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Manchester United predicted line-up and tactics vs Arsenal

Manchester United will travel to north London to take on arch-rivals Arsenal on Sunday. While both sides have undeniable quality, Erik ten Hag and Mikel Arteta have both struggled to get their sides performing well so far this season. Despite the two clubs having won 2 out of 3 games so far, neither team has looked completely fluid yet.

Manchester United haven’t played well for a full 90 minutes yet this season. Despite beating Wolves 1-0, Ten Hag’s side produced a lacklustre performance and many would argue that Wolves deserved at least a point. They then followed that up with what was a very decent first-half performance against Spurs, but failed to convert their chances. In the second-half, Spurs were the dominant side and ended up winning 2-0. Against Nottingham Forest, United went 2-0 within five minutes but fought back to win 3-2.

The upcoming game against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal should give a good indication as to where United are exactly. While Arsenal haven’t been at their dazzling best so far this season in terms of performances, they have a squad filled with quality as well as a top-class manager.

United travel to the Emirates with a squad plagued by injuries. Mason Mount, Luke Shaw, Raphaël Varane, Tyrell Malacia and Kobbie Mainoo are all out. Rasmus Højlund is back though and will be available for selection, along with new signings Sergio Reguilón, Altay Bayindir and Jonny Evans. Sofyan Amrabat wasn’t registered in time and will have to wait until after the international break for his United debut.

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Manchester United Predicted XI: André Onana, Diogo Dalot, Lisandro Martinez, Victor Lindelof, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Casemiro, Scott McTominay, Christian Eriksen, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Rasmus Højlund

There’s obviously a chance that Erik ten Hag will choose a more conventional starting line-up with Antony on the right and Fernandes centrally.

Manchester United in Possession

In possession, United will likely line up in a 3-2-5/3-2-2-3. It’s very likely that Ten Hag could pick Scott McTominay in midfield next Casemiro as he offers more of a physical presence than Christian Eriksen. Eriksen could still play in the no.10 role, as he has the technical quality to help United create chances in the final third. While many fans don’t like it, Erik ten Hag clearly likes using Bruno Fernandes on the right-wing and there’s a good chance he’ll play him in that position at the Emirates. Ten Hag chose a similar starting midfield and attack against Manchester City at Old Trafford in a 2-1 win but Fred, who has now joined Fenerbahçe, was the one next to Casemiro.

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United will build up in a 3-2 structure like they normally do. It will be a back 3 of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof and Lisandro Martinez. Diogo Dalot will likely invert into midfield next to Casemiro as he normally does when used as a left-back. This will mean Scott McTominay will have a limited role in build-up, which is probably for the best as that isn’t his strength. Christian Eriksen could always also drop deeper if United do ever need an extra man in build-up. It’s a shame that neither Sofyan Amrabat or Kobbie Mainoo are available for this game, as they are both incredible in helping their side play out from the back and progress the ball forward.

United will likely not have a lot of possession at the Emirates on Sunday. That means, when in possession, United will need to be wise in their decision-making. Against Nottingham Forest for example, we saw United players taking shots from ridiculous distances. Against Arsenal, that can’t happen. When United do get into the final third, they need to have the patience to pass it around and wait for space to open in order to create a clear cut chance. It should be noted though that a lot of United’s chances will likely come on the counter-attack. Against sides with more quality, while United won’t dominate possession, Ten Hag’s side can be devastating in attacking transitions and that’s something opponents struggle to stop.

Manchester United haven’t been clinical enough in the final third during Erik ten Hag’s tenure. However, United’s new £72m forward signing Rasmus Højlund is now available for selection and ready to start.

Manchester United out of Possession

Out of possession, United will line-up in a 4-2-3-1 but press in a 4-1-4-1. United have pressed extremely well this season and the stats show that. They’ve won possession 9,7 times per 90 in the final third so far this season, more than any other Premier League team. In comparison, United’s opponents Arsenal have only won possession 4 times per 90 in the final third so far this season. Against Arsenal, however, United will need to press only in the right moments as Arsenal have a squad full of technically top players who can play out of the press. They become even better at doing it when Oleksandr Zinchenko plays.

Ten Hag should look closely at what Fulham did last weekend when they travelled to the Emirates. They were extremely well organised and while they didn’t necessarily press Arsenal aggressively, they did an excellent job at cutting the passing lanes and preventing Arsenal from having numerical superiority as they tried to build-up. United will hopefully be able to do something similar.

When Arsenal are building up, Aaron Wan-Bissaka will also need to ensure that he doesn’t leave Gabriel Martinelli in space. On more than one occasion against Fulham, Ben White played a ball over the top to Martinelli. The Brazilian winger typically held a wide position and was left unmarked in those situations. Wan-Bissaka will need to be wary of that, but given how excellent the right-back is defensively, Martinelli will have a challenging 90 minutes ahead of him. 

The Opposition: Arsenal

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Arsenal are a team that likes to dominate possession. In the 2022-23 Premier League season, they averaged almost 60% possession a game.

The Gunners tend to build up in a 3-2 shape, although sometimes this does change. So far this season, it’s normally been a back 3 of the two centre-backs and the left-back, with Declan Rice ahead of them next to Thomas Partey who has been used as an inverted right-back. Should Oleksandr Zinchenko come back into the starting line-up, it’s likely that he’ll be the full-back who inverts into midfield next to Declan Rice in build-up. Should Zinchenko start, United will need to try to man-mark him, as he is pivotal to Arsenal’s build-up when he plays. In United’s 3-1 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford last season, Zinchenko played 38 successful passes in that game, and during that same Premier League season he averaged 63,5 successful passes per 90. That shows how well United did to limit Zinchenko’s involvement in that game, and the same will need to be done at the Emirates on Sunday.

In the final third, Arsenal have undeniable quality with players like Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Martin Ødergaard. They are a team with quality in all areas of the pitch.

While Mikel Arteta’s side have picked up 7 points from a possible 9 in their opening 3 games of the season, they haven’t been at their best. The Gunners haven’t looked convincing and have struggled to create quality chances. Their xG (expected goals) so far this season is 6. In comparison, United’s xG is 7,1 which shows that United have created higher quality chances. United, however, have been the less clinical of the two sides.

Opposition Player To Watch: Bukayo Saka

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Bukayo Saka is one of the best players in the Premier League and poses a constant threat during games. A winger capable of cutting in on his left-foot but also capable of whipping in a cross. The unpredictability makes it difficult for full-backs to defend against him. United’s left-back, whether that be Diogo Dalot or Sergio Reguilón, will have his work cut out for him to limit Saka’s involvement throughout the game. He’s a complete winger who actually does have a very good record against Manchester United. In the 2022-23 Premier League season, Saka scored 14 times, registered 11 assists and created 75 chances.

While Saka is the player who stands out most, Arsenal have quality players all over the pitch.


Going to the Emirates is never easy. United’s record there in recent times isn’t great and the mood around Arsenal right now after last season is very positive. Erik ten Hag and Mikel Arteta are two top class managers who are both trying to take their clubs back to the top of English football. Sunday’s game will be a fascinating tactical battle between two Pep Guardiola disciples.

Founder/Owner of UnitedConstantly

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