Arsenal, United seek solace in Emirates clash
12 February 2014, 17:54
London - Both reeling from embarrassing weekend results in the Premier League, Arsenal and Manchester United will each be determined to restore credibility when they meet at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
While Arsenal ceded first place to Chelsea after being blown away in a 5-1 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday, United could only record a 2-2 draw at home to Fulham, who had started the game at the foot of the table.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the match against United was the ideal chance to atone for the north London club's Merseyside "accident".
"It is always a disappointment to lose a game, but I think it was an accident because we have been very stable defensively and we have to treat it like that," the Frenchman said.
"We have just been on a 10-game unbeaten run. You cannot consider one game as the trend, the pattern of our season. "It is an accident, not a welcome (one) of course -- a very disappointing one -- but a successful season is decided by how you respond to that."
Wenger also spoke out in defence of record signing Mesut Ozil, who produced an anonymous performance at Liverpool that was in keeping with some below-par recent displays. "He didn't have the best of games on Saturday, but that can happen," Wenger said of the Germany star.
"He works very hard to adapt to the physical level of the Premier League and for me he is an exceptional player. I wouldn't like to put too much pressure on him because he has been a top-class player until now.
"He knows when he is not good enough he will get questioned. That is normal."
Silver linings are not quite as easy to find for United, who trail fourth-place Liverpool by nine points and therefore seem destined to miss out on a place in next season's Champions League.
The defending champions dominated Sunday's game against Fulham at Old Trafford, enjoying 75 percent of possession and sending no fewer than 81 crosses into the visitors' box and would have prevailed had it not been for a 94th-minute equaliser scored by Fulham's Darren Bent.
Under pressure United manager David Moyes defended his side's tactics against bottom-of-the-table Fulham and expressed certainty that the club's luck would turn.
"Football does that sometimes and we have to make sure it doesn't happen too often, but I do think there have been a few twists this season and hopefully we'll get them back in the future," he said.
"You just continue doing the right things. We're doing the right things, we need to keep going and your luck will change, there's no doubt about that."
United won 1-0 when the sides met at Old Trafford in November and Arsenal have occasionally fallen short against their supposed peers this season.
Although they beat Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at home, they dropped points against Everton and Chelsea at the Emirates and were thrashed 6-3 away to Manchester City in mid-December.
Wenger's side currently find themselves amid a daunting run of games, with Sunday's FA Cup tie at home to Liverpool followed by the home leg of their Champions League last 16 tie against reigning champions Bayern Munich.
Arsenal must once again do without holding midfielder Mathieu Flamini due to suspension, while Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby and January loan signing Kim Kallstrom remain unavailable due to injury.
Moyes, meanwhile, may elect to hand teenage winger Adnan Januzaj a start in place of Ashley Young on the left flank, having introduced him from the bench against Fulham.
The United manager said the draw against Fulham was "as bad as it gets", but he can draw encouragement from the club's impressive recent record in away games against Arsenal.
United have lost only twice on their last seven visits to the Emirates, winning three times and drawing twice.
Times have changed since their last trip, however. When United last went to Arsenal, in April last year, it was their first game since winning the Premier League title.