Robin van Persie
London: Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger has called on fans to “show respect” to Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie when he faces his old club for the first time on Saturday.
The Dutch striker spent eight years with the Gunners before shifting to Manchester United in the close season for a reported £24 million transfer fee.
Arsenal travel north to Old Trafford, where Van Persie is expected to return to the United starting line-up after being rested for their League Cup defeat by Chelsea on Wednesday.
“I don’t know (what reception he’ll get but) I hope it is a respectful one because he has played for us for eight years, he has done very well for us,” Wenger said on Thursday.
“You want him to be respected. We campaign against discrimination, it was still the case last week so why should it not be the case this week?”
Van Persie has made an immediate impact for his new side, scoring seven goals in nine Premier League appearances, but Wenger said he was not wasting time worrying about the major hole he has left in his attacking line-up.
Wenger also said the team would not dwell on last year’s visit to Old Trafford, which finished 8-2 in favour of the hosts.
“I believe that of course there is an emotional aspect to a result like that.
“But on a footballing front I don’t think you give too much importance to a result like that.”
The club also announced it would travel to Indonesia during the 2013 summer break, playing a pre-season match in Jakarta.
United and Arsenal, who have scored and conceded a total of 41 goals between them in eight matches since October 20, promise a feast of football. Gunners will be desperate to stop their former talismanic striker, who scored 37 goals for the Gunners in all competitions last term before joining United in August where he has continued to find the net ahead of the Old Trafford clash.
Arsenal are sixth while United will start the encounter second after their controversial 3-2 win against leaders Chelsea last Sunday in the first of two back-to-back games between the sides.
The Blues lost their unbeaten league record but remain top by a point even if life is rarely plain-sailing for the European champions, who visit Swansea City on Saturday.
After losing to United, Chelsea accused match referee Mark Clattenburg of using “inappropriate language” to Nigerian John Obi Mikel. The fallout has dominated English soccer all week with both the English FA and the Metropolitan Police now investigating the allegations.
Chelsea travel to Wales without their skipper John Terry, who will serve the last game of four-match domestic ban for racially insulting Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers last year.
What impact this week’s trauma will have on the team remains to be seen after their up-and-down League Cup win but Chelsea will be looking to do better than the 1-1 draw they achieved at the Liberty Stadium last season if they are to stay top.
If Chelsea do slip up, champions Manchester City, as well as Manchester United, would be looking to capitalise with City visiting erratic West Ham United for Saturday’s late match at Upton Park.
City were not distracted by the League Cup in midweek as they were eliminated by Aston Villa last month but coach Roberto Mancini will be looking for a huge improvement on their jaded performance against Swansea last weekend which ended with a narrow 1-0 win thanks to a well-taken goal by Carlos Tevez.
They will be without England defender Micah Richards, who is set to miss the next four months following surgery on a knee injury picked up against Swansea.
Tottenham Hotspur will also be looking to consolidate their place in the top four after five wins from their last six league matches when they face Wigan Athletic at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
Spurs climbed above Everton and Arsenal with their 2-1 win at Southampton last Sunday, leaving the Saints deep in trouble in 19th place but still optimistic they can survive the drop after an encouraging second-half performance.
Southampton travel to West Bromwich Albion on Monday but could find themselves bottom by two points by then if Queens Park Rangers beat shell-shocked Reading at Loftus Road on Sunday and record their first league win of the season.