After wrapping up the league title with victory over Aston Villa on Monday night, Manchester United head to the Emirates looking to make a serious dent in the home team’s quest to earn Champions League football next season.
Robin van Persie returns to face his former side and a guard of honour will await him and the rest of United’s title winning squad.
Arsene Wenger confirmed on Friday that the tradition of welcoming the new champions onto the field will be upheld by his players – something that Ferguson has applauded.
The sides have met six times in the league at the Emirates Stadium with United only coming out on top on two occasions. Last season, Danny Welbeck grabbed a vital winner after Robin Van Persie had equalised for the Gunners.
Arsenal go into the game on the back of an unbeaten seven game run which has included gutsy wins at Craven Cottage, The Hawthorns and most impressively the Allianz Arena. Olivier Giroud will miss the game after his appeal against a three game ban picked up at Fulham was rejected by the FA. Theo Walcott is most likely to replace him upfront.
Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that he will shuffle his pack for the remaining fixtures. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are likely to return after both missing the victory over Aston Villa. Tom Cleverley, Nani, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are also primed for recalls.
Although all the pressure is on the team from North London, United still have something to play for with Chelsea’s record 95 Premier League points tally still within reach. Arguably, this weekend’s encounter is the biggest obstacle left to overcome in order to achieve that landmark.
Many may feel this is an especially important match for one Luis Nani with reports repeatedly surfacing that he may exit the club in the summer. The Portuguese winger has consistently performed well against Arsenal and will be hoping to make an impression with games quickly running out this season.
Arsenal’s need is greater but the lack of pressure on United could see the champions play with a sense of freedom and panache. This may prove to be the undoing of a side that could be right up against it, if as expected Tottenham overtake them in the table with victory at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United