AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Saturday 3 November 2012
Last update 3 November 2012 3:10 pm
LONDON: Manchester United will try to return to winning ways when they face Arsenal in the Premier League at Old Trafford today.
Victory for Alex Ferguson’s men in the day’s early kick off match will see them replace leaders Chelsea, if only for a few hours, at the top of the table and provide their fans with an upbeat end to a week that saw them knocked out of the League Cup.
An unfamiliar looking United side, with several senior players rested, were just seconds away from beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and advancing into the quarterfinals when they conceded a last minute penalty to leave the match all square at 3-3.
Extra-time produced more thrills and spills before Chelsea won 5-4 to reach the last eight.
“It’s tough to take. When you score four goals away from home more often than not you win the game,” United veteran Ryan Giggs told MUTV. “I’m proud of the young players who played, though. There were some great performances.
“They will have learnt a lot and you learn more from losing as well.”
Saturday’s match will be the first time United striker Robin van Persie has faced Arsenal since being sold by the Gunners for £24 million ($39 million) following the end of last season.
The Dutch striker’s exit was seen as further proof by some observers of the inability of Arsenal, without a major trophy for seven years, to mount a realistic challenge for the title.
Van Persie has scored seven goals in nine league appearances for United but Arsenal, seven points adrift of United in sixth place, will have additional motivation to put in a good performance following their 8-2 thrashing in last season’s corresponding fixture.
Arsenal though have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 games and conceded five, having been 4-0 behind, in an astonishing 7-5 League Cup win over Reading on Tuesday.
“When you are 4-0 down after 36 minutes you can’t say all is well on that front,” joked Wenger when asked about his defense.
Chelsea, who suffered their first league defeat of the season in an incident-packed clash against United last weekend, will hope for both three points and a match free of controversy when they travel to Swansea on Saturday.
The fall-out from the United match saw Chelsea lodge a formal complaint with the FA over allegations referee Mark Clattenburg used inappropriate language against midfielder John Obi Mikel.
The incident came just two weeks after Chelsea captain John Terry started a four-match ban for racially abusing QPR defender in October last year.
Meanwhile, Chelsea and the police are also undertaking separate investigations into claims a supporter made a racist gesture toward United’s Danny Welbeck during their League Cup clash.
“It’s important that we don’t let anything affect us and we showed that won’t happen,” said Chelsea center back Gary Cahill. “Whatever is going on off the pitch, players relish playing football.”
Reigning champions Manchester City, level on points with United and just a point behind Chelsea, travel to West Ham with fit-again defender Pablo Zabaleta urging his team-mates not to get caught up in any title hype.
“We are only in November, I think it is too early to say who is going to win the league or to say what teams will fight for the title,” Zabaleta said.
Fourth-placed Tottenham are at home to Wigan with high-flyers Everton facing Fulham following last week’s Merseyside derby draw.
Tony Pulis will look to mark his 10th anniversary since first being appointed Stoke manager with victory at Norwich as Sunderland takes on strugglers Aston Villa.
Reading, currently in the relegation zone, have a chance to put their Arsenal shock behind them away to bottom of the table QPR on Sunday when Liverpool welcome Newcastle to Anfield.
Fixtures (1500GMT unless stated)
Saturday: Manchester United v Arsenal (1245GMT), Fulham v Everton, Norwich v Stoke, Sunderland v Aston Villa, Swansea v Chelsea, Tottenham v Wigan, West Ham v Manchester City (1730GMT)
Sunday: QPR v Reading (1330GMT), Liverpool v Newcastle (1600GMT)