Manchester United fans could be forgiven for assuming that an injury or personnel crisis was on the way; rarely does a season go by without the club losing a big clutch of players at a key time. At present, United have four players essentially confirmed to be absent ahead of their next Premier League fixture a week on Saturday as Arsenal travel to Old Trafford; Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia are, barring an exceptional recovery, out until December, and the Daily Mail have suggested that Chris Smalling will join them with a broken toe. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has added to Jose Mourinho’s woes by being suspended for the clash with the Gunners having picked up his fifth booking of this season in last Sunday’s 1-3 victory over Swansea City.
If that seems particularly frustrating for United fans, and admittedly the prospect of yet another unfamiliar back four against one of the Premier League’s in-form clubs is less than appealing, it’s at least worth noting that Arsene Wenger is dealing with an injury crisis that is certainly worse than Mourinho’s.
Mathieu Debuchy’s absence is hardly a disaster for the club, but that’s the least of Wenger’s worries. Santi Carzola, who missed the 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur last weekend is still struggling with an achilles injury. Danny Welbeck may return to the fold before the end of 2016, as will Per Mertesacker, but the game at Old Trafford will likely come too soon for them. Then there’s summer singing Lucas Perez, who may return from injury quicker than expected after being out of action since the Gunners beat Reading 2-0 in the EFL Cup. And then there’s, there’s Alexis Sanchez, who picked up an injury whilst on international duty with Chile.
You can add Hector Bellerin to that list too, according to the IB Times. The suggestion is that the right back injured ankle ligaments during the derby with Spurs, and will be absent for the rest of the month of November. This is another big blow to Wenger’s hopes, given the Spanish U21 international’s importance to his plans, and one that will certainly aid Mourinho and United in their preparations for their meeting. United need to close the gap to the top four, which currently sits at 6 points, and if Arsenal have one less technically gifted attacking threat in their side, than that is certainly music to the ears of United’s manager.