anything different but to win as Manchester United’s manager, but this match could well swing in the way of the North London side.
Arsenal are undefeated in 23 of their last 25 matches in the FA Cup, having won the knockout tournament three times in the last five years.
The Gunners are known to step up their game against the Red Devils and Emery will hope to see his players make it two wins in as many matches at the Emirates against top four rivals.
Both teams are full of confidence, but the Gunners have a slight edge with it being under the lights at a noisy and packed Emirates.
A large part of it will depend on which manager fields the strongest team, with Solskjaer perhaps more focussed on the top four battle and willing to rest some of his first-team players.
Arsenal are offered at +105 to make it into the fifth round of the FA Cup.