It’s fair to say that most Manchester United fans view Arsenal with an air of irrelevance these days. Long gone are the days of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger’s epic tussles for the Premier League title, with United failing to win the biggest prize in English football since 2013 and the Gunners’ long wait to lift the Premier Leaguer trophy extending back to 2004. As such, it’s difficult to drum up the same enthusiasm or intensity when the teams meet these days, even if they do turn out to be particularly absorbing affairs.
Last season’s 3-2 win at Old Trafford for United when Arsenal were still firmly in the race for the title was the latest in a long line of games that suggests that the Gunners’ mental block when it comes to facing their old rivals hasn’t fully dissipated, but perhaps this season will be different. Arsenal currently sit six points ahead of United after 11 league games, and haven’t lost since Liverpool’s 3-4 win at the Emirates on the opening day of the season.
Which is why news of an injury to one particular Arsenal player will be music to the ears of United fans worldwide. Of all of Wenger’s players, Alexis Sanchez is easily his most consistently dangerous. The former Barcelona forward has become a talismanic presence for the club, and scored a brace during United’s visit to the Emirates last October in a rare convincing 3-0 win for the Gunners, and has scored eight goals in all competitions this season, so news of the Chilean’s injury whilst on international duty is music to the ears of United supporters.
The Guardian are reporting that Arsenal are preparing for the worst since hearing of Sanchez pulling up in training, and has suffered a ‘low-grade muscle tear’. He won’t travel to Colombia for the country’s meeting on Thursday night, but could be available for next Tuesday’s match with Uruguay.
Regardless of whether Sanchez is fit to face Uruguay or not, the Arsenal forward will still be flying back on a long-haul journey from South America, so the chances of him returning to London in tip-top shape ahead of the meeting with United a week on Saturday aren’t exactly great. That should help United no end, considering that they will almost certainly be operating with a makeshift back four, due to injuries to Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia whilst also having to cope with the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is unavailable through suspension. Arsenal on their own part could also be without Bellerin who skipped under 21 duty with Spain due to an injury, Mertesacker, Lucas Perez, Welbeck and Cazorla.