Man United v Arsenal – Three KEY player battles

Manchester United vs Arsenal, FA cup 6th round: Three key player battles by Suhith

As much as the tactical side of things give us a great deal to look forward to ahead of the big kickoff, the player battles on the pitch will actually have a bigger say on which team comes out victorious at the end of 90 minutes. From that point of view, what are three player battles to look forward to in this intriguing FA cup 6th round clash between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford tonight?

Alexis Sanchez vs Antonio Valencia
On Manchester United’s right-hand-side, it will be an all South American battle between Chile’s Sanchez and Ecuador’s Valencia. Both are enjoying good seasons, albeit in contrasting circumstances. Sanchez leads the Arsenal attack week in and week out, reveling in his natural role as a winger. Valencia on the other hand, has excelled playing at right-back, adding defensive security to Manchester United’s backline.

Both these personnel are crucial to their side’s chances of winning tonight’s game and Sanchez, more than any other Arsenal player, holds the key to Arsenal defeating Manchester United at their own den. It will be interesting to see how Sanchez and Valencia mix their defensive and offensive duties, as they could have significant tracking back to do when their side defends.

Daley Blind vs Mesut Ozil
In the middle of Manchester United’s midfield, Blind will have his task cut out, as he will try to neutralize Ozil’s creative threat. The German is not playing as well as he can, after returning from his knee ligament injury only in February. Blind, on the other hand, has been consistent in everything he has done so far in his first season at Manchester United. His passing has been crisp and largely accurate; has been a reliable defensive midfielder, ahead of the backline and has chipped in with crucial goals in the Premier League.
Both these players missed the league fixture at the Emirates last November, and will be looking to prove their big match prowess by putting in a good performance tonight. Blind might not be able to render too much in an offensive sense, but he would have done a good job if he can keep Ozil under control.

Wayne Rooney vs Per Mertesacker
Rooney has this habit of scoring goals in big games, and he would want to live up to that reputation when his team faces Arsenal tonight, as he will battle it out with the tall and powerful German, Mertesacker. The Englishman is expected to lead the line for the Red Devils, and his duel with Mertesacker could prove crucial to Manchester United’s chances of winning against the Gunners tonight.

Rooney scored a beautifully chipped goal in the Premier League fixture at the Emirates, which came as a result of Arsenal committing all 11 men forward in search of an equalizer. Mertesacker was the man at fault, as he should have ensured that his team didn’t concede while going in search of that equalizer. Later today, it will be a resumption of that battle between Rooney and Mertesacker, and whoever wins this battle, will most probably earn a victory for their side.

Final Thought
Manchester United’s trio of Valencia, Blind and Rooney must win these individual player battles against their Arsenal counterparts, as Sanchez and Ozil, in particular, are capable of winning the game for the Gunners if they get the better of their respective battles against Valencia and Blind.

A guest post by Suhith Kumar from

Tags Blind Rooney Valencia


  1. “Wayne Rooney vs Per Mertesacker” – Don’t see this battle, LVG wont player Rooney as striker..
    if Le coq can have rooney covered, wont be a need for Mert to have to deal with him.
    I think our key would be to be calm and not loose the ball in defensive areas esp – no loose give away passes in critical areas.

    1. @Hafiz
      U could be spot on if the result doesn’t go our way, But y don’t u for once give up on ur negative comments. U hate the coach, all the players, y the Fck do u support the team.
      So wats ur team selection/Plan A….any1 can say Wenger out, poor sub, no plan B and all that Sh!t….but only real football supporters can suggest ideas.

  2. My fear is that even with less talent perhaps on paper LVG can better organise his team to nullify our attack and is more capable in strategising a game plan/s.

    I hope I am wrong but fear I will be right.

  3. If Ramsey is fit then he should start along side The Coq.. We need balance in the team not just throwing players in there just because we have so many good players..

    There should be a balance..

    As much as Cazorla has played well in CM I still think there is a weak link, he gets bullied off the ball against high intensity strong midfielders, and once Cazorla is not influencing the games we look like headless chickens.

  4. I think the toughest obstacle tomorrow will be the Old Trafford atmosphere and fans.

    In terms of the team I think the key players for United in defense are none of the defensive line but rather Daley Blind and De Gea. The defensive line is adequate but I think we have a better defense. I also think Coquelin is better than Blind, but blind is still quality. De Gea (if used) is much better than Szczesny. Honestly, this is such an important match that if United use de Gea then we should really use our best GK Ospina

    But we need to get by Blind and hit some good shots to get by de Gea

    Offensively, we have a great deal of quality to accomplish that with Ozil, Cazorla, Sanchez, Welbeck/Walcott, Giroud (who scored last time against United)

    We must not underestimate United’s offense who have bundles of quality but quite frankly have underperformed this season (Falcao, Di Maria, Rooney, Mata, RVP (won’t be playing), Herrera and Fellaini).

    Good thing for us is that half our team will be different to the team that lost 2-1 to United. Koscielny, Bellerin, Coquelin, Ozil, Walcott didn’t play in that match. Also Cazorla and Giroud didn’t start.

    Loss starting lineup
    Szczesny, Chambers, Mertsacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ox, Alexis and Welbeck

    Tonight’s possible starting lineup
    Szczesny, Bellerin, Mertsacker, Koscielny, Gibbs/Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla/Rosicky, Ozil, Welbeck/Walcott, Alexis and Giroud

    So that’s potentially 6-7 changes. A different and probably better team.

    We have a very good chance if we concentrate, play HARD for 90+ minutes and believe


  5. Mertesacker will NOT be man marking Rooney, that will be Coquelin or Koscielny. Merts job will be to control their inevitable long-ball tactics.

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