Ahh man, am I ever nervous here this morning. I’ve managed to stave off the worry until this point, but here we are on match day and to be honest with you I’m a little concerned with our match at Old Trafford today. Whatever about the result yesterday, today is about The Arsenal doing their job and doing it on a ground in which, let’s face it, we’ve kind of sucked at.

It’s kind of maddening that no matter how good or terrible United have been, they’ve always seemed to do us at Old Trafford. I’ve only been there once and it was the game in which Arshavin was taken out in the box by Darren Fletcher in the most obvious of fouls you’ll ever see, only for Howard Webb to wave play on. He scored but a few moments later, but we ended up losing it because Abou Diaby put his 50p head on to a Giggs cross to leave me, my mates Johnny and Frankie feeling mighty sad and wishing we hadn’t agreed to stay overnight in Manchester after the game.

That was a very different United side to the one we face today, however, because that was a United side at the top of the division. This United side is very much far from that. Their last game was a humbling at Selhurst Park and although at the time it was hilarious and made me think that we shouldn’t have too many problems this weekend, when the time actually comes to face up against this familiar foe, my feelings are somewhat different.

Some of that is history, some of that is because they have some returning players and Ten Haag said on his press conference on Friday that Bruno Fernandez and Scott McTominay were both back and in contention for today. I expect both to start to be honest; McTominay will line up alongside Mainoo to provide them with cover and a screen in front of a beleaguered back line, with Bruno in a more advanced position and looking to hit us on transition when the ball turns over.

And that’s where the big Man United threat lies. Fernandes is an absolute Bar Steward, but he has decent distribution and they have fast runners who can get in behind, which is exactly what I expect them to do today. They aren’t stupid and they know that if they try to give us a football match by coming at us then we’ll be able to play through them. They applied this tactic at the Emirates and it nearly worked earlier in the season too. Ten Haag can bleat on all he likes about the injustice of that game, but we were the better team – and ARE the better team – but that don’t always win you football matches, as you and I both know.

And Ten Haag is probably hoping that to be the case today, much like when they faced Liverpool, in a game in which Klopp said that if they play like that against us they’ll get beat. That’s absolutely true and it’s for that reason that I think we’ll see a conservative United  who will let us have the ball and look to spring traps.

I think from a team perspective we will stay the same as last weekend, so it’s going to be more interesting to see what United have got planned today, rather than how we’ll line up. Ten Haag said that Lisandro Martinez wanted to play this weekend but that he wasn’t ready, but I’m not sure I’m ready to believe that just yet. They have a dearth of centre halves and I just wonder if he’ll chuck him in, because he’ll be keen to avenge a perceived injustice at the Emirates. There’s probably part of him that wants to make sure he has players ready for the FA Cup final of course, but I just have this weird feeling that there will be some players fit that we thought wouldn’t make it.

If, by the odd chance, they don’t have players fit and they are playing Casemiro and Evans at centre half, then we simply must take advantage. One is an extremely ageing footballer and the other is Johnny Evans, who is 36 and looking his age, so we have to take advantage of that and get at their back line.

But this is Old Trafford and for some weird reason, it ‘does something’ to Arsenal. Our record there is shocking and if you take out the COVID season with no fans, you have to go back 16 years to find and Arsenal win in the league. That’s mad because I feel like in that time 12 or 13 of the other teams in the Premier League have picked up wins other than us. But if I can off a modicum of hope, it’s that Mikel Arteta and his team have made a habit of knocking down historical legacy issues; we’ve won at the Scum, we’ve beaten Liverpool, we’ve avenged games like St James’ Park a few seasons back, etc. Arteta and his team are good and I of all people need to keep reminding myself of it.

I am still sceptical that we will win this league and I have still resigned our fate to being the bridesmaids again this season, but what  I do hope is that we can go up to a traditionally very difficult game for us and get a statement win that represents another milestone in the evolution of this Arsenal side.

In terms of a tactical approach, I have kind of touched on it already, but let’s re-iterate to be really clear: United will want to counter us. That is what they are good at and with players like Rashford and Hojlund they have guys who if we are pressing high and leave enough green grass to run in behind, will capitalise. So we need to be good at the back. Duels will need to be won today because they’ll want to get Bruno on the ball and distributing so defensively we have to be ready. And then we have to take our chances. We got ‘done’ last season because United hit us on the counter and rope-a-dope’d us; we can’t let that happen today.

This is yet another cup final. We have to win it to make sure that we take this Premier League to the final day of the season. Cross everything folks. It’s gonna be a tough one.

Amanda, James and I will be on the Same Old Arsenal at 8pm to dissect the game if you fancy joining us, which you can do here.