Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes their clash against Manchester United at Old Trafford this Sunday (Watch live, 9:05 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) could be “decisive” in the title race.
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Over the years these clashes have always been intense. Expect plenty of the same this weekend.
Wenger, 66, has led his side to two points off the summit of the Premier League and although the north London club and United aren’t battling it out for the title as they did in years gone by — Louis Van Gaal‘s squad currently sit in fifth place, six points off the top four — he still believes the meeting has a big-game feeling.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Wenger was also impressed with some of United’s young talent as they advanced to the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday with a host of teenagers thrust into the limelight due to injuries.
“Yes [it still has an aura] because Manchester United are a big club, Old Trafford is a special place and I believe for every club it remains a special fixture,” Wenger said. “Against Arsenal, the United fans and players will be up for it. In one week all has changed. I didn’t believe that they would lose against Shrewsbury and Midtjylland. Old Trafford is always a difficult place to go and even if they had lost against Midtjylland, I would have said that it is a difficult game.
“I watched [United debutant] Marcus Rashford last night and he was quite impressive. I didn’t know Rashford but I knew all the other ones. It’s quite simple to prepare. I’m convinced that the first thing needed is to prepare for a strong performance on our side.”
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As for Arsenal’s title aspirations, they could fall five points behind Leicester City (who play on Saturday at home against Norwich) before they meet United.
Wenger knows his side must get a positive result as the title race intensifies with north London rivals Tottenham also just two points behind leaders Leicester.
“We are in a strong position in the league, that’s for sure, but there’s still a long way to go,” Wenger said. “Winning at Old Trafford in 1998 put us on a good run, but the second time [in 2002] we knew that if we won there we would become champions. It was a decisive game which is the case again on Sunday.”