United vs Arsenal: All in for the win or caution needed?

It’s difficult to know what sort of beast we’ll be facing at Old Trafford tomorrow (Thursday).

At times this season, Manchester United have been, frankly, amateurish – particularly when it comes to defending – and have lurched from one embarrassment to another.

However, at other times, they have shown themselves to be capable of getting results against the odds. You need look no further than Stamford Bridge on Sunday for evidence of that.

If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was still at the helm, I’d put our chances of success that little bit higher but a disastrous result at Watford put paid to his three years at the helm, and now Ralf Rangnick has been confirmed, you can expect something altogether more challenging.

Though Michael Carrick will remain the dugout for Thursday, I’d be amazed if Rangnick’s fingerprints weren’t all over the side that takes to the field. Carrick’s presence in on the sidelines is merely performative, it’ll be the German who pulls the strings.

His teams are characterised by their high-energy, high-intensity displays – a world away from the sort of fare we became accustomed to under Solskjaer. There has been some early evidence of what’s in store in the last two matches under Carrick and I’d be surprised if that changed for tomorrow. In fact, there’s absolutely no chance it will change.

Arteta and Arsenal will need to be ready.

We’ve seen what can happen under intense pressure at Anfield and we’ll need to be much better if we’re to avoid a similar fate at Old Trafford. That’s not to say United are in any way comparable to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool but, make no mistake, on their day, they can do damage.

Arteta will be cogniscant of that danger but he will also need to be tuned into United’s weaknesses too. If we can get beyond their midfield, their defence has shown itself to be calamitous and that will be where this match could be decided.

If we can get numbers in and around their 18-yard box, we have enough movement, speed and precision at our disposal to cause them serious problems but we will need to get the right players enough good ball in order for that to happen.

If we fail to get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the game, Emile Smith Rowe in the right spaces, or Martin Odegaard on the ball in the final third, we will struggle. Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Aaron Wan Bissaka and Alex Telles are not world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination and we have to be ready to exploit that.

At the other end of the pitch, our defence has shown consistent improvement and, aside from a few anomalous results, is up there with the best-performing in the Premier League so far this season. But they will need their midfield in a big way if United ramp up the pressure.

Carrick’s side found a lot of success pushing high up the pitch at Chelsea and I fully expect they will repeat that approach against Arsenal who, in fairness, have shown fallibility at times when passing lanes have been closed off.

Despite everything, this remains a good time to be going to Old Trafford. The squad is in a state of flux and a new manager and new system are incoming. Change and adaptation can take time and it’s better to be there at the start of the process than six months in.

How hard Arteta wants to go in search of the win remains to be seen, however. It is there for the taking if the performance is perfect but, as well we know, a side as young as ours is prone to inconsistency and the occasional lapse. Would it be more prudent to adapt to the circumstances as we find them?

We’ll have to wait and see.

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