The two most successful teams in the history of England’s FA Cup soccer lock horns when Arsenal host Manchester United in this year’s fourth round at the Emirates Stadium, London on Friday (2.55pm ET).
Arsenal top that ranking, having lifted the famous trophy on 13 occasions to United’s 12. One or the other of them has been involved in each of the last five finals, with Arsenal triumphing on three occasions, and Man Utd winning one final and losing another.
Based on that run of final appearances, whichever team emerges victorious on Friday should again be considered a favorite to reach the Wembley showpiece. Indeed, with Liverpool already eliminated, only Manchester City, Chelsea and, with some good USA bookmakers, Tottenham Hotspur rank above United and Arsenal in the betting odds.
Goal difference is all that separates the two teams in the Premier League. They stand fifth and sixth, having both accumulated 44 points from identical records of 13 wins, five draws and five defeats. Arsenal have scored two more and conceded one less than Man Utd, giving them the marginal advantage at this stage of the campaign.
With Chelsea just three points ahead in fourth, both Arsenal and United are still very much in the race for Champions League qualification, and both still have European campaigns on the go. Next month, Man Utd will face Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League, while Arsenal will take on BATE Borisov in the last 32 of the Europa League.
Recent fixtures between the sides also offer little indication as to which should be considered the favorite to win out on Friday. They drew 2-2 in the league at Old Trafford last month, with goals from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard seeing United twice come from behind to cancel out Shkodran Mustafi’s opener and a Marcos Rojo own goal. The last nine meetings in all competitions have yielded three wins apiece and three draws.
Manchester United do, though, come into the match in better form. Goals from Paul Pogba (from the penalty spot) and Marcus Rashford saw them to a 2-1 win over Brighton on Saturday. That extended their winning streak in all competitions to seven matches since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stepped in to take over from the sacked Jose Mourinho in mid-December.
The atmosphere around the club has clearly changed for the better. It is telling that players like Pogba and Rashford who didn’t enjoy the full confidence of Mourinho have so far thrived under Solskjaer. Rashford has scored five times in his last six starts, while Pogba has scored five and provided four assists in starting all six of the league games under the interim coach.
United have certainly benefited from a kind schedule, with five of their six league victories coming over bottom-half teams, three of them in the bottom four. On the balance of play and chances, they were fortunate to win away to Tottenham in their only significant test of the period. Yet positivity now permeates where dourness once reigned.
Arsenal have not progressed as smoothly through the same period. When Solskjaer took charge, Arsenal were eight points clear of United. That advantage has been swiftly eroded by a run of three wins, one draw and two defeats in the league, while their Carabao Cup campaign also ended in a 0-2 defeat at home to local rivals Spurs at the quarter-final stage.
More broadly, since the run of seven consecutive league victories that helped Arsenal recover from defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea in their first two matches of the campaign, Unai Emery’s side have won just six times, alongside five draws and three defeats.
In that context, Sunday’s impressive 2-0 win at home to Chelsea was a vital one. First-half goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Laurent Koscielny provided Arsenal with a two-goal advantage they never looked likely to cede in a stout defensive performance thereafter.
It was also a result that continued a clear pattern of better performances and results at home than on their travels. Arsenal have claimed an average of over two points per match at the Emirates, while picking up just 1.36 per away from home. They have defeated Chelsea and Spurs there and also drawn with Liverpool. Manchester City are the only side to have won there.
That should give them the edge on Friday, despite United’s mini-resurgence under Solskjaer. It what is likely to be attractive and relatively open encounter, it is Arsenal who can be fancied to progress to the fifth round.
Our Preview’s Arsenal vs Man Utd Picks & Predictions Verdict
- We suggest a wager on Arsenal to win @ best odds of +150 (6/4) on the moneyline with BetOnline.