I cannot even contemplate losing to Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool within what feels like mere days. FA Cup or not, this one is a must-win for us.
I probably sound like a broken record saying that every single week, but in this case it’s absolutely true. If you asked me normally, then I would say yes, games against Arsenal are always important but in this instance, we need to take a look at the bigger picture.
As sad as it is, the FA Cup is now the third priority for us and everyone else who plays in the Champions League. If you need proof of that, just watch the profile of Spurs go through the roof around Europe in the summer. Beat Milan to make the quarters, and the next day you look like you’re getting Aguero and Forlan to replace Crouch. Not bad work.
The importance of this game is psychological. Since getting back from the Nou Camp, Wenger has been babbling like a lunatic, coming across more and more Benitezesque with every passing day. A win for United on Saturday would plunge Wenger into full-on Keegan mode and crush his own team’s morale once and for all.
It’s going to be something of a scratch game, with both teams hit by injuries to important players. Arsenal are missing twitter-ranting babyface Woj Szczesny and wussy Barcaphile Cesc Fabregas, but the time-wasting, gammy eared Dutch genius will play. Perhaps the biggest loss for Arsenal, however, is Alex Song, because they look a much more balanced side when he plays.
For our part, we are without the usual crowd plus Nani, meaning that the only fit out and out wingers anywhere near first team quality are Obertan and Giggs. As a plus, Vidic returns from suspension, bar Anderson we can pick from our galaxy of central midfield talent, and Arsenal don’t have Luis Suarez.
Ryan will probably be drafted in to play on the left, because Obertan has been shown to be woefully short of quality when it matters. He’s shown flashes of brilliance but, much like with Veron, they have been restricted to European games.
I expect us to go 4-5-1, with Giggs and Rooney doing a job on the flanks. I expect Sir Alex’s one concession to our Marseille game will be a rest for Scholes, giving us a midfield of Carrick, Fletcher and Gibson. Stop groaning at the back. Those three have the right balance given that we’ll have three fairly attacking forwards on the pitch, and with Carrick and Gibson getting licence to roam forward, we might see something of their best form.
Of course, I fear that Berbatov is going to be dropped again. He always seems to be, however well he’s playing. If he is, it makes a mockery of those who claim that Berbatov doesn’t do it against the big teams. When has he ever had the chance? This is the same school of thought as those idiots who list the teams Peter Crouch has scored for England against. How the fuck is he meant to score against Argentina or Chelsea if he’s never played them?
The other way Ferguson could fuck this up would be to play Fletcher on the right and go 4-4-2. Darren Fletcher is far more impressive when he plays centrally and, if we’re going to play to our strengths, this is the only way to go.
Five Cantonas prediction
I’m not confident. After our previous two defeats, and the uninspired performance against Marseille, I think a draw is likely. 1-1, goals from Hernandez off the bench and Robin van Persie.