Manchester United vs Arsenal: Radamel Falcao decision among five things to watch in FA Cup sixth round

Five reasons why neither club can afford to take things likely when they meet at Old Trafford on Monday night

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The Independent Football

WILL ARSENAL ADAPT TO AVOID ANOTHER OLD TRAFFORD EMBARRASSMENT?

As soon as one drought ends in the form of Arsenal’s trophyless run, another begins. It’s nine years since the Gunners last tasted success at Old Trafford, when Emmanuel Adebayor struck the winner in their 1-0 victory.

Since that day, it’s played 10, lost nine, drawn one, and that includes the 8-2 demolition job in August 2011. It’s a worrying stat for the Gunners that does spread to their home form too, having not beaten United since Aaron Ramsey scored the winning goal against the run of play when the two sides met at the Emirates in May 2011.

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Arsenal’s all-out attacking style is often the reason why they come unstuck against the top teams, and that’s a prevalent factor in their matches with old foes United. In their first meeting this season in North London, Arsenal enjoined a rare spell of domination for the majority of the game, yet United struck twice on the counter to put the tie beyond doubt despite Olivier Giroud’s late consolation. If Arsenal don’t learn from their past experiences that they need to remain calm under pressure and keep their heads in defence, they will leave themselves exposed to another night of disappointment.

 

THE FIRST GOAL WILL BE CRUCIAL

In the last 10 matches between the two clubs that a winner has been produced, the side that registers the first goal has gone on to win in nine of those matches. Not since United beat Arsenal 2-1 in August 2009 has a team come from behind to win, when Andrey Arshavin’s opener was cancelled out by a Wayne Rooney penalty and an own-goal from Abou Diaby.

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Emmanuel Adebayor celebrates his goal against United in 2006

The first goal tonight will not only help settle the players for whoever scores it, but will mean their opponents will have to chase the game as a result, and we’ve already seen this season that tends to leave them exposed.

CAN SANCHEZ AND OZIL FEATURE IN THE SAME TEAM?

Mesut Özil’s three month absence coincided with Alexis Sanchez’s incredible run of form for the Gunners, but the Chilean forward has suffered somewhat of a slump in front of goal recently. This could be put down to tiredness having played a large amount of football this season combined with the absence of a winter break that he has been afforded to in the past few seasons.

Yet it could also be put down to the return of Özil to the starting line-up. The German playmaker likes to roam across the attacking trio that plays behind the lead striker – as does Sanchez – and it’s not inconceivable that they are getting in each other’s way. Both like the ball at the feet, though Sanchez is visibly more frustrated when things don’t go his way.

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Sanchez and Ozil celebrate earlier in the season

VAN GAAL HAS TO MAKE A DECISION ON FALCAO’S FUTURE NOW

United don’t have to make a decision on whether they sign Radamel Falcao until May, although you’d have to suggest that the Colombian striker hasn’t done his cause any good at all. United manager Louis van Gaal will need to internally make a decision now though, as if he selects Falcao to start their upcoming games against all of their top-four rivals, he will give up his hand that he sees a future for the 29-year-old at Old Trafford.

Instead, he could – and should – look to play Wayne Rooney further forward or even give James Wilson a chance to stake his claim, with United looking far more threatening when Rooney is able to run into dangerous positions behind the defence. Should he put his faith in Rooney, Falcao may as well pack his bags now.

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Radamel Falcao faces an uncertain future at United

BOTH MANAGERS HAVE PLAYED DOWN THE FA CUP BUT ONE WILL WANT IT MORE

Van Gaal and Wenger have wasted no time in talking about how the FA Cup has been sacrificed in ordered to focus on bigger challenges such as the Champions League. So much for ‘The magic of the Cup’. But while this can be seen as an early excuse should they taste defeat, neither manager will head into the game expecting to lose. In fact, both should be focusing on the FA Cup as a priority, as the momentum generated by beating one of your fierce rivals to reach a Wembley semi-final should ensure that the results in the Premier League should take care of themselves.

Arsenal do have the Champions League last-16 second leg to worry about where they need to score three goals in Monaco to stand any chance of going further in the competition, but to be honest, how likely are they to succeed in that competitions anyway? The Gunners laid their own bed when they switched off against the Emirates and left themselves a mountain to climb, but the FA Cup offers an immediate distraction that represents a realistic source of a trophy this season.

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