Arsenal should have no fear at Old Trafford, says Gunners legend
Merson: Arsenal can end United’s unbeaten record
Paul Merson has challenged Arsenal to show they are serious about the title – by shattering Manchester United’s unbeaten record.
The Gunners travel to Old Trafford on Monday night having led the Premier League following last week’s hard-fought win over Fulham at the Emirates.
United have yet to lose this term – and have taken 22 points out of a possible 24 at home - but trail the Gunners due to a woeful away record which has seen them win just once on the road in seven attempts.
Arsenal, in contrast, remain above them despite losing four times in the league, having played a game more.
Gunners legend Merson believes Arsenal can beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, who had last Saturday off when their trip to Blackpool was postponed due to the icy weather.
In fact, he believes Arsene Wenger’s side WILL take all three points – because they travel north with the best away record in the league with five victories, including impressive wins at places such as Manchester City, Everton and Aston Villa.
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“United may not have lost, but they’re hardly going great at the moment and not impressing me,” Merson tells Ham&High Sport.
“Frankly, they have not been playing well for much of the season – like the other sides challenging for the title, they have struggled for consistency.
“There is nothing in this game that we have to fear. If we go up there with the right attitude and play like we can, I honestly believe we will win. United aren’t doing anything to concern me whereas away from home the form we are in means we can beat anybody.”
Cesc Fabregas had been pencilled in to return following his latest hamstring injury although Gunners boss Arsene Wenger appeared to dash those hopes ahead of last night’s final Champions League group game at home to Partizan Belgrade.
Merson, however, does not believe the Arsenal skipper’s absence will seriously scupper hopes of a first win at Old Trafford in more than four years.
“Would Fabregas make a big difference?” shurgs Merson, who made 327 appearances for Arsenal between 1986 and 1997, winning two title medals, “I personally don’t think he will.
“If the truth be known he hadn’t been in particularly good form leading up to his latest injury. Yes, we would all like to see him back for Monday because he is our captain and one of our best players, but he hasn’t been on top form and anyway, other players can make a bigger impact.”
One player in particular stands out as a potential matchwinner for Merson – Dutch striker Robin van Persie.
“I’m delighted Van Persie is back and fit again – let’s hope he can stay fit because injuries have plagued his time at Arsenal,” added 42-year-old Merson.
“He can really influence games once he is fit – we all know the amazing talent he has. And on Monday night whoever plays in ‘the hole’ has a chance to affect the outcome.
“I expect us to play one up top and, if he starts, I think van Persie can really damage United’s defence playing off Marouane Chamakh. He is made for the big games –van Persie has to make it count.”
Merson also believes young England starlet Jack Wilshere can shine in midfield –and show the watching millions on TV how has matured into one of the Premier League’s leading players.
“It’s big game for him, but he has now earned his place in the first team starting XI and is beginning to show consistency now,” adds Merson.
“Let’s not forget, it is only three-and-a-half months since the draw at Liverpool when Jack couldn’t get anywhere near Steven Gerrard – but they are the games young players like Jack will learn from.
“To be fair his response has been brilliant; at Chelsea he had a brilliant game, really dominating in the middle against a strong midfield.
“We lost that game – our only defeat away from home this season – because Chelsea took advantage of our defensive frailties. We were unlucky at Stamford Bridge, but I don’t see that happening on Monday night.
“Jack can enjoy himself out there because I think he will have the space to play his game. He can play his part on what could be a big, big night for Arsenal.”