Premier League: Title chasers hope to relive blockbuster days
Very few thought either Arsenal or Manchester United would be in the Premier League title race at the halfway point of the season, but the fallen giants meet at the Emirates on Sunday with the trophy very much in their sights.
United are without a topflight title in a decade and registered their worst-ever Premier League points total last term. Arsenal’s last league triumph was in 2003, and they have not finished higher than fifth in the previous six seasons.
This time around, however, both have turned things around — especially the Gunners, who hold a surprising five-point lead over nearest challengers, champions Manchester City, at the top of the standings going into the weekend’s matches.
Earlier in the Premier League era, clashes between Arsenal and United were often blockbuster occasions between title chasers. Tempers boiled over on many occasions, including the infamous ‘pizzagate’ tussle in 2004.
Sunday’s encounter at the Emirates is the third time Arsenal are hosting United in a Premier League match while top of the table, but the first since a 2-2 draw in November 2007.
United missed the chance to close the gap to Arsenal to six points on Wednesday after Michael Olise’s last-gasp equaliser earned Crystal Palace a 1-1 draw against Erik ten Hag’s in-form side, the first time they had been denied victory in 10 games in all competitions.
The late goal was not the only setback United encountered on Wednesday. Instrumental midfielder Casemiro picking up his fifth caution of the season, meaning he will be suspended for the encounter.
Ten Hag is still confidentUnited can complete a league double over the Gunners without the Brazil international, having beaten the London side at Old Trafford last September.
“Last time we beat Arsenal without Casemiro,” the Dutchman said after the Palace draw. “Casemiro is obviously a really important player for us and he is one of the reasons that we are in the position that we are now.”