COMMENT by Harry Sykes
Arsenal travel to Old Trafford for the early kick-off on Saturday and although we’re only just over a quarter of the way through the season, the match is of huge importance to their title ambitions.
Arsenal have a wretched record against the Premier League’s power two, Man United and Chelsea.
Since they won the league as the ‘Invincibles’ in 2003/2004, Arsenal have only beaten each of their league rivals five times – over 25 encounters with Chelsea and 24 with Man United.
It gets worse. Since their 2003/2004 league win, they’ve only beaten Man United at Old Trafford once, in September 2006 when they won 1-0 with Emmanuel Adebayor scoring the only goal five minutes from the end.
And Arsene Wenger has never won a Premier League game when Jose Mourinho has been in the opposition dugout.
In 11 games, Mourinho (as Chelsea manager) has won six of the matches with five ending as a draw. Wenger’s only win against Mourinho came in the 2015 Community Shield.
With this season’s Premier League looking like it could be the closest yet Arsenal can’t afford to drop points, but it’s the psychological significance of a win against United at Old Trafford that could prove even bigger.
Arsenal have already put a marker down this season, beating Chelsea 3-0 at the Emirates in a devastating performance.
But they stumbled against Tottenham recently – drawing 0-0 – and need to put in better performances against the other elite sides.
There’s never been a better time to play Man United, who are still trying to find their way under their new manager.
A win will ensure they keep pace at the top of the table and it will at once banish the Mourinho curse and polish Arsenal’s credentials as title contenders this season.
A defeat could be damaging, both in the Premier League table and in the minds of the Arsenal players who have to believe they can win the league if they want to go the distance.
A comfortable win at Old Trafford on Saturday will give them all the belief they need.
In other Arsenal news, Wenger may be forced to sell top duo Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil – this is why.