Manchester United vs Arsenal: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle narrows it down to three players from this edition of Manchester United vs Arsenal who could have an impact at Old Trafford.

Manchester United and Arsenal have had some tasty encounters, even when the rivalry has waned down a bit over different phases since the battles between Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger. The latest edition at Old Trafford offers plenty of fireworks, although it has got everyone thinking the bullets might just flow in one direction.

These are two teams in contrasting forms and in different sections on the table. Arsenal head to Old Trafford with the straight mindset of getting another win and staying alive in the title race, while there is no clarity on what Manchester United are playing for. However, there is still a slight chance of them making it into Europe.

For the latter to happen, Manchester United must treat the final three games of their season as three finals, including the ones against Arsenal and Newcastle United. The Magpies are also competing for one of the European places outside of the top four, which could spark up a fight. But before that, they must overcome the Gunners.

As for Arsenal, it is a relatively straightforward piece of mathematics, with Mikel Arteta still somewhat optimistic about landing the Premier League title. Manchester City certainly have the big upper-hand, especially after their win over Fulham, which has taken them above the Gunners in the standigs for the time being.

Hence, it is a must-win encounter for Arsenal, and if they inadvertently drop points, then Manchester City have a massive chance of clinching the title away at Tottenham. Heading to Old Trafford, the Gunners have not had a good time there for over two decades, with their only two wins in that period coming in 2006 and in the 2020/21 season.

However, the Gunners will come into this one as favourites to topple Manchester United. Here, we shall look at three critical stars in this game that could have a significant impact on proceedings. Kai Havertz and Thomas Partey hold the key for the Gunners, while Casemiro must `bring his A-game to Old Trafford to banish some recent criticism.


The Brazilian has had a nightmare week for various reasons, starting with the show he put away at Selhurst Park. He has also been increasingly linked with a summer departure from Old Trafford. Casemiro had a terrible outing at Crystal Palace, with Michael Olise shredding him to pieces and exposing his shortcomings as a centre-back.

Despite Casemiro’s pitfalls, Erik ten Hag will have no choice but to play the veteran at the heart of the defence alongside another weaklink in veteran Jonny Evans. Hence, the spotlight will be on Casemiro, who will be tasked with stopping the second-most prolific side in the league, Arsenal, and their free-flowing attackers.

The enormous task for Casemiro will be to stop the central advancing players on his side, like Leandro Trossard and Declan Rice, while keeping a close eye on Kai Havertz’s movements, which could all come down crashing for the Brazilian, or he could have a brilliant game to banish all woes and worries.

Kai Havertz

Havertz will be licking his lips ahead of this encounter at Old Trafford and will look at the potential partnership between Casemiro and Jonny Evans as his point to exploit Manchester United’s defence. The German has proved a nuisance for some of the top defences in the league this season, and Ten Hag would have made a note of that without having many solutions to stop him.

Havertz will be thinking about getting on the scoresheet. But at the forefront of his mind will be to trouble those centre-backs with his tricky movements. It has been a critical element of the German’s game, which tends to bring the likes of everyone else in the Arsenal attack into the game.

Should Havertz succeed in tricking Casemiro and Evans, Arsenal will have a field day aiming for Andre Onana’s goal. Hence, for Arteta, their No.29 is the critical man in the attacking third, as the Arsenal manager will hope the German has his best game to date in an Arsenal shirt.

Thomas Partey

Some might have seen Declan Rice as the key midfield cog. But considering Mikel Arteta will once again start with Thomas Partey, the Ghanaian international has a more significant role than any midfielder on the pitch at Old Trafford. He will dictate Arsenal’s tempo and how well they can attack, as there is a chance that Partey will repeat his 2020/21 performance here.

Partey will square up in the midfield battle with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Kobbie Mainoo, Scott McTominay, and Christian Eriksen. Clearly, if he stops the ball going past him, he can facilitate the attacking third with his incisive passing and help Declan Rice stay further forward to contribute to the attacking game.

Partey, whose Arsenal future remains uncertain amid the widespread exit links, must control and boss that midfield while showing his experience at the top level to someone like Mainoo, who may learn a thing or two here. Manchester United looked vulnerable in the middle and clearly did not have a holding midfielder in place, which could give Partey a free run of sorts in that midfield.

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