Arsenal vs Manchester United: 3 big talking points ahead of Friday’s FA Cup showdown
Undoubtedly the glamour tie of the FA Cup fourth-round draw, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will look to continue his Manchester United revolution when he travels to the Emirates on Friday night.
The Reds will be looking to make it eight wins on the bounce, but Unai Emery’s side will be boosted by their impressive 2-0 win over Chelsea last weekend.
With both sides directly involved in the battle to secure a top-four finish, Emery and Solskjaer will see this as a chance to put down another marker.
From the days of Patrick Vieira vs Roy Keane, United and Arsenal hold a special rivalry in the Cup, something that Solskjaer is more than aware of.
Ahead of this Friday’s all-star showdown in North London, we have taken a look at three key talking points prior to kick-off.
Is Lucas Torreira vs Paul Pogba the key battle?
Left out by Jose Mourinho and many believing that his time at Old Trafford was coming to an end for a second time, few would have expected the mesmeric resurge of Paul Pogba.
With Solskjaer releasing the shackles and handing United a newfound attacking identity, the Norweigan’s impact has been epitomized by the newly crowned World Cup winner.
Quickly becoming the man that United paid £90million for back in 2016, the midfielder scored another goal in the Red Devils’ 2-1 win over Brighton last weekend, Pogba has now recorded five goals and four assists in his last six appearances.
Along with demonstrating his unrivaled passing ability, the 25-year-old is that man who dictates the pace for Solskjaer at the heart of United’s midfield.
With the tools to release the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial at will, only midfield partner Nemanja Matic has made more than Pogba’s 1,254 passes.
No player in Red has had more touches than the Frenchman this season and Emery will know that the key to Arsenal’s success could come in nullifying Pogba’s influence.
Paul Pogba has equalled his best ever goals tally in a single league season:
2014/15: 8 ⚽
2015/16: 8 ⚽
2018/19: 8 ⚽
The resurgence continues. pic.twitter.com/27rtWIxgjE
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 19, 2019
The man who is likely to be handed that job is summer arrival and new fan favourite Lucas Torreira.
With no player in Serie A making more interceptions than the Uragyian, the former Sampdoria man has brought his terrier-like attitude to the Premier League.
Handing the often criticised Granit Xhaka a new lease of life at the Emirates, Torreira’s tireless work ethic has given the Swiss international more time to dictate the tempo.
The 22-year-old has made more tackles and won more interceptions than any other player in North London and could be the best way to stifle Pogba.
Playing in a midfield three along with Xhaka and fellow summer arrival Matteo Guendouzi last weekend, Emery finally appears to have found a settled trio in the center of the park.
However, the former PSG boss will know Torreira and co face an incredibly stern test on Friday night.
Can Arsenal stop Marcus Rashford?
Along with Pogba’s resurge stealing the headlines, the form of Marcus Rashford entering 2019 has impressed many around Old Trafford.
With £90million man Romelu Lukaku forced to settle for a place among the substitutes since the turn of the New Year, the England international is relishing his chance to play in a more central role.
Once again finding the net against Brighton last Saturday, Rashford has now scored in his last four appearances against top-flight opposition.
If the Gunners are to stop him from extending his recent tally, then Emery will know that the central defensive partnership of Sokratis Laurent Koscielny must carry on from where they finished last week.
Putting in arguably their best performance in front of their own goal, Arsenal’s clean sheet against Chelsea last week was the first they had managed in their last eight outings.
Showing some much-needed stability in front of Bernd Leno, the duo done an eye-catching job of nullifying Eden Hazard’s impact and they must once again be in constant communication.
While Rashford has shown a newfound calmness in front of goal, as the 21-year-old demonstrated at Wembley 12 days ago, the forward isn’t afraid to work off of the flanks.
Marcus Rashford plays his 150th game for Man Utd today. He starts his 10th successive PL game, the longest run of his league career.
⚽ Most goals for Man Utd since Rashford’s debut in Feb 2016:
40 – M. Rashford
36 – R. Lukaku
35 – A. Martial
29 – Z. Ibrahimovic
24 – P. Pogba pic.twitter.com/aSz2eySUdE
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) January 19, 2019
As he showed with his strike against the Seagulls last weekend, Arsenal can not allow the United ace to be given time to operate off the left-hand side.
With it confirmed that Hector Bellerin’s knee injury will keep him out for the remainder of the season, Emery has a tough choice on who will fill the void at right-back.
Both Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Stephan Lichtsteiner are the two most likely candidates but both have shown some defensive vulnerabilities when called upon.
The Solskjaer party just keeps rolling
Extending his winning start to life at Old Trafford and now unbeaten in their last seven appearances, few in Manchester could have expected Solskjaer’s immediate impact.
Now surpassing Sir Matt Busby’s start to life in the United dugout, the Reds’ finally have a manager they share a real connection with.
Along with giving United a much-needed morale boost and handing them a new look attacking identity, the Norweigan legend is gaining a long list of admirers for the way he is plugging the Reds’ defensive issues.
Even though the Seagulls may have managed to end United’s run of consecutive clean sheets last weekend, the unlikely partnership of Victor Lindelof and Phil Jones have shown some stability.
Keeping a clean sheet at Wembley a fortnight ago, they have also conceded just one goal in their last three matches outside of Manchester.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the 1st Man Utd manager to win their first 6 league games.
In the PL era, only Carlo Ancelotti & Pep Guardiola have won their opening 6 league games in charge of a club pic.twitter.com/gfyvQDH2Z0
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) January 19, 2019
While Mourinho may have written off Manchester United’s chances of securing a top-four finish back in November, Solskjaer will have United believing they can pull off a surprise turnaround.
Although another victory in the capital on Friday won’t help United close the three-point deficit to Chelsea in the Premier League, Solskjaer will know he has another golden opportunity to strengthen his chances of being handed the United job on a permanent basis.
Despite Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino still appearing to be Ed Woodward’s number one choice, fans around Old Trafford are quickly calling for Solskjaer to extend his stay.
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