Will we get the usual grudge match on Sunday?

United get their second visitors from the North of London in the space of a week on Sunday, as we entertain old adversaries Arsenal, in the third Premier League game of the season.

The reds will be looking to keep up their 100% record so far this season, after seeing off West Brom on the opening day, and soundly beating Spurs on Monday night with a stunning performance.

The Gunners aren’t going through the best of times at the moment.  Players are deserting ship, UEFA are picking on the manager, they’ve had two red cards in their opening two games, and have one point out of six so far this term.  Losing to Liverpool last week wasn’t easy to take by some fans, who added to the clubs woes by voicing their discontent, and await new signings.

This can only be a good thing for United, as the pressure on Arsene Wenger and his depleted side seems to just grow and grow.  A Champions League win in midweek will have lifted spirits somewhat, but with Frimpong, Gervinho and Song all missing on Sunday through suspension, plus an injury list consisting of Wilshire and Vermaelen, it’s hard to see Arsenal supplying us with one of the usual United v Arsenal grudge matches.

Entertainment, spirit, form….

Our victory against Spurs showed off the continuing maturity of our younger players who are impressing all and sundry with just how Manchester United they are.  A fantastic headed goal by Danny Welbeck, plus a magnificent back heel from the same man to slot Anderson in for goal number two makes it hard for Fergie to partner anyone else with Wayne Rooney at the moment.  The players are gelling, the play is flowing, and the football is exciting.

The Cleverley/Ando partnership is looking good, with Nani and Young providing further flair to give us a front six that will be a struggle for any team to contain.  Arsenal’s midfield, without Nasri, Fabregas and Wilshire may struggle to match what comes at them on Sunday, and the Arsenal defence may not be able to cope.

The rumour is that Rio Ferdinand might be fit for this one.  The question that follows is, do we need him?  Rio and Vidic will come back in to the side for the main stay of the season, but with Evans and Jones doing a stirling job against Tottenham, confidence in them is high.  Ferdinand’s injuries are a regular occurrence, so do we need to rush him back?  I don’t think that we do.  A place on the bench may suffice for him.

Wayne Rooney has scored two in two, and is also performing.  Performing well.  Sir Alex Ferguson says he’s back to his best, and he’s certainly looking in his best form since he faded in March 2010.  A dead cert starter in a side which I believe will be unchanged from Monday.  But then, when do I get it right?

Gunning for it…

Believe the papers and believe the hype, and you’ll believe it’s doom and gloom time for our opponents from the Emirates.  However, they will have been lifted as a result of their midweek Champions League qualification.  And believe it or not, there are some other plus points nestled away.

Arsenal ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny is looking more solid this season – a commanding performance against Udinese saw him make a fantastic penalty save.  He’s still young, but maybe he’s growing in to the stopper that Wenger has needed for so long.  With an Arsenal defence of old, back to the days of Keown and Campbell, Szczesny would be earning rave reviews.  His performance against United last season was heralded a success, and the Gunners will need to get a strong game out of their stopper again on Sunday.

They’re still ok upfront too.  Skipper Robin van Persie will be there, with Theo Walcott no doubt bursting in to the centre to support him.  Two of Arsenal’s more experienced players, and they’ll be called upon to have a big game if Arsenal are to have a chance of going back to the Emirates Stadium with anything.

But what else will Arsenal have in their locker for their trip up north?  I talked to die-hard Arsenal supporter and friend of Red Flag Flying High Sian Ranscombe and found out her thoughts for Sunday, and the current situation at Arsenal Football Club:

It must be a bit disheartening to be an Arsenal fan right now?  The loss of three key players, UEFA punishing the boss for what seems like a mistake, and some of the supporters seem to be unhappy with the club.  What’s your view on this, and how will the team deal with it for Sunday?

It’s not the most enjoyable time to be an Arsenal fan. The summer has thus far been a mess, with us having sold two of our best players and, at the time of writing, no signs of there being any replacements on the horizon. The UEFA decision seems a joke but they were kind enough to grant our manager a place on the bench for our crucial match against Udinese while they make their minds up, so that was good of them.

As it goes, Wednesday has placated some of the fans who were getting a bit disillusioned with the club. Thomas Vermaelen was out injured for most of last season, Carl Jenkinson and Gervinho have only just arrived, Emmanuel Frimpong is another one new on the first team scene… and yet the performance showed more fight than we’ve shown in a long time. Wojciech Szczesny pulled off a fantastic save after a funky penalty decision, and the whole performance was full of a sense of ‘No one thinks we can do this – well, sod the lot of you’. I was thrilled both with them and for them.

While Sunday will still be a massive challenge for us, I think it’s a hundred times better to be playing after that match than before it. After being written off by everyone (already), the team will be looking to prove people wrong once more. And unlike with previous teams where, sorry Arsene, but our mental strength has not been up to much at all, I think they finally have the bottle to deal with it.

Continued on page two.

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