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Weblog: The football punter

Manchester United to see off distracted Arsenal

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 4.30pm Sunday


Arsene Wenger has a horrid record against Jose Mourinho and he is unlikely to improve it when Arsenal travel to Old Trafford in probably the last meeting between the two managers.

Manchester United versus Arsenal matches are usually key games and ordinarily the departing Wenger would love to get a result at an iconic venue in his last big Premier League fixture as the Gunners boss after nearly 22 years at the helm.

However, despite his rivalry with Mourinho, Wenger looks set to heavily rotate his side with the focus firmly on Thursday's Europa League semi-final second leg with Atletico Madrid. That means United should have a comfortable afternoon as they look to maintain their grip on second spot.

Quite rightly – and as United did last season – Arsenal's attention is now totally fixed on trying to secure a Champions League qualification spot via the Europa League.

It was during that spell last term that Wenger made it 13th time lucky against Mourinho in the Premier League as Arsenal beat a distracted United at the Emirates. However, normal service was resumed this term with the Red Devils running out 3-1 victors in London.

The December dust-up was a ridiculous affair – United keeper David de Gea produced a miraculous performance with one expected-goal chart putting Arsenal's rating at a whopping 4.9 – but, not for the first time this season, Mourinho's men defied the stats to land maximum points.

Some xG models have United as the sixth-best team in the Premier League which may help to explain why they are rarely popular in the betting markets, yet this fixture is different and understandably so.

A bet on United to win and both teams to score could be the best punt with the hosts in a more relaxed mood with little to play for against potentially weakened opponents who are more interested in Thursday's season-defining trip to Madrid.

Arsenal don't defend particularly well at the best of times, let alone when they field a second-choice back four, and even if Wenger springs a surprise and selects his best available rearguard they would struggle to contain Romelu Lukaku and former Gunner Alexis Sanchez.

It was Sanchez who dragged United back into their FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham last week, scoring the equaliser from a Paul Pogba assist, in a role reversal of the comeback triumph at Manchester City which briefly postponed their neighbours' title celebrations. 

However, United's only home clean sheet against a fellow big-six side came against a Harry Kane-less Spurs and Arsenal's strength in depth is superior in the attacking department compared to defence.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is cup-tied in Europe, has five goals in his last six appearances and the Gabon goalgetter can at least trouble a United side who are unusually, but probably correctly, rated strong favourites.

Recommendation
Manchester Utd to win & both teams to score

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Match in Focus

20:00 Tu 23Oct BT2

Man Utd v Juventus

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • United have lost only three of their last 22 European matches
Expert verdict
The return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford will grab all of the headlines but Manchester United should be able to hold their own against Juventus. Confidence will have been restored by the manner of the performance in the 2-2 draw at Chelsea and United remain a tough nut to crack in European home encounters.