Zlatan to MLS: Mourinho gives green light for Ibrahimovic to join LA Galaxy ahead of 2018 season

Zlatan Ibrahimovic appears as close as ever to completing a move to Major League Soccer. The LA Galaxy are reportedly in advanced talks to complete a deal to bring Zlatan to MLS, with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho suggesting he would be happy to allow him to leave imminently.

The news was revealed by ESPN’s Taylor Twellman late on Sunday night, suggesting that both the Galaxy and the player’s representatives have been negotiating a deal to bring Zlatan to MLS.

This isn’t the first time Ibrahimovic has been linked with a move to MLS. But given the circumstances, it feels as if it really is now or never. The iconic forward is 36 and is still recovering from a serious ACL tear suffered last April and is no longer at the top of the pecking order at Man Utd. The recent arrival of Alexis Sanchez has done little to help his chances.

That’s where the LA Galaxy can come in and offer the attractive option of regular first-team football alongside a quality standard of living. Ibrahimovic has made no secret of his desire to one day play in MLS and he now looks as close as ever to making that a reality.

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Mourinho gives green light

One potential stumbling block for the Galaxy would be the fact he is contracted to Manchester United until the end of June. However, Jose Mourinho has confirmed he would be happy to allow the striker to leave before the summer.

“He told me nothing about it,” Mourinho said on Monday. “The first time I read or heard something about that was from the media. He never mentioned that to me so I don’t know.

“Zlatan is in the last year of his contract. If it’s true and Zlatan wants a future in another club in another country we are here to help and to create conditions for that to happen, not to make his life difficult.”

The 2018 MLS season begins on March 3, with LA Galaxy’s opening match taking place away at the Portland Timbers on Sunday, March 4.

Ibrahimovic has only made seven appearances this season since recovering from that knee injury. He would therefore benefit from joining up with LA Galaxy for preseason preparations to ensure he is sharp and ready for the 2018 campaign, if a deal can be struck in the next couple of weeks.

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Matic to Man Utd: Should Chelsea be selling him?

Matic to Man Utd: The Serbian midfielder is close to a reunion with Jose Mourinho, but are Chelsea making the right decision to sell him to Premier League title rivals?

Matic to Man Utd: Pro’s for Chelsea

The reported fee for Matic to Man Utd is £40m. A similar amount to what Chelsea have paid for Tiemoue Bakayoko, meaning the Blues would break even in terms of transfer spend.

Antonio Conte is stamping his mark on his squad for the new season. He is signing the players he wants and allowing those he doesn’t want to leave the club. So if he is able to do so while balancing the books, he’ll be even happier.

Matic to Man Utd: Con’s for Chelsea

Chelsea are losing an established midfielder. At 28 Matic is in his prime with plenty still to offer. He’s also won two Premier League titles with Chelsea over the past three seasons.

Matic’s replacement is unproven in the Premier League. Bakayoko may need time to adapt to his new surroundings and has far less experience.

Chelsea’s squad depth will be tested unless they sign more midfielders. Conte has already allowed Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathaniel Chalobah to depart the club. With the demand of more games this season compared to last, Chelsea are going to need to ensure their squad can handle the busy schedule.

Matic to Man Utd: Pro’s & Con’s for United

Signing Matic will work for United. He is a grafter and will free up the likes of Paul Pogba to have more of an impact on the game in the final third.

Matic registered seven assists for Chelsea in the Premier League last season, more than any other Manchester United player. This shows his creative edge even though his main job is to provide extra cover for the defence. Plus, Mourinho knows Matic well. The Serbian has played a total of 90 games under the Portuguese head coach in the past.

However, another midfielder gives Mourinho a selection dilemma. He has at least four players who can play in a similar role. So adding Matic to the squad could lead to some discontent among those vying for a place in the starting lineup.

Photos of Matic in Man Utd training wear have appeared online over the weekend, suggesting a deal is all but done. Although the legitimacy of these is yet to be stated, it certainly looks like Matic has played his final game for Chelsea.

Real Salt Lake vs Man Utd: Preseason Scout Report

Real Salt Lake vs Man Utd: Match outlook

Real Salt Lake welcome Manchester United to Rio Tinto Stadium on Monday night for the Red Devils’ second game of their US tour. The game kicks off at 8pm local time, which will be 3am in the UK.

It will be the Premier League giants’ first ever game in Utah. And comes off the back of Saturday’s convincing 5-2 win over LA Galaxy at StubHub Center.

Big-money signings Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof made their unofficial debuts for Man Utd at the weekend. Lukaku didn’t get on the scoresheet but the £75m signing will no doubt be planning to find the net against RSL.

Mourinho has said he will once again field two different sides in each half of Monday night’s game. United still have five games to play after their clash with RSL, including friendlies against Man City and Real Madrid before the end of the week.

Real Salt Lake have had a tough MLS campaign so far this season. They are currently at the halfway stage but their hopes of making the playoffs look slim.

But Monday’s friendly gives the team the chance to put aside their league form and enjoy playing against some of the world’s top players.

MLS veteran goalkeeper Nick Rimando can’t wait to be tested by the likes of Lukaku and Marcus Rashford.

“I think the city deserves a team like Manchester United come here. The fans deserve it,” he said.

“For me to be able to play against such great players is exciting for sure. They have huge players and to step onto the field with them is going to be great.”

Real Salt Lake vs Man Utd: RSL scout report

Real Salt Lake’s league form has been poor in 2017. They’ve taken 20 points from 20 games and sit ninth in the Western Conference. They are only two points off the bottom and four points adrift of the playoff places at the midway point.

They have the joint-worst goal difference in MLS this season and have lost as many home games as they have won this term. That will give Manchester United hope of bettering their result from the LA Galaxy game on Saturday.

Interestingly though, RSL did run out 6-2 winners at LA Galaxy in their latest outing before the MLS Gold Cup break set in two weeks ago. So they have proven they can be a really dangerous attacking outfit. The problem is they can’t seem to keep goals out.

Head coach Mike Petke will undoubtedly be looking ahead to Wednesday night’s MLS battle with the Portland Timbers. He will likely give plenty of fringe players a chance to impress against United on Monday night, and is unlikely to play anyone for more than 45 minutes.

Real Salt Lake vs Man Utd: Man Utd scout report

Manchester United got their US tour off to the perfect start with that 5-2 win at the Galaxy on Saturday. Mourinho rotated his squad and experimented with three at the back.

He has admitted the team will return to a tradition four-man defence at Rio Tinto Stadium, but 22 players are likely to feature as he continues to test things ahead of the 2017/18 Premier League season, which is now just 25 days away.

Lukaku will be looking to score his first United goal following his £75m move to the Red Devils last week. He could be handed a start here, and will look to do better than he did in LA on Saturday.

Man Utd are expected to cruise to victory, given the quality they have throughout the squad. But RSL will offer an attacking threat, which United will look to contain after conceding two late goals against the Galaxy.

Three reasons Man Utd suffered most in the PL this weekend

Saturday saw Manchester United held to their third 0-0 draw at home in the Premier League this season, as West Brom became the eighth team to leave Old Trafford with a point to further damage the Red Devils’ top four hopes.

Jose Mourinho’s side have only managed to win 40% of their home games in the top flight this season and wins for Spurs and Liverpool on Saturday mean that the challenge of securing a top four spot just got a whole lot tougher.

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Yes, Chelsea lost at home to Crystal Palace. That was a shock result and one that many will say was worse – on paper at least – than United’s home draw with the Baggies. But the difference is that the Blues had a 10-point cushion at the top of the table. They can afford to drop a few points and still lift the title. United can’t if they want to beat rivals to a Champions League spot.

Here are three reasons Manchester United were this weekend’s biggest losers:

1. Widening gap to top four

The biggest problem for United this weekend is that the gap to the top four widened by a point, following Liverpool’s Merseyside Derby win over Everton earlier in the day. Mourinho’s side were four points off Liverpool with two games in hand heading into the weekend, but not sit 5 points off Manchester City in 4th, who have only played one game more than United.

2. Easiest fixture of the month?

Man Utd will have played a staggering nine times before the end of April, with an average of a game every three days in the Premier League and Europa League leaving Mourinho with the most frantic period of his season. He will have to rotate his squad more than ever over the next four weeks but he’d had the entire international break to plan a victory over West Brom. He couldn’t do that and will now only have a couple of days to spend on preparations for each upcoming game in April.

3. Short rest time

As mentioned above, United’s hectic schedule means Mourinho will need to manage his players extremely well if they’re to emerge out of this month in good shape. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be available again for Tuesday’s home clash with Everton after serving his suspension but the 0-0 draw to the Baggies on Saturday meant the United boss had to leave his best players on the pitch for 90 minutes. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the only played substituted but still had to get through 75 minutes first. The fact that Mourinho was unable to bring players off to save them for Tuesday might cost them when Everton come to town tomorrow evening.

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Mourinho should be doing all he can to persuade one of these strikers to be his number 9 next season

Manchester United will have no doubt starting looking into replacements for their number nine spot. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has taken the Premier League by storm but the Swede is yet to sign a contract extension and at 35 he is not a long-term option. Jose Mourinho will be assessing options to replace Ibrahimovic whether that is this summer or in transfer windows to come, so he should be doing all he can to persuade any of these elite goal-machines to sign for United…

Antoine Griezmann

Easily one of the most sought after strikers in Europe, Antoine Griezmann would walk into practically any elite side. Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has admitted there is uncertainty in the prolific Frenchman’s future at the club and wouldn’t stand in his way if he decided he wanted to move on. The 26-year-old striker has constantly been linked with United and he would be joining up with fellow internationals Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial if he were to make the switch to Manchester. He has netted 22 goals this season and is only going to get better.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

The Gabon speed-demon has been causing havoc in the Bundesliga this season. He has averaged a goal a game and suits a number of systems. While hold-up play isn’t his game he is capable in the air but his main threat is pace on the counter. When Aubameyang gets going there is no stopping him and he is consistently providing in both domestic and European competitions.

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Alexandre Lacazette

Another Frenchman Mourinho should be looking at is Alexandre Lacazette. The Lyon striker possesses both pace and power in his approach as well as the ability to sniff out a goalscoring chance. He has netted 29 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions this season and is another forward being tipped for a big move in Europe. A transfer to any of the top six Premier League sides would be tempting for Lacazette considering much of an influence the competition has on players.

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Should United make any of these three their number nine for next season? Does Mourinho need to sign more than one forward in the summer?

Have Manchester United gone backwards under Mourinho?

Manchester United’s season has been filled with ups and downs so far. Jose Mourinho’s side are trailing the top four by six points but do have two games in hand. As we know, they have already won the League Cup and remain on course to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League but their exit from the FA Cup to Chelsea crushed their hopes of a cup treble. Many United fans remain happy with the appointment of Mourinho but have they gone backwards since he took over last summer?

By comparing how they performed last season under Louis Van Gaal it is clear to see there have been a huge number of changes at United and with plenty of games still to come, their 2016/17 campaign still has a lot to unveil.

Premier League

Last season United missed out on the top four on goal difference. Although they qualified for Europe it wasn’t for the competition they were hoping for. They are 17 points off their total tally of 66 reached in the 2015/16 campaign but they do have 12 games left in the league, a possible 36 points to play for. If United were to win every game to the end of the season they could even be within a chance of winning the league, but the reality is their form has been too inconsistent, hence why they’ve been outside the top four for so long.

The Premier League has been fiercely competitive again this season and the race for a Champions League finish is being hotly contested by six teams. United have spent nearly £160 million since Mourinho took the job and he needs to improve on last year’s 5th-placed finish but at this stage of the season that is up in the air.

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FA Cup

The Red Devils won the FA Cup last season. Although cup competitions are luck of the draw, United will be disappointed not to have reached the semi-finals and another trip to Wembley. While it is very difficult to consistently win domestic cups, by not reaching the next round Man Utd have failed to equal their performance levels of last year’s FA Cup run.

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Europe

United are on course to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Realistically this may be their best chance of qualifying for the Champions League next season and Mourinho will be aware he has two chances to get the club back in the mix with Europe’s elite. If United are to win this competition, that and the League Cup would be an obvious sign of progression at the club.

They can better last season’s performance in Europe, where they failed to make it out of their UCL group and were knocked out in the round of 16 in the Europa League.

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League Cup

Mourinho’s record in the competition speaks for itself. While it may be United’s only competitive silverware this season, it’s still a trophy worth winning. By comparison, there is a good chance that this trophy alone will see United end the season with more silverware than a number of their rivals and they improved on their League Cup performance from last season where they exited the competition in the fourth round.

There is still a huge amount of work for Mourinho to do at United to get the club back to the highest level and if he were to win the Europa League as well as a domestic cup that is undoubtedly a successful season. However, United will be at a standstill if they are to miss out on qualification for the Champions League again, with a single EFL Cup win a poor return for a team boasting that much quality under Mourinho’s leadership.

Is Mourinho making progress at Manchester United or are they going backwards?

United vs City: Are the Manchester clubs set for failure this season?

It’s no secret both Manchester Untied and Manchester City are not living up to the high expectations set by the fans, pundits and club in general so far this season. Both sides are currently outside the top four more than halfway through the domestic campaign, which is no where near where they expect to be, so are the two set for failure this season? Lewis Addley explores… 

Ten games into the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City things were looking like a foregone conclusion for the season ahead. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss looked to have bought his style of play to England with success, winning ten games on the bounce, but fast-forward to January and City are struggling in 5th place.

Things are not much different domestically for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United either. The Red Devils remain outside the top four and look a long way behind league-leading Chelsea.

Both clubs have reached the knockout stage in Europe, City in the Champions League and United in the Europa League, which surely will be the focus of their seasons respectively come the return of the competitions in a few weeks. United are on the brink of reaching the final of the League Cup, but that alone will not be enough to reduce the pressure on Mourinho, with more always expected of the Manchester giants.

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So are both of these clubs set for failure?

In a word, no. There are plenty of games for the league table to continue to change. But the competition for the top four is so intense that it is difficult, with current form in mind, to think both sides will make the cut. United had just began to pick up form but their consecutive draws suggest they’re still one step away from troubling the sides above them on a consistent basis.

City on the other hand seem to have no league form whatsoever, they’re fast becoming a side who look beatable from the off and Pep is going to have to change something. They’ve gone from having a powerful, tight backline to a nervy outfit who look like they will concede with every shot, something Claudio Bravo is picking up an unwanted affiliation for, having conceded the last six efforts on goal he has faced.

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As previously mentioned United are on track to reach the League Cup final but given the current nature of expectancy, that trophy alone is not enough for a title-chasing side. Both Manchester clubs are still challenging in the FA Cup, a tournament they are going to need to reach the latter stages in at least, such as the regard winning it is held in.

European action offers contrasting situations, City face PSG in the Champions League, while United drew Saint-Étienne in the Europa League. City’s performance last year was their best effort to date in the competition and given the strength of the sides they can pull in the latter rounds if they are to progress, winning it would be some feat, although not impossible given the quality of players available to Guardiola. 

United’s progression in the Europa League wouldn’t be something Mourinho is bothered by, if you’re to believe his stance on the competition, however winning it would guarantee them a place in the Champions League next season regardless of their league finish. With that in mind United have to take it seriously, no doubt they will.

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There is no doubt both Manchester clubs have the ability to win some silverware this season between them, but domestically it isn’t looking overly promising. With track-record in mind, many have been surprised with the struggles the two have endured in their first season. In the modern game transitional periods are becoming less and less acceptable, especially considering the amount of money that’s being spent on transfers. Perhaps not the first season of the Mourinho and Guardiola era their fans would have had high hopes for?

Is it too early for the word failure to be thrown around or have Mourinho and Guardiola not lived up to expectation so far? 

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Liverpool

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Liverpool

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, January 15 – 16:00 GMT (11:00 ET) 

Match Odds: Man Utd 21/20 – Draw 12/5 – Liverpool 13/5

Match Preview

Manchester United face Liverpool for the 50th time in the Premier League on Sunday in what is undoubtedly the weekend’s biggest game.

United are looking as strong as they have done for several years at the moment, having won nine games in a row in all competitions. Six of them have come in the Premier League and Jose Mourinho will be delighted with the progress being made.

The only concern for the Red Devils is that their Premier League rivals are all winning too, so they still find themselves in sixth place ahead of this weekend’s schedule.

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Liverpool enter the weekend in second, only five points higher than United, so this is a huge chance for the home side to close the gap and keep their winning run going.

Jurgen Klopp’s men had a strong festive period themselves but have been disappointing in their last three games in all competitions.

A 2-2 draw at Sunderland was followed by a 0-0 FA Cup draw against Plymouth last weekend. Before the Reds then fell 1-0 at Southampton in the first leg of their EFL Cup semifinal on Wednesday night.

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Sadio Mane is not available as a result of Africa Cup of Nations commitments with Senegal, although Philippe Coutinho has returned from injury, so Klopp needs to ensure he gets his team selection spot on for Sunday’s game.

The reverse fixture at Anfield ended 0-0 back in October but these sides have not drawn a league game at Old Trafford for 17 years, so it looks likely that someone will emerge victorious in what is a vital game at the top end of the table.

Team News

Jose Mourinho will be without Eric Bailly for the next few weeks as the defender has flown out to play for Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations. Marcos Rojo is a doubt after picking up an injury in last week’s FA Cup game against Reading. Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed the midweek clash with Hull because of illness but should return in time for this huge match.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will be without Sadio Mane for the rest of the month at least as he is with the Senegal squad for AFCON 2017. Joel Matip, Jordan Henderson and Marko Grujic are all doubts, while Danny Ings and Mamadou Sakho remain out.

Key Points

Man Utd’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Liverpool’s last five: W/W/W/W/D

Key Stat: This will be the 50th Premier League clash between these long-standing rivals. Manchester United have won 27 of the previous 49 games.

Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – The United striker should be passed fit to play and the home side need him as he has been in incredible form since moving to the Premier League last summer. He has 13 goals in his first 19 league games this term and has found the net in nine of his last nine PL matches.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 2-1 Liverpool – Both sides will fancy their chances here, as both are so dangerous going forward, but United look stronger at the minute and Liverpool have looked vulnerable since the turn of the year. The loss of Mane could prove to be a factor as the home side look poised to seal a narrow, but important victory on Sunday.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Tottenham Hotspur

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, December 11 – 14:15 GMT (09:15 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester United 6/5 – Draw 23/10 – Spurs 23/10

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford on Sunday in the standout fixture of the Premier League action this weekend.

United know they’ve got a game on their hands with the visit of Spurs, this meeting usually offers an exciting tie, but given recent league form for United a draw would be far from surprising.

Jose Mourinho’s side are frustrating their fans. They’re creating well in games but are missing hatfuls of chances and aren’t strong enough defensively to hold out when they take the lead.

Despite the negatives, United are unbeaten in five in the league (W1, D4). Their draw last weekend at Everton was a disappointing result considering they looked to have the points wrapped up, but it’s another game unbeaten nonetheless.

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Tottenham will be full of confidence coming into this game. They thumped Swansea 5-0 at home last weekend and it could and probably should have been nearer double figures.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men are six points ahead of United in the league. They sit 5th, three points outside the top four and six points off top spot, they’re well in the mix.

Spurs need to win this game to keep pace with the top four. If results go in their favour they could end the weekend in third place.

The North London side have lost just once in their last 14 outings. They’re in fine form and are scoring freely, so they have to start with their usual high-press and intensity to put United on the back-foot from the word go.

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Team News

Manchester united are still expecting to be without Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw for this tie. Eric Bailly could be in line to start his first Premier League game in six weeks, he played 90 minutes in the Europa League in midweek. Wayne Rooney is available again after serving his one-match suspension.

Tottenham have just three injury concerns ahead of this tie. Erik Lamela and Vincent Janssen are both expected to remain out, while Ben Davies is a doubt. Toby Alderweireld could make his first Premier League start since October 15 after he featured in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Key Points

Manchester United’s last five: D/W/D/D/D

Tottenham’s last five: D/D/W/L/W

Key Stat: Manchester United have won just once in their last nine Premier League games.

Key Player: Harry Kane – The Spurs talisman is in fine form. He has netted seven league goals this season and will be excited at the prospect of getting at a nervy United defence. He will have to outshine Zlatan Ibrahimovic to ensure Spurs take all three points here.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur – United to fall to another unfavourable result against one of the top sides in the league. Spurs know they have the chance of taking all three points at Old Trafford, but just because United are out of form by no means makes this an easy tie.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Arsenal

Competition: Premier League – Manchester United vs. Arsenal

Venue: Old Trafford – Saturday, November 19 – 12:30 GMT (07:30 ET)

Match Odds: Man United 6/4 – Draw 23/10 – Arsenal 9/5

Match Preview

Manchester United host Arsenal as the Premier League springs back into life in emphatic style following the latest international break.

Both sides will be looking to climb the table when they meet on Saturday, with Arsenal two points off the top in fourth and United six points further back in sixth place.

It’s a huge game on the pitch, but the battle in the dugout between Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger will be sure to draw attention throughout. The long-time enemies will face off in this fixture for the first time since Mourinho moved to Manchester here and it’s expected to be as tense as ever.

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Wenger has still never beaten Mourinho in a Premier League game, but the visitors will be confident given United’s stuttering form so far this season.

The Red Devils won 3-1 at Swansea two weeks ago, ending a four-game winless run in the Premier League, but they still have a lot to work on if they are to finish the season in the top four, let alone challenge for the title.

Injuries and suspensions have left Mourinho short of options ahead of such a crucial game but he will have to trust some of his fringe players to step up and deliver, as they did in Swansea before the international break.

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For Arsenal, this is a huge game. They haven’t won a league game at Old Trafford in ten seasons but come into Saturday’s game with a very strong chance of getting three all three points.

Wenger has some injuries of his own to worry about but they are unbeaten since the opening day and have won each of their last four away games in the top flight.

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Their 1-1 draw against North London rivals Tottenham two weeks ago raised some concerns but they know they have the quality to beat anyone on their day, and this should be a thrilling clash as a result.

United beat Arsenal 3-2 back in February in the most recent meeting between the two. A lot has changed since though, most notably in the dugout, and so this is sure to be a fascinating contest.

Team News

Manchester United will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who misses out through suspension. Wayne Rooney is unlikely to deputise after off-field controversies have surrounded him this week, so Marcus Rashford is set to start up top. Eric Bailly, Antonio Valencia and Chris Smalling are all sidelined through injury, while Luke Shaw and Marouane Fellaini are doubts.

Arsenal have been dealt a blow as Hector Bellerin will be out for the next four weeks, while fellow defender Per Mertesacker remains out. Danny Welbeck, Santi Cazorla, Lucas Perez and Chuba Akpom are also out, while Alexis Sanchez is a doubt after picking up a knock on international duty. Mesut Ozil will be fresh after being given two weeks off to rest by German head coach Joachim Low.

Key Points

Man United’s last five: D/D/L/D/W

Arsenal’s last five: W/W/D/W/D

Key Stat: Jose Mourinho has never lost a Premier League game against Arsenal in 11 previous contests, winning five and drawing six of those.

Key Player: Mesut Ozil – The German playmaker will be one of the freshest on the field after being given time to rest during the international break. Regardless of that, he is one of the league’s most talented players and will look to break down a weakened Arsenal backline here. He scored at Old Trafford in February and will be hoping to put in a commanding performance on Saturday.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal – There is very little to separate these two sides ahead of such a big game. Mourinho has the edge over Wenger but there isn’t much to split the two teams on the field, with injuries likely to affect both as equally as the other. An excellent game is expected but ultimately, this one looks likely to end in a draw, which won’t do either side too many favours.