“United v Arsenal is on ITVHD. You can now get ITVHD through Sky on Channel 178. Click here for more information.

It’s been a fairly depressing couple of weeks for Manchester United fans. First we lost to Chelsea, with the unjust result at the hands of incorrect officiating yet again, rubbing salt in the wounds. Luiz should have been sent off and United should have been awarded a penalty for John Terry’s handball. Then we went to Anfield and collapsed, whilst our most effective player of the season, Nani, was carried off on a stretcher, after Jamie Carragher ripped his leg open. Our fans’ frustration was again compounded by the incompetent Phil Dowd’s decision only to show a yellow card.

We play Arsenal today in the FA Cup and for all our complaints, things haven’t been much better for them. First, they blew an easy chance to claim their first trophy since 2005 when they were defeated by Birmingham in the League Cup final. A mistake at the back between Szczęsny and Koscielny just added to the embarrassment. Then was their game against Sunderland when the referee missed a push on Arshavin in the box as well as the linesman incorrectly ruling the same player offside when he was one on one with the keeper. They drew the game 0-0. As if things weren’t bad enough, they were then on the receiving end of a humiliation at the Nou Camp, where Arsenal became the first club in at least a decade (since Opta started recording CL stats) to not register a single effort on or off target in any stage of the CL. It was the most one-sided game of football I’ve ever seen. Their saving grace, if anything, was the fact Van Persie unfairly got sent off with 35 minutes to play. Whilst I’m sure Arsenal fans will probably believe if not for that they would still be in the competition, it’s quite handy for them to have that injustice to blame.

“I have sympathy for myself,” Ferguson said when asked whether he sympathised with Arsène Wenger for the manner of Arsenal’s Champions League defeat at Barcelona. “I didn’t have an easy week myself.”

So, today is SOS, save our season, for both of us, with United and Arsenal in desperate need of a performance as well as a result. If Arsenal win their game in hand at White Hart Lane next month, it will be just goal difference which separates us at the top of the table. With so many results going against both teams, could an FA Cup exit be the final blow to whichever team loses?

Essentially, I’d like to think United have more about them than that. We’ve lost big games in the past but that hasn’t meant we’ve fallen at the final hurdle. It was devastating to go to the San Sir in 2007 for the European Cup semi-final and lose 3-0, but four days later we won the league. Our lads have the bottle for it.

To add to that, Sir Alex has been working hard on the siege mentality for the past couple of weeks and to see that explode out of the players today would be great, but if it doesn’t, I wouldn’t rule us out from being champions come May. I’d like to think winning or losing this game won’t define our season but it’s hard to ignore that possibility. Not necessarily because it gives that extra boost to our players but because it kills off our competitors. This season, one of our greatest strengths has arguably been our rivals’ weakness. If we win the league this season, it will be the worst performing United side to do so, yet it’s been possible because we’ve stuck at it, put in the performances at home, and our competitors haven’t been very good.

13 days ago, Arsenal were still in the running for the quadruple. What effect would being knocked out of three of those competitions have in less than a fortnight, particularly when you consider one was a final, one was a total battering and one was against their title rivals?

This is all great in theory but in reality, how are we going to achieve this? No Nani, no Valencia and no Park. This leaves us with 37-year-old Ryan Giggs as our only winger. The Arsenal fans will be able to relate to the Giggs’ banner that will be unveiled tomorrow and whilst he’s put in some good shifts this season, he’s also played a lot of games and it’s hard to see him being able to fill Nani’s boots, in terms of goals and assists. Obviously I hope I’m wrong but we may see him on the left and Fletch on the right in a 442 tomorrow, which isn’t the best piercing width you could hope for.

I’d obviously like to see Dimitar Berbatov start up front, given he’s scored more goals than anyone else in the league and it would be nice if Chicharito, who is only bettered by Robin van Persie when it comes to goals per minutes on the pitch this season, with 1 goal per 96 minutes (compared to Van Persie’s 1 per 87 minutes, Berba 1 per 101 minutes). But it’s hard to see Wayne Rooney being left out, regardless of his indifferent form, and who knows, shoved out to the left where he’s even more ineffective. I realise I’m being harsh. He’s scored 5 in his past 9, including goals against City and Chelsea, but his first touch is now as bad as Tevez’s and his general contribution is nothing like it was, with misplaced passes an all too common occurrence.

Our saving grace for this game is the return of Nemanja Vidic. The guy is a brick wall and it’s so noticeable when he’s missing, particularly when balls come in to the box. Chris Smalling has been impressive in Rio’s absence and John O’Shea will likely get the nod over Rafael for his experience, in order to help Smalling. Patrice Evra has made a few enemies in Arsenal fans after calling them babies following their capitulation against United in the European Cup semi-final (“Evra, you’re a cant” the Arsenal fans now chant in response) so hopefully the negative reaction will put some fire back in his belly.

Essentially, I honestly believe if we win this, we’ll win the league, because it will ruin Arsenal. If we lose, things aren’t as simple, particularly with a Champions League game three days later. Fortunately, our next league game is at home to Bolton, who have an awful away record this season.

Still, there’s no need in dwelling on the ins and outs of the possible consequenes of this tie. This is a Cup game against one of our rivals and I’d love to beat them. But I hope that both sides can avoid the controversy the refs have brought to our most recent games. The referee is Chris Foy from Merseyside (self-confessed Everton fan and is not allowed to ref their games). We have some previous. He’s the ref who missed Michael Ballack’s arm in Patrice Evra’s face off the ball during the Community Shield a couple of years ago. He’s also the ref who booked Cristiano Ronaldo for diving in the League Cup final in 2009 against Spurs, despite replays showing Ledley King making a foul (then going on to applaud the ref’s decision!). Hopefully that’s the only thing that is needed to be said on the ref.

It’s a big game today and I’m desperate for us to put on a good performance, preferably for longer than the first half.

Come on reds!

“United v Arsenal is on ITVHD. You can now get ITVHD through Sky on Channel 178. Click here for more information.




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