Louis van Gaal hunting top four while Arsene Wenger targets the title
Manchester United host Arsenal on Sunday and for Louis van Gaal's men, it represents a chance to get their faltering season on track. Anything less than a win could all-but end their hopes of finishing in the top four and claiming Champions League football for next season.
For Arsene Wenger's side, victory would be a huge step in securing a first Premier League title since 2004. Scott Patterson (Manchester United) and James McNicholas (Arsenal) look ahead to the Old Trafford showdown.
Who needs the win more?
Scott Patterson: Arsenal, as they still have something to play for, whereas United's Premier League season is more or less over. With six points between them and Manchester City, there's a chance of replacing them in the top four, but it's incredibly unlikely.
Arsenal have gone more than a decade without a league title and in a season when Chelsea, City and United aren't competing, this is the best chance they're going to get. If they don't win it now, it's hard to imagine when they will, with the three aforementioned clubs all likely to pose a greater threat next season. Arsenal can't really afford to drop points this weekend.
James McNicholas: I disagree. Although both sides will be desperate for three points, United probably need the win more. If Arsenal lose at Old Trafford, they will still have time to salvage their title challenge. If Van Gaal's team lose on Sunday, it could effectively end their already slim chances of making the top four. Champions League qualification should be the bare minimum for United, and defeat to Arsenal could leave them nine points off Manchester City in fourth, providing Manuel Pellegrini's men win their game in hand. Arsenal will want to win, but United simply can't afford to lose.
How has the dynamic of this fixture changed?
SP: One of the great things about this fixture in years gone by -- aside from it potentially having an impact on who'd win the league -- was that the players and managers seemed to hate each other as much as the opposing fans did.
The rivalry died down in Sir Alex Ferguson's final years in charge, when he called a truce with Wenger and Arsenal stopped challenging properly for the title. Since Fergie left, there's been no rivalry to speak of. Although I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy watching the Arsenal squad give Robin van Persie and the rest of the team the guard of honour at the Emirates when United last won the league, in the 2012-13 campaign.
JM: Much to the chagrin of both sets of supporters, this fixture simply isn't what it used to be. As Scott suggests, that's partially due to the departure of certain personnel. However, it's also a consequence of the fact that these two teams no longer regularly compete for the Premier League title.
There will be a good atmosphere in the ground on Sunday, but the tension on the pitch will be nothing compared to what it was like 10-to-15 years ago.
What would a win do for your season?
SP: It would give the fans something to smile about but if we've learnt anything this season, it's that any good result or performance is usually followed by a period of dreadful matches.
United went top of the table after beating Watford 2-1 on Nov. 21, then didn't win until Jan. 2 and dropped to sixth as a result. The 1-0 away victory at Liverpool on Jan. 17 should have galvanised the players, but instead was followed by a home defeat against Southampton. For that reason, it's hard to predict that beating Arsenal would have any major impact on the season.
JM: Despite the cooling of relations between the two sides, a win at Old Trafford would still be massive for Arsenal -- just look at the jubilant scenes that followed their win there in the FA Cup last season. It's a ground where the Gunners have historically struggled, and taking all three points there would be another huge fillip for Arsenal's title challenge.
We are entering a tricky period now with trips to Tottenham, Everton and Barcelona to follow this fixture. A win would give Arsenal a necessary kick-start ahead of that perilous run.
Danny Welbeck -- was Van Gaal right to sell him?
SP: At the time, he was the fourth choice striker -- rightly or wrongly -- so there was little alternative but to let him to go. His scoring record for the club had been mediocre at best, with nine goals in a season his best goal tally at United, so it probably suited both parties for him to move on.
Welbeck has done little to show that was a mistake, scoring just four goals for Arsenal last season, and has been injured all of this season until now, but time will tell. He's 25 now, and younger strikers like Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku have proved to be much more competent scorers than him. But maybe Welbeck is a late bloomer. Would United have signed Anthony Martial if Welbeck was in the squad? Martial has the making of a world-class player but I don't think the same can be said of Welbeck.
JM: I think it was a little hasty of Van Gaal to let Welbeck go. At the time, he cited the presence of Radamel Falcao and James Wilson as reasons for letting him go. The Colombian turned out to be a flop of epic proportions, while Wilson has yet to make a significant impact on the first-team picture. Selling him was particularly strange given that he was an academy product. It felt very out of character for United to let one of their own go in their prime.
Welbeck may not have set the world alight at Arsenal, but he remains a very handy squad player. Would he improve United's current options? The answer to that question is undoubtedly yes.
SP: Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal. It's difficult to see United winning if David De Gea doesn't recover from injury.
JM: 1-1. Arsenal will be fatigued after their Barcelona ordeal so may have to settle for a point at Old Trafford.